You grind during the week then recover during the weekend – right? It seems like the typical routine, but is this “catching-up” on the weekends really happening?
Individual needs for sleep
The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person, just like height and weight. Relatively few people need less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours of sleep every night, but most of the population needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night according to broad consensus among sleep experts and organizations including the National Institutes of Health.
We’re not sleeping enough
Unfortunately, a great number of Americans aren’t getting nearly this much sleep. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 30 percent of adults are receiving no more than 6 hours of sleep per night. A survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that more than half of adults ages 25-55 aren’t getting sufficient sleep on weeknights. Chronic insufficient sleep leads to diminishes daytime functioning and leads to health problems and dangerous behavior, including drowsy driving.
Do you suffer from ‘social jet lag’?
For many of us, not sleeping enough regularly creates what sleep experts call “social jet lag,” when the demands of life and work push out time for sleep to the degree that we feel tired and dislocated in a way similar to the effects of long-distance travel. Do you feel jet lagged right at home? It’s an increasingly common experience for busy adults.
Playing catch-up doesn’t cut it
Even if you were able to get enough sleep on the weekends, playing catch-up with your sleep is not the ideal approach. Studies show that sleep debt can accumulate for nights, weeks or more, and sleep extension studies have shown that it can take more than 20 nights of indulging in sleep for you to catch up on all that lost sleep. A single weekend of extended sleep is highly unlikely to rescue you from your accumulated sleep debt.
Making changes to your sleep routine
You can’t overhaul your sleep habits in a single night or week, but you can start making small, incremental changes that will help you sleep longer. If you are suffering from too little sleep, here are three strategies to help you begin to increase your nightly rest:
- Gradually increase your overall sleep time. Start by sleeping 15 minutes longer each night, then eventually move to 30 or 60 additional minutes if you can.
- Set up a nightly routine. A relaxing evening routine that you can repeat each night will help protect your bedtime by letting go of the day’s concerns.
- Treat weeknights and weekends alike. Consistency is important to sleep. Set up a regular, sustainable sleep schedule and avoid both very early and very late nights throughout the week and on the weekends.