The Grapevine

Catching Up On Sleep On The Weekend Is Unhealthy, Here's Why

If you are looking forward to paying off your sleep debt this weekend, you are far from alone. Busy schedules often mean we fail to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night as recommended by guidelines.

"In modern society, most people get insufficient sleep during the standard work week and then they attempt to catch up or get more sleep on the weekend," Christopher Depner told Consumer Reports, calling it a continual cycle.

While this method of catch-up seems like the perfect solution, researchers have been trying to find out whether this may carry any risks over time. Depner is one of the authors of one such study, recently published in the journal Current Biology.

A small group of participants were divided into three groups following different sleep schedules — the first group slept 5 hours every night, the second group slept 9 hours every night, and the third group slept 5 hours every weekday night and played catch-up on the weekend by waking up late.

The findings revealed that the second and third groups experienced a slight weight gain over the course of the study. "Recovery sleep did not prevent weight gain associated with insufficient sleep," Depner stated. Both were also found to have reduced insulin sensitivity, which can raise the risk of diabetes over time.

Consistency is always encouraged when it comes to sleep schedules. Daytime napping, for example, may not be a good idea unless a person has developed a consistent habit with them.

Waking up dramatically late only on the weekends can repeatedly disrupt your circadian rhythm. The later the time, the more you shift your internal body clock away from the external clock. This will lead to problems falling asleep on Sunday night, continuing the cycle of social jet lag for yet another week.

"I think people feel that they can be machines during the week and then become human on the weekends," Azizi Seixas, a sleep expert and assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine, told NBC News. "Sleep isn’t a math game, you can’t balance it out. Your body needs a schedule for a reason."

So what is the solution when we are unable to get enough rest before the weekend? According to previous studies, if you lose five hours of sleep over the course of a working week, one and a half hours of extra sleep on the weekend should be enough to pay off your debt. 

In other words, it is alright to hit that snooze button on Saturday and Sunday. Just avoid going overboard by only waking up at noon. As soon as you are up, make sure to expose yourself to enough sunlight as this plays an important role in waking your brain up.