Catching up on lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekends is no good at all. Pushing through fatigue during the week and sleeping in on weekends to try and rest up and create a ‘sleep reserve’ for the week ahead just doesn’t add up in the world of sleep science.
Unfortunately, our bodies are not designed to store sleep.
We need regular periods of rest to recharge for periods of hard work or play. Sleep accrued tonight, will benefit you tomorrow, however sleep poorly Monday to Friday and you will not be able to catch up enough sleep on the weekend to be fully recharged come Monday morning.
Accruing sleep debt during the week will impact your ability to lay down memory, perform cognitively, solve problems and cope with stress. This can lead to making costly mistakes (that require more time to fix) and rash decisions (that have long-lasting consequences like losing your job!).
One study showed that short-term, minor sleep deprivation (defined as a few days of less than adequate sleep) can be ‘cured’ by sleeping 9,5 hours two nights in a row. However, chronic sleep-deprivation is far more difficult to get rid of and it can take months of sleep therapy for people to return to their performance baseline.
A study of shift workers (such as pilots and doctors) showed how detrimental chronic sleep-deprivation is. After routinely working night-shifts and sleeping during the day, the participants took a 10 hour recovery sleep to “catch up their missed sleep”.
Despite returning to their performance baseline during the day, their performance was still impacted when measured at night – their usual work hours.
The take home message? Human performance relies on the light-dark cycle of the earth. You can’t beat your circadian rhythm that is linked to the movements of the moon and the sun. If you want to perform well in the long-term, you need to prioritise sleep.
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