Experts Say That ‘Catching Up on Sleep’ Over the Weekend Doesn’t Make Up for Sleep Deprivation

We already know that sleep deprivation is common among the entire, well, world. Unfortunately, about one-third of adults in the US totally fail at getting a proper sleep each night, and about 80 percent of us have sleep issues at least once a week.

It makes sense—we’re busy humans after all. We work all day, we have to wrangle our kids our kids at night, so heck, we’ll sleep when we’re dead! Right?

Well, it turns out we could be dead a lot sooner if we don’t get some sleep. We’re kidding—but it’s seriously bad for our health.

One of the most common sleep problems is when we try to get by the weekdays on little sleep and tell ourselves that we’ll just “catch up” on the weekend by getting to sleep in more than usual. But unfortunately, this isn’t actually how it works.

According to recent research from the University of Colorado Boulder, it doesn’t really make much difference if you complete a certain hours of sleep in a week’s period of time (e.g., you can’t “catch up” on sleep once you’re already sleep deprived).

The study looked at two groups of groups of healthy people that got no more than five hours of sleep a night. However, one of these groups were able to try to “catch up” on their sleep on the weekend, while the other group remained limited on the amount of sleep every single day.

It turns out that there wasn’t much difference in the two—both groups showed all the signs of sleep deprivation including snacking at night and putting on a few pounds. The study even showed signs that their metabolic health was beginning to deteriorate.

Therefore, even though we’d like it to be the case, more sleep on the weekends does not make up for the number of hours lost earlier in the week.

“In the end, we didn’t see any benefit in any metabolic outcome in the people who got to sleep in on the weekend,” said lead author Chris Depner, an assistant research professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.

What’s more, we we could actually bee doing more harm than good by attempting to “catch up” on sleep two out of the seven days a week.

“It’s as bad if not worse in some cases,” said Prof. Kenneth Wright, co-author of the research from the University of Colorado Boulder. “This yo-yo of going back and forth between burning the candle [at both ends] and catching up, and burning the candle and catching up, over the long term is probably going to do some harm.”

We’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: The Sleep Research Society and American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least seven hours of sleep a night for adults. And it’s best for your health if you can get that on a consistent basis—even on weekdays.

Do you ever try to “catch up” on sleep during the weekend? How will you try to get more sleep this week?