Can We Repay Our Sleep Debt During Weekends?

Are you the sort of person who uses Saturdays and Sundays as excuses to sleep a little longer? If you are, you certainly aren’t alone. Who doesn’t love getting in the extra z’s whenever the opportunity arises? We’re all so busy during the weekdays that we can only find time to sleep during the weekends. In fact, an increasing number of sleep-deprived Singaporean millennials are sleeping in on the weekends to make up for lost time. Generations before them have also done the same, but a recent study found that millennials are far more prone to doing so.

Part of this is down to their belief that they might be able to repay any sleep debt that they might incur that week. Theoretically, each hour that is taken away from the recommended seven hours of sleep accumulates as sleep debt. Assuming that they only get five hours of sleep every night, that accrues to a total of fifteen hours of lost sleep time. They would then somehow attempt to split at least a portion of those lost hours over the weekend, believing that the extra beauty sleep would be enough to allow their body to repair their sagging skin. But even if they do have the luxury to do so, it would not be nearly enough. Here’s why.


Why Sleeping In During The Weekends Isn’t Worth It

As logical as it sounds to repay sleep debt during the weekends, your body doesn’t quite work that way. There are far more complex systems at work here. Let’s take a look at this:

A Vicious Cycle

When you sleep in during the weekends, this may, instead, cause your biological clock to shift to a new timing. Let’s say that you usually wake up at 6am during the weekdays. If you sleep at midnight, this means that you’ve only got about six hours of sleep at best. You would likely be sleep deprived by about five hours by the time you get to the weekends. Therefore, you should theoretically be sleeping in until at least 9am on Saturday and 8am on Sunday to make up for lost time. But what happens when you get to Monday? That’s right. You’re going to want to sleep in to that hour too. Hence, delaying the time you wake up is only going to create an endless vicious cycle.

It Might Backfire

Another study also found that sleeping in does little to reverse any of the damage that sleep deprivation has had on our metabolism and may just end up worsening matters, instead. To begin with, any reduced sensitivity to insulin that occurs as a result of sleep deprivation does not get repaired. Our insulin sensitivity matters since this is one of the biggest reasons why our weight tends to fluctuate when we don’t get enough sleep. Before our body gets any chance to restore itself, we’ve returned to sleeping for only five hours once the weekend is over. A more damning observation in the study even showed reduced sensitivity to insulin in the muscles and liver in test subjects who slept in during the weekend. By comparison, this did not happen to those who woke up at the same time. Like the Northerners in Winterfell, our body remembers.

Routine Matters

This is why establishing a consistent routine matters, as opposed to changing our bedtimes whenever we want to. There is no such thing as an on-off switch. A regular biological clock is necessary for us to even begin to repay any sleep debt.


Honestly Evaluate Yourself

Hectic lifestyles can indeed get in the way of setting aside enough time for sleep. Today, more people lose valuable time as a result of their long daily commute. But pause for a minute. Is there really nothing you could change? Take a moment to consider any bad habits that you may have in the hours that lead up to your bedtime. It’s all too easy to miss out on any self-sabotaging habits that steal a crucial hour or two from the seven hours of sleep that we should be getting.

Using Mobile Phones Too Close To Bedtime

Our mobile phones have evolved beyond its basic function, but that has, in turn, increased our exposure to the blue light that the screens emit. Not only do we use our phones to contact others, but we also use them as reading material as well as our alarm clocks. We’re so dependent on them for everything that it’s now too easy to become lured into the trap of using them in bed.

Watching Too Much TV

Indulging in your favourite television show reruns is an excellent way to wind down after a hard day’s worth of work, but are you spending way too much time on them? Similar to our mobile phones, our television screens also emit blue light. The advent of convenient streaming sites also makes it that much easier to watch these shows too close to our bedtimes. Consider switching off all your electronic devices about an hour before you want to sleep, instead. If you rely on your mobile phone to wake you up, set your alarm and then leave the phone alone.