Catching up on sleep on the weekends
For many of us, the weekend presents an opportunity to catch up on badly needed sleep from our busy workweek. But this notion of catching up is a myth. While there’s a limited amount of recovery in getting good sleep the night after a poor night of sleep, you can’t “bank” sleep on the weekends, nor can you make up for all those all nighters in grad school or investment banking from two or twenty years ago. You need good sleep consistently every night, whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night. Think of each night as its own unique opportunity for great sleep.
Social Jet Lag
Many people tend to keep a similar schedule during the workweek- mostly due to needing to be at a job at a certain time in the morning- and a different schedule on the weekends, dictated by social activities and habits. Let’s say you go to bed at 11 pm on weekdays and get up at 7 am. On Friday night, however, you go out for dinner or you binge watch Netflix, and before you know it, it’s 1 am. Then you sleep until 10 am the next day. On Saturday night, you do the same: 1 am bedtime, and then on Sunday, you wake up at 10 am.
When Sunday night rolls around, your body will likely not feel ready to go to sleep at 11 pm based on your last two nights. So you toss and turn, and when your alarm goes off Monday morning at 7 am, you feel like it’s the middle of the night. Your body has essentially moved the equivalent of two time zones over the weekend- from New York to Denver, for example- and is now forced to return to New York. This is called social jet lag.
Your Snooze Button is not your friend
One of the benefits of keeping the same sleep schedule seven days a week is your body starts to learn this schedule, and you start to wake up naturally before your alarm. Not only is it less painful to wake up naturally (rather than inevitably being jolted awake during a deep sleep cycle) but it’s less taxing on your body to not experience the rush of the stress hormone cortisol that is released by your body when your alarm goes off. Furthermore, if you hit the snooze button... and the alarm beeps again in five minutes, ten minutes, whatever, your body releases cortisol again. You’re in fight or flight mode multiple times before you’ve even brushed your teeth.
So where to go from here?
Consider a sleep schedule that’s realistic for you to commit to this week, for all seven nights. Write it down in your calendar and tell a family member or partner to help with accountability. See how you feel in a week’s time. Notice if your body starts learning the schedule and waking up just before your alarm clock goes off. If you weren’t able to stick with the schedule, consider what prevented you from doing so. Was it a partner who wasn’t on board with your plan and kept you up too late? Was it the temptation of binge watching TV? Was it late in the day consumption of caffeine? Was it eating dinner too late? Whatever you do, avoid that snooze button; it’s not doing you any favors.