Can You Catch Up On Sleep Over the Weekend?

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Ever heard of “sleep debt?” Scientific American describes it as “the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get. It’s a deficit that grows every time we skim some extra minutes off our nightly slumber.” And paying off that sleep debt isn’t as simple as sleeping extra hours on the weekend.

The average American adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, but the American Sleep Association reports that 35.3 percent of people sleep less than 7 hours each night.

Short-term sleep debt is relatively easy to repay. “If you missed 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add three to four extra sleep hours on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have repaid the debt fully,” the Harvard Health Publishing website advises.

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But if you are chronically sleep-deprived, trying to “catch up” on your sleep with a few 12-hour sleep marathons may sound like a good idea. Unfortunately, that won’t fix things in the long-term. There’s no way to “repay” long-term sleep debt — experts simply recommend changing your habits to make sure you get sufficient rest.

Stick to a regular sleep and wake schedule, avoid caffeine and alcohol, exercise daily, and relax before bed with a hot bath or a good book instead of electronics (which can disrupt sleep). A daytime nap may also help you catch up if it’s possible for you to take one regularly.”

Featured image: GP Studio/Shutterstock


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Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.