Catch up sleep may be more beneficial than previously thought, but a solid sleep pattern still prevails

catch up sleep

Is it possible to make up for lost sleep?

If you love a lie in, you’re going to love the results of a recent study into sleep health. It turns out that lounging around in bed at the weekend may actually be good for you. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a sedentary lifestyle is advisable but research has shown that getting a full compliment of sleep at the weekend after several days of building up a sleep debt can be good for your health.

But before you go rushing back to bed, it’s important to establish that any conclusion drawn from these findings is not so simple. While catch up sleep at the weekend is — according to the study’s results — preferable to continued sleep deprivation, it still comes second best to maintaining a good strict routine day-in and day-out.

Let’s take a closer look at these results and see how your sleep pattern is affected by weekend lie ins.

The benefits of catch-up sleep are clearer than they used to be

The Swedish study, published in April 2018 in the Journal of Sleep Research, looked at over 43,000 participants from 1997 to December 31st 2010. The researchers used data from a questionnaire to pull together their results. This questionnaire gathered information on the participants’ basic sleep habits, such as how many hours they slept per night. Responses ranged from under 5 hours of sleep to more than 9.

What made the study unique, however, was that the questionnaire asked participants to differentiate between work nights and nights off, which not many studies do. Past studies have concluded that getting consistently too little or too much sleep leads to higher mortality rates than getting the optimum amount of sleep each night, but made no comment on the effect of catch up sleep.

The researchers behind this study say: “Because there are 5 weekdays and 2 weekend days, it is likely that self-reports of typical sleep duration more strongly reflect weekday sleep. Thus, it is of interest to investigate the relationship between weekend sleep duration and mortality, as well as the different patterns of sleep duration between weekday and weekend sleep.”

The study’s data found that consistently over- or under-sleeping throughout the entire week can have a negative impact on health, but no negative association with health was found when weekend sleep was longer than week sleep.

“We suggest that this may reflect positive effects of compensatory sleep.”

A solid sleep schedule still reigns supreme

However, this is not the final conclusion on catch up sleep. In fact, it’s just the beginning, as many sleep experts are calling for further research to be carried out.

Dr David Dinges, chief of the division of sleep and chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, was not involved in the study. He feels the findings would benefit from continued research, saying: “The real question is whether there is, in fact, a build-up of deficit, or biological changes that are gradual over time, even though you get recovery sleep.”

In the end, what these results tell us is that sleeping for longer at the weekend may be better for our overall health than remaining sleep deprived. However, this doesn’t mean that you should attempt to lie in at weekends if you’re getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each weeknight. A steady sleep pattern is still the healthiest option.

This is largely due to your circadian rhythm, which can become disturbed by yo-yo sleep habits. So if you’re going to try and improve your sleep health, start by aiming to get enough sleep every night; going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day.

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