Like sleeping in on weekends? A new study says it’s actually doing more harm than good

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Shine On

Back in high school the night owls among us would look upon Saturdays with the sort of longing rarely seen outside romance novels.

Because Saturdays were the days you could finally get the proper 12-hour sleep you craved, slipping out of bed in the early afternoon for a late breakfast, and making up for those painful early morning weekdays.

Our moms may have indulged us, because after all, as the popular theory went, we were just catching up on our sleep.

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Wrong! says a new study that strikes dread in the heart of every weekend late-sleeper. Because according to the experts at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, you're just making yourself sleepier by messing up your internal clock.

"A great myth of sleep deprivation is that if we miss sleep over the course of the work week, we need to catch up on an hour-by-hour basis on the weekend," says Dr. Gregory Carter, a sleep medicine specialist and the study's lead author (via HealthNews Digest).

Those who indulge in a few extra zzz's will be wreaking havoc on their circadian rhythm — that invisible 24-hour internal regulation clock that tells us when we're sleepy. Each hour we snore past our regular wake-up time can equal up to two hours we've set our clocks off for the next day.

That's why your Sunday morning snoozefest tends to make falling asleep much harder on Sunday night… and waking up for work or school on Monday even more excruciating.

It's also why Canadian sleep experts have long recommended going to bed and waking up at the same time each day to promote good sleeping habits.

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So instead of trying to "make up" for any REM deficits on the morning end, the study recommends going to sleep earlier the night before. Waking up with the alarm clock every morning — even after late nights out — will ensure your clock stays properly ticking.

"Too many of us, however, stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights and choose to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This pattern - combined with sleep-defeating actions that may include alcohol consumption and late-night checking of e-mails just prior to bedtime - makes for a painful Monday wake-up call," the good doctor adds.

But the observant among us will have already realized that these early nights and early mornings may also wreak havoc on another sort of time keeper: your social calendar.

Parties, deep conversations about life that extend into the wee hours, catching that midnight screening with a group of friends — these are all much-loved activities and rites of passage that other studies will argue for in favour of our mental health and overall well-being.

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Plus, in our teens and 20s, there's no way we're going to turn down that party invitation so we can make our 10 p.m. sleep curfew. And can you imagine telling your hot date, "I'm having a great time, but, whoops! It's already 9:30!  Time to get home."

If you suffer from a sleep disorder, like insomnia, then perhaps more rigid sleep hygiene is necessary.

If you don't — and can eventually shake off Monday morning fatigue with a cold shower, exercise, an apple (which can give you a coffee-like energy boost), or a big glass of ice water — then by all means, hit that get-together on Saturday night.