Photo: Aaron Jacobs/Flickr
Getting out of bed on a Monday morning is harder than usual because weekend lie-ins make you feel sleepier during the rest of the week.While staying in bed longer on Saturday and Sunday might be tempting, the idea it helps you “catch up” on sleep you missed out on during the week is a myth, doctors explained.
Rather than preparing you for the week ahead, sleeping in during the weekend will only make you more tired when the time comes to get up for work on Monday because it disrupts the daily, or circadian, cycle which governs our internal body clock and tells us when to wake up in the morning or to feel sleepy at night.
Because the cycle lasts about 24 hours, staying in bed for longer than usual at the weekend confuses our body clock and results in us feeling more tired when we try to revert to a normal pattern of sleeping and waking.
Dr Gregory Carter, a specialist in sleep medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern, said: “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 at the weekend.”
The body can easily handle a delay to the circadian clock of up to an hour, meaning a short lie-in on weekends is unlikely to have any significant effect on our tiredness on Monday morning.
But delays of up to two hours or more can throw us out of sync, making it harder to get to sleep on Sunday night and even tougher to get out of bed the following morning.
Any “sleep debt” we build up by going to bed too late during the week can be balanced out on Saturday or Sunday simply by getting eight hours of sleep because our brains rest more efficiently when we are tired, Dr Carter added.
The most effective approach is to go to bed earlier rather than sleeping in later at the weekend so that we can continue to wake up at the same time as during the week while getting the optimum amount of rest.
In contrast, staying up late on Friday or Saturday nights and having a lie-in the following morning – especially when coupled with other behaviour which harms our sleep quality such as drinking alcohol or checking our emails just before bed time – makes Monday morning all the more painful.
Researchers have previously shown that even hitting the snooze button to get a few more minutes’ rest after a sleepless night can make us feel worse than simply getting out of bed.
People with sleeping problems like insomnia may be tempted to mute their alarm and stay in bed for a little longer after a bad night, but doing so can confuse their already delicate body clock and does more harm than good.
Even insomniacs who have not slept at all are better off rising at exactly the same time each morning rather than staying in bed to try to get a short burst of sleep, experts advise.
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