The Rumor: You can always catch up on sleep over the weekend
Here I am, in my 20s, healthy and in the prime of my life -- and feeling like I need at least eight hours of sleep a night to function. Yet what with all I've got going on (the socializing, the studying), I'm finding it harder and harder to fall asleep before midnight Sunday through Thursday. Come Friday and Saturday, I stay out until two or three a.m. My fix? Sleeping in on Saturdays and Sundays (sometimes until noon). All of my friends say this schedule is fine and normal -- but then again, they're doing the same thing.
Should I stay in on Friday or Saturday nights so I can bank some shut-eye? Or should I suck it up, go out and be chronically sleep-deprived like all my peers?
The Verdict: 'Recovery' sleep doesn’t reverse declines in performance
According to a study by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, lack of sleep decreases performance and restricts the brain's operational capacity for up to several days after normal sleep duration has been restored. Plus, sleeping in doesn’t make us feel more awake. In fact, it makes us feel more tired and less energetic, so we end up being more mistake-prone -- without even realizing it.
Even worse, when we sleep in late on the weekends, the brain’s circadian clock can be delayed by up to two hours, which makes it harder to fall asleep on Sundays and wake up on Mondays. “To maintain our internal clock, we need to go to bed eight hours before our usual time for getting out of bed in the morning,” says Dr. Gregory Carter, a sleep specialist from University of Texas Southwestern. If you really need to hit the club from dusk until dawn on Friday and Saturday night, try napping for less than an hour on Sunday. That way, you won’t completely knock your cycle out of sync.
The moral of the story? As much as you may like to indulge yourself by sleeping until noon on the weekends, you're not doing your body any good by screwing with its normal cycle. Put those daily pressures aside and get your beauty sleep every day of the week. Don't just save it for the weekend.