Thursday Sleep Tip: The Weekend Sleep Schedule

Picture this scenario. It’s the weekend. You’ve been working hard all week, getting up early, getting to bed early the next night so you can start over the next morning. Now you want to live a little. Nothing to get up early for tomorrow, so no reason to go to bed early tonight. And so, you do what millions of people do every week and you celebrate the weekend.

What you’re really celebrating is freedom. Freedom from that annoying alarm clock that seems to be governing your whole day. It forces you to get up when you don’t want to, so you have to go to bed earlier than you want to, so you don’t get to enjoy the evening activities you want to, like the late night TV or a movie (yeah I know, I live wild). Or maybe you do stay up late one night during the week, but the alarm clock makes you pay for it the next day. Man I hate that alarm clock!

Everybody’s working for the weekend
Everybody wants a little romance
Everybody’s goin’ off the deep end
Everybody needs a second chance

- Loverboy

But that’s not the point I was going to make. The point is, or rather the question is, should you stay up late? And if you do stay up late, should you sleep in to make up for it?

The short answer to these questions is, “no”. I know, that answer is going to fall on many deaf ears. That’s OK. I’m not going to convince anyone that they should skip the fun and hurry off to bed at 10 PM on Saturday night just to stay on schedule. And truthfully, you don’t have to be all that rigid. There are really two issues at hand, the two questions I already raised.

Should We Force Ourselves to Go to Bed Early on the Weekends?

In order to keep the best and healthiest sleep schedule you should not vary your bedtime and the time you get up each morning by more than 15 minutes. Granted, this is the ideal and won’t fly for most normal people in civilized society.

The good news is that you can make variances in the time you go to bed of up to an hour without a significant impact. We do it twice every year when we change our clocks for Daylight Savings Time (except those lucky folks in Phoenix and a few other places around the world). We do it when we travel to the next time zone.

So, if you usually go to bed around 10:30, you shouldn’t suffer any significant side effects by staying up until 11:30 on a Friday night. In fact, if you aren’t suffering significantly from any sleep disorders you should be fine staying up quite a bit later than that if you feel like it, as long as you don’t overdo it or do it too often.

Should I sleep in Late to Make up for a Late Night?

Sleeping in late will have longer lasting effects than staying up late. A late night may leave you a little more tired than usual the next day. Sleeping in too late, however, will extend the problem into the next night which has the potential of creating a downward spiral.

If it is the weekend and you have nothing to get up for, it is OK to sleep in a little bit. I stress the “little bit”, though. You can use this as an opportunity to make up for some lost sleep during the week, but don’t overdo it. The later you sleep in, the harder it will be to get to sleep on time that night.

On the other hand, if you just have a bad night of sleep and only get a few hours, don’t sleep in to make up for it. You will be better off over all if you get up at the normal time, and then take a short nap in the late morning or early afternoon. This will help keep you on your normal sleep schedule so that the next night you won’t have any difficulty getting to sleep.

Most of us need to be awake about sixteen hours before we are ready to sleep again. If you are used to sleeping from 10 PM – 6 AM, but you sleep in until 10 AM one morning, you are going to have a tough time finding rest a short twelve hours later.

These are guidelines, and as such you are free to break them. However, do so at your own risk!

Happy Sleeping!

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