Does Sleeping In on the Weekend Really Make Up for Lost Sleep?

Woman making up in the morning and stretching

We’re all guilty of skimping on sleep from time to time, and it’s something that we usually do in the interest of getting everything on our (very, very) packed to-do lists over and done with. Of course, with the occasional bout of sleep deprivation comes the mentality that we can always just make up for the hours we missed out on later. Just because you only slept four hours last night doesn’t mean a good 12-hour sleep session on Friday night can’t make up for the shuteye, right? Not quite. 

In a recent interview on Terry Gross’s NPR show Fresh Air,  sleep scientist and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew Walker, shed a bit of light on the reality behind making up for lost sleep, and the news isn’t good for anyone who skimps on sleep some nights with the intention of just making up for it on others.

“Sleep is not like the bank, so you can’t accumulate a debt and then try and pay it off at a later point in time,” said Walker in the interview. “The reason is this: We know that if I were to deprive you of sleep for an entire night — take away eight hours — and then in the subsequent night I give you all of the sleep that you want, however much you wish to consume, you never get back all that you lost. You will sleep longer, but you will never achieve that full eight-hour repayment, as it were. So the brain has no capacity to get back that lost sleep that you’ve been lumbering it with during the week in terms of a debt.”

So, while you may not necessarily want to give up the option to sleep in late on a Saturday, don’t let yourself get too carried away with the misinformation that a longer weekend sleep session makes up for lost rest. Instead, focus on practicing healthier sleep habits on the regular – we’re talking a healthy bedtime, waking up around the same time every day, etc. – and let that help you get the most of your shuteye.



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