The recommended amount of sleep is usually around 7-9 hours per night, with those still growing (aka kids) or performing a lot of strenuous exercise requiring more. One of the easiest health associations between lack of sleep is fat gain, by negatively impacting hormone levels such as cortisol, leptin and ghrelin. In turn this often causes fat mass to be gained via such things as inflammation and poorer appetite control.
We all know how important sleep is to our health. In an ideal world we might fall asleep quickly at 9pm everyday and wake up with no alarm clock fully refreshed around 5am to get on with all our super productive morning routines.
However this just isn’t realistic for most of us. Chasing optimal can often lead us to giving up all together and I’m a strong believer in doing the best you can reasonably sustain. Whether it’s social events, family/relationship issues, kids or just plain bad habits (late night TV or whatsapp conversations), there’s an endless amount of crap that can pop up in your day and usually when you’re short on time. The easiest way to recoup this time is from your sleep.
An alternative (non ideal) sleep strategy used is to sleep more on the weekends with the idea of catching up on our sleep debts. A recent May 2017 study looked at this with some albeit restricted parameters.
2,156 people (19-82yrs) were interviewed and what they found was around 43% of these slept longer (~2hrs) at the weekends, with an average of 7.3hrs per night across the week.
Those that slept in at the weekends to catch up with sleep debt during the week, had a predicted BMI that was significantly lower than those who did not have any catch up sleep. The more catch up sleep the lower the BMI.
Now I get that using BMI alone is not ideal, but it does at least give some indication that the concept of catch up sleep has some credibility. In practice as well I think we would all agree that having a good lie in on the weekends can really help if you have not had much sleep during the week.
Obviously the best thing to do is firstly remove any unnecessary bad habits, reduce your stress and prioritise your sleep every day. Having regular sleep and wake times will help with your circadian rhythm and energy levels. However when life throws some unavoidable hurdles your way, don’t worry and add more stress to the situation.
Many sleep experts actually recommend hitting a certain amount of sleep cycles over the week. This gives you a little flexibility and allows you to catch up on sleep debt by either using midday naps or sleeping in at the weekends.
You’ll probably already know roughly how much sleep you need to feel your best, so if you fall short one day, try to atleast make up for it by taking a nap or by more sleep at the weekends.