Monday to Friday, you wake up early for work and stay up late to enjoy social engagements – or finish your chores. By the end of the week, all you want to do is sleep in. Late. You snooze a few extra hours on Saturday morning to stay out late that night, head to bed early on Sunday and start the sleep cycle all over. Or should we say lack of sleep cycle? There’s nothing wrong with making up sleep time on the weekends, is there?
To regulate your sleep schedule successfully, you need to understand two important sleep concepts – sleep drive and internal circadian biological clocks.
Sleep drive is similar to the gas light on your car’s dashboard – it alerts your body when it needs to sleep. The longer you’re awake, the more your body needs sleep. Likewise, you need to sleep dissipates when you’re snoozing at night, filling up that gas tank so you’re ready for action the next morning. You wake up with a full tank and as you go through your day, your tank slowly empties until there’s nothing left and your body demands sleep. When you finally give into slumber, your tank gradually fills again, allowing you to wake up well rested with a full tank once again.
Your circadian clock regulates the timing of alertness and sleepiness throughout the day, rising and falling at different times. The strongest sleep drive (need for sleep) for adults usually occurs between the hours of 2 am to 4 am and during that afternoon rough sluggish patch, between 1 pm and 3 pm. The feeling of grogginess you experience during these times will feel less intense when you’ve had an adequate amount of sleep, and more powerful when you’re sleep deprived.
After a week of early mornings and late nights, our natural reaction is to crave more sleep on the weekends. While extra shut eye on Saturday and Sunday mornings feel good (and a happy habit we’ve held onto since our teenage years), it throws off the upcoming week. Sleeping in late disrupts the balance between our sleep drive and the circadian clock, which can result in disrupted sleep, causing crankiness, grogginess and worse, possible depression. Yikes.
And if your social calendar is full on the weekends, there’s no way to be prepared for the week ahead. Going to bed early on Sunday makes sense right? Unfortunately, this probably won’t work. Staying up late and sleeping in through the weekend, combined with thoughts of a stressful upcoming week can cause “sleep onset insomnia.” With your sleep drive and circadian clock thrown off, your body is simply not ready to sleep.
What’s the alternative? Walking around like sleepless zombies? Of course not. The solution (that we wish was the solution to every problem) is to supercharge with a power nap!
During the work week, napping can seem like an unobtainable gift from the sleep fairy. But if you can sneak one in, it’s a great way replenish energy. On the weekends try to eliminate the concept of sleeping in late, wake up at your normal time and replace that snooze time with an afternoon nap. As with all things sleep, balance is essential. Without causing a disruption in your natural pattern, there are 3 optimal nap times; 20 min, 60 min and 90 min naps.
Struggling to balance your sleep during the week and on the weekends? Feel free to steal these tips help you enjoy your life, get your work done AND optimize your sleep.