Most people look forward to the weekend, and not at all in order to devote these days to their favorite hobbies, walks and outdoor activities. And in order to finally sleep for real, until it stops, until the body itself wants to get out of bed. But doctors and scientists say that living in a mode of lack of sleep on weekdays and prolonged sleep on weekends is unhealthy.
MedAboutMe understood the nuances of this problem.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three adults in the United States does not meet the recommended amount of sleep recommended by doctors, which is at least 7 hours a day. Most often, the reason for this is workload, numerous stresses, and the peculiarities of life in big cities.
At the same time, regular lack of sleep is known to be associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And a recent study by doctors from Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that regular sleep of less than 6 hours a day leads to a deterioration in concentration by 5 times, to an increase in reaction time by 2 times, and in general there are problems with solving tasks designed for logic, compared to people who got 7 or more hours of sleep daily. Moreover, these effects occur even if a person does not feel tired and believes that he is working effectively.
At the same time, a huge number of people working in the 5/2 mode fly on weekdays as “larks”, forcing themselves to get up at 5–7 in the morning, and “owls” live on weekends, going to bed on Friday well after midnight and getting up on Saturday and Sunday at lunch area. This is a kind of attempt to compensate for chronic lack of sleep, which affects a significant part of working citizens. But is it possible to give back the sleep debt accumulated over the week to your body?
Alas, if credit card debt can be closed at the touch of a button, debt to oneself for sleeping one or even two days of staying in bed “all the way” cannot be closed. According to doctors, in order to fully compensate for regular lack of sleep, you need to sleep the prescribed 7–8 hours of sleep every day for 1–2 weeks — only then all the negative consequences of chronic sleep deficiency will be eliminated.
Hormones and lack of sleep
In February 2019, scientists from the University of Colorado published the results of a simple experiment that aimed to find out if a long weekend nap can compensate for sleep deprivation during the work week. A group of 36 young healthy people were divided into three groups:
- those who slept only 5 hours a day — both on weekdays and on weekends;
- those who slept for 5 hours on weekdays slept to the limit on weekends and then slept again for 5 hours. An important point: this group “walked” until midnight or even until one in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays, and the next morning, the subjects slept until 11 am or noon (as people usually do when working in 5/2 mode). Overall, over the weekend, they gained only 1.1 hours more than their bodies needed;
- the control group included people who got the opportunity to sleep for 8 hours every night — both on weekdays and on weekends.
It turned out that people who were forced to sleep deprived regularly snacked in the evenings, which gave them extra calories and led to weight gain. True, those who slept on weekends did it less often, so they gained weight less intensively. But still, both the first and second groups gained weight by an average of 1.5 kg during the experiment. That is, the scientists concluded, even the ability to sleep on weekends does not eliminate the increased risk of obesity.
Where does the craving for food with lack of sleep come from? It’s all about the hormones that control hunger. For example, in leptin: during the work week, both sleep-deprived groups regularly arranged evening additional snacks of 400–650 kcal, which included yogurt, chips and pastries.
Blood tests of the participants in the experiment showed that people who did not get enough sleep also had reduced insulin sensitivity — about 13% lower than people who got enough sleep every day. But reduced insulin sensitivity is the road to developing resistance to this important hormone and, as a result, a direct path to diabetes.
Moreover, it turned out that sleeping on weekends is more harmful for the body than constantly suffering from lack of sleep. For those who slept on Saturdays and Sundays, insulin sensitivity fell by 27% for the liver and muscles, that is, jumps in sleep duration between weekdays and weekends are hormonally more harmful to the body than stable lack of sleep without the ability to compensate for it for weekend.
Endocrinologist, Professor Peter Liu, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle, along with exercise and proper nutrition. You wouldn’t tell anyone, “You can diet Monday through Friday, but eat whatever you want on weekends.” The same principle holds true for sleep.
There is another problem of changing sleep duration, and it is called “social jet lag”. When we fly from one time zone to another, we also suffer from jet lag — the body has to urgently rearrange circadian rhythms to shift day and night, and the greater the difference between time zones, the more the body suffers.
Roughly the same thing happens at the end of the week, when we abruptly switch from one mode to another — even if the duration of sleep remains normal and does not change! For example, if on weekdays a person slept from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. (the middle of sleep was at 3 a.m.), and on weekends he lives according to the schedule “sleep from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m.” (the middle of sleep falls at 6 a.m.), then we get a shift of the usual mode by 3 hours.
Calculations by experts from the Associated Professional Sleep Society showed that every hour of such a regime shift increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 11%, and also increases the likelihood of developing depression, chronic sleepiness and fatigue.
An interesting point: scientists point out the importance of maintaining the midpoint of sleep. In their opinion, to avoid social jetlag at the weekend, it is enough to stick to this point. That is, on weekends, go to bed a little earlier, and get up a little later. Thus, you will be able to stay in your temporary mode and make up for the hours of sleep you missed during the week.
Trying to sleep off on the weekend after not getting enough sleep during the work week leads to the Blue Monday effect, which is expressed in increased fatigue and reduced performance on the first day of the work week.
Still, it’s better to sleep than not to sleep!
Well, it turns out that sleep on the weekend can be useless and even harmful? No. Swedish scientists from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm still proved its benefits. Over the course of 13 years, they observed 43 thousand adults — they assessed their sleep, health status and recorded mortality.
It turned out that adults under 65 who consistently got 5 or less hours of sleep were 65% more likely to die prematurely than those who slept at least 6–7 hours per night. We add that sleep lasting 8 hours or more also increased the risk of early death — by 25%. And those who slept little on weekdays, but slept off on the weekends, did not fall into the group of those dying ahead of time and, according to this indicator, were equated to those who slept 6–7 hours every day.
So in terms of life expectancy, the opportunity to sleep on the weekend is priceless when it comes to chronic sleep deprivation during the work week.
- Stable circadian rhythms, not knocked down by jumps in sleep between weekdays and weekends, are the key to the health of the endocrine and nervous systems. Therefore, it is best to revise your schedule on weekdays and add the missing 1–2 hours of sleep there.
- Having set yourself 8 hours of sleep during the work week, you should not change this schedule on the weekends. After all, if you get up later, then you will want to sleep later — there will be problems with falling asleep, and this negatively affects the circadian rhythms that the endocrine system that produces hormones works on.
- If life and work have developed in such a way that on weekdays you have to sleep little on a regular basis, you should allow yourself to sleep off on weekends. But then it is better not to shift the moment of going to bed to a later time, but to go to bed, on the contrary, a little earlier and allow yourself to sleep off in the morning. This will save mid-sleep time and minimize the negative effects of changing the regimen.