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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Studies find benefits of sleeping in on weekends to be debatable

Sometimes the best thing after a hard week is a good night of sleep on the weekend.

But if you’re trying to make up for lost sleep, you may just be wasting time. ...

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Sometimes the best thing after a hard week is a good night of sleep on the weekend.

But if you’re trying to make up for lost sleep, you may just be wasting time.

A study published recently in the American Journal of Psychology found that trying to catch up on sleep, such as on a weekend, doesn’t do enough to cancel out the negative effects of not getting enough sleep during the week.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but according to a Global Sleep Survey done earlier this year, the average night of sleep is 61⁄2 hours on a weeknight.

The researchers, led by a group at Penn State University, took 30 adults who labeled themselves as normal sleepers and put them through a 13-day sleep program. The schedule included having all of them sleep in a lab, and for the first four nights, they were allowed to sleep for a full eight hours.

But after that, the researchers woke everyone two hours earlier for six straight nights before letting them sleep for 10 hours the final three.

The participants were given objective and subjective tests and filled out questionnaires on how sleepy they felt. They were given a test in which they had to push a button every time a dot appeared on a screen.

According to the study, there were no improvements in test results taken after the 10-hour sleep periods when compared to the six-hour periods.

“Two nights of extended recovery sleep may not be sufficient to overcome behavioral alertness deficits resulting from mild sleep restriction,” the researchers said. “The long-term effects of a repeated sleep restriction/sleep recovery weekly cycle in humans remains unknown.”

So how do you make sure you get enough sleep every night?

I give myself a time each night that I feel like I should be in bed, based on what time I need to get up in the morning. If I need to get up earlier – for me, early is 8 a.m. – my plan is to get to bed between midnight and 1 a.m.

On days when I don’t have anything to do in the morning, I’ll set the alarm for a little later, like sometime after 9, and head off to bed closer to 2, at the latest.

Of course, that doesn’t always work. There are going to be nights – or mornings – when you just can’t get seven or eight hours of sleep.

But instead of trying to catch up on your sleep, it sounds as if the best thing to do is get back to normal as soon as you can.

Joe Marchilena writes a weekly fitness column for Hampshire Hills. To find out more information about the “90 Day Commit to Get Fit” program, call 673-7123 or email