Sleep Debt and the Futility of “Weekend Recovery Sleep”

Sleep Debt and the Futility of “Weekend Recovery Sleep”

Sleep Debt

Businessman workload falls asleep tired on computer over a desk because of sleep debt

The importance of prioritizing sleep during the work week cannot be stressed enough. In the work-obsessed culture, we find ourselves living in, people often brag about how little sleep they get, how they’ll “sleep when they’re dead”, or that they’ll just attempt to “catch up” on sleep over the weekend if they can. The idea of catching up on sleep over the weekend is simply not enough to stave off the detrimental effects of prolonged sleep deprivation.

According to leading sleep researchers, the impairments linked to sleep deprivation, such as lapses in attention and severely delayed reaction times, can remain a problem even after a long night of perceived “recovery sleep”. You will likely need multiple nights of long sleep times to find full relief from extended periods of sleep loss.

Sleep debt adds up, and because most people can’t sleep for more than 10 hours at a time, it is impossible, and therefore futile to attempt, to close that gap in a single night. “Burning the candle at both ends”, as they say, by staying up late during the week may seriously damage your ability to perform at work or school in the coming weeks and months.

In a study performed by SLEEP magazine involving 159 physically healthy adults around the age of 30 years old, researchers studied the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation. All but 17 of the participants were tasked with sleeping for a maximum of four hours per night, between 4:00 am – 8:00 am, for five consecutive nights. On the sixth night, they were randomly assigned to one of six different lengths of recovery sleep. These participants took a 30-minute-long computerized neurobehavioral assessment every two hours throughout the duration of the study. This assessment included a Psychomotor Vigilance Test and the Kasronlinska Sleepiness scale. A modified Maintenance of Wakefulness Test was also given at the start of the study, again during the fifth night, and once more on the recovery day.

Researchers noticed a marked reduction in impairment after the night of recovery sleep. The improvements increased for those participants with lengthier sleep times, but the overall effects of sleep loss were never fully eliminated. Lapses of attention, subjective sleepiness, reaction times, and fatigue scores were above baseline for the 27 participants assigned to 10 hours of recovery sleep on the sixth night. There was another interesting finding involving the participants who were assigned to extreme sleep restriction on the sixth night instead of recovery sleep: performance and alertness significantly deteriorated after the final night with little to no sleep. This finding is far from shocking.

The aforementioned impairments linked to sleep loss (lapses in attention, and delayed reaction times) can prove to be extremely dangerous in your daily life. Another sleep study showed that driving after a night, or several nights, of sleep deprivation, is just as, if not more, dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol. Put simply, if you’re getting behind the wheel after getting too few hours of sleep, you are putting yourself and other drivers on the road at great risk. Not to mention, your overall health, longevity, and even your “attractiveness” are all greatly improved by getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night, so start sleeping your way to better health!

At Sleep City we take sleep seriously. We know the health benefits of getting a better night’s rest. If you think your mattress or pillow is the problem, we are here to help. Shop our collection of mattresses today and get the sleep you deserve.