Sleep is a precious commodity for a lot of working folks. Many don't get enough during the work week, so they try to make up for it during the weekends. But a new study shows that catching up on sleep won't undo the damage already done.
It is common knowledge that being sleep-deprived is not good for someone's health, but a new study mimics how a lot of people live. For five days, volunteers were only allowed six hours of a sleep each night. Then for two days, they were allowed to sleep in, getting a solid 10 hours a night.
During that time, researchers measured their stress and inflammation as well as performance levels and found that sleeping in doesn't really help.
Dr. Kyra Clark, Medical Director of the Sleep Center at Morehouse School of Medicine, says this is a wakeup call for people in safety jobs, such as pilots and truck drivers, not to mention health care workers.
"Because it shows that after being sleep-deprived for five days, and getting two days of "recovery" sleep, your performance does not improve back to baseline," says Dr. Kyra.
That cycle of getting up early, then sleeping in late, creates another problem of throwing off the body's internal clock.
"You may have recovered some of your sleep. But when you start on a Monday, you feel like you've got jetlag, because your biological clock is out of sync. It usually takes 2 or 3 days to get back into sync," says Dr. Ketema Paul with Morehouse School of Medicine.
So, how do you fix a sleep deficit? Dr. Clark says it is a matter of rethinking sleep habits.
First, everyone should try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Then it is just a matter of sticking to a sleep schedule by going to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. They say this schedule should be followed even on the weekends.
"You want to reserve your bedroom for only sleep and intimacy. So, to have the television in the bedroom, to do your work in the bedroom, and maybe have your iPad and your cellphone, those things are disrupting to your sleep," says Dr. Clark.
And there is always napping.
"Many of us are in jobs where we can't do it. But if you're in a situation where you can take an hour, or half hour nap in the afternoon, I highly recommend it," says Dr. Paul.
It also helps to check the sleep environment. Small changes like making sure that a bedroom is dark, cool and quiet can help bring about better relaxation.
Dr. Clark says getting a sleep schedule is really the key even though it is really tempting to stay in bed.