Whether you are stuggling with sleep or are able to sleep like a rock every night, one of the most important sleep hack for your health is having consistency in your sleep schedule. This means keeping a steady sleep time, both during the week and the weekend. Studies have shown that the lost of sleep one night is not fully recouperated on the subsequent nights, even if the total time duration is the same. For example, getting a consistent 8 hours of sleep every night is better than 6 hours during the week and compensating with 13 hours of sleep on the weekend. Although you might feel better after sleeping in on the weekend to catch up on the Zzz’s, the particularities of the sleep pattern throughout these two scenarios are not the same.
As outlined in the Why we sleep section, sleep plays a major role in maintaining the proper functioning of our brain and body. Lack of sleep can result in a number of psychological and physiological consequences, from an increased in appetite and trouble concentrating to an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases and cardiovascular diseases, just to name a few. Such effects of insufficient may be slowly accumulating with an inconsistent sleep schedule.
Keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule will also help alleviate the symptoms of social jet lag that we so commonly feel come Monday morning. Social jet lag is the result in the differences in our sleep-wake schedule during the week and the weekend. Sleep is typically restricted during the week, and extended during the weekend. In addition to sleeping in during the weekend, we also tend to go to bed later. This causes a shift in our circadian rhythm, our internal clock, pushing it to a later time in the day. Come Monday morning, we must abruptly reset our internal clock back to ‘weekday’ time, creating a ‘jet lag’ situation where our internal clock is on a different time (weekend time) than its environment (weekday time).
Consistency is therefore key to reduce the negative effects of sleep loss on our health, but also on our performance throughout the week. Nevertheless, life events and social commitments are a part of our regular lives. These should definitely not be avoided, however, it is important to be conscientious to maintain a consistent sleep-wake pattern outside of these events.