Sleeping In: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About It

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Sleeping in on the weekend is more than just an indulgence enjoyed by teenagers, the childless and the underemployed — it’s a necessity, according to recent reports. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have found that a few extra hours of shut-eye on the weekends can boost your brainpower and prepare you for a long week ahead. Their results are published in the most recent issue of Sleep.

In fact, a single night of extra sleep time is all it takes to replenish your mind and boost your energy. “The additional hour or two of sleep in the morning after a period of chronic partial sleep loss has genuine benefits for continued recovery of behavioural alertness. The bottom line is that adequate recovery is important for coping with the effects of chronic sleep restriction on the brain,” said David Dinges, one of the key researchers on the study. It’s recommended that you get 10 hours of sleep at least once a week, but you’ll need even more if you’re someone who tends to stay up until all hours of the night during the workweek.

Not surprisingly, the opposite is true as well: If you regularly fill your weekends with back-to-back all-night parties, you’ll be feeling the effects for days to come. “This highlights the importance of avoiding all-night sleep deprivation following a period of restricted sleep,” Dinges added. And if you haven’t figured out how important plenty of sleep is, consider this: It both keeps your weight in check and helps smooth your skin.

Dinges and his colleagues studied 159 participants with an average age of 30. After making sure all members of the group were well-rested, they then chose 142 people to undergo sleep restriction, while the other 17 were permitted to sleep for 10 hours a night. The 142 sleep-restricted people had regular sleep sessions from four a.m. to eight a.m. daily, and random people in the group were assigned sleep recovery sessions from time to time. All participants underwent 30-minute assessments of things like their reaction time and alertness every two hours when they were awake.

Not surprisingly, those who were deprived of sleep were less alert and had shorter attention spans than those who were getting enough shut-eye. But what was surprising was the discovery that it only took one night of recovery rest to boost their cognitive performance back to regular levels.

Still, proper daily sleep habits are your best best — Dinges warns against using weekend sleep-ins as an excuse for staying up all night during the week. “Getting recovery sleep is important and that may take more than a day,” he says.

Obviously, you should still aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night of the week. But it’s nice to know that if you happen to miss a few hours because of a good book or a killer party, you can make up for it on Sunday morning.

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