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How Losing Sleep Affects Your Body and Mind

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What is the Sleep/Wake Cycle?

Sleeping in for an extra two or three hours (or more) on a Saturday or Sunday morning may seem like a good way to try to recoup the shuteye that you missed during a busy week. But it won’t help you make up for chronic sleep debt. While it may help you feel slightly less drowsy and stressed out that day, it won’t eliminate the negative, cumulative effects that sleep loss has on your health. Plus, the sleep loss that you’ve already incurred can still adversely affect your mental and physical performance, even if you feel better after sleeping in.

What’s more, sleeping in can backfire in a variety of ways. For starters, it can throw your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle) off track, setting you up for having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep the next night. This can give you the equivalent of social jet lag, a mismatch between your body’s circadian rhythm and your socially driven sleep schedule. And that’s not a good thing. Over time, social jet lag can lead to a variety of negative health consequences, including an increased risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Ultimately, it’s best to vary your wake-up time by no more than an hour on the weekends. A better way to try to make up for any slumber that you lost during the week: Take a 20-to-30-minute nap on weekend afternoons, ideally between 2:00pm and 3:00pm. Keeping your naps short and sweet can help you avoid feeling groggy and out of it, as if you had a sleep hangover, when you wake up. Instead, you’re more likely to awaken feeling refreshed, and you’ll set the stage for a good night’s sleep, too.