Monday to Friday, you wake up early for work and stay up late to enjoy social engagements – or finish your chores. By the end of the week, all you want to do is sleep in. Late. You snooze a few extra hours on Saturday morning to stay out late that night, head to bed early on Sunday and start the sleep cycle all over.
Or should we say lack of sleep cycle?
There’s nothing wrong with making up sleep time on the weekends, is there? To regulate your sleep schedule successfully, you need to understand two important sleep concepts – sleep drive and internal circadian biological clocks.
What the heck’s sleep drive?
Sleep drive is similar to the gas light on your car’s dashboard – it alerts your body when it needs to sleep. The longer you’re awake, the more your body needs sleep. Likewise, your need to sleep dissipates when you’re snoozing at night, filling up that gas tank so you’re ready for action the next moring. You wake up with a full tank and as you go through your day, your tank slowly empties until there’s nothing left and your body demands sleep. When you finally give into slumber, your tank gradually fills again, allowing you to wake up well rested with an full tank once again.
Internal circadian biological clock
Your circadian clock regulates the timing of alertness and sleepiness throughout the day, rising and falling at different times. The strongest sleep drive (need for sleep) for adults usually occurs between the hours of 2 am to 4 am and during that afternoon rough sluggish patch, between 1 pm and 3 pm. The feeling of grogginess you experience during these times will feel less intense when you’ve had an adequate amount of sleep, and more powerful when you’re sleep deprived.
As easy as Sunday morning… late Sunday morning
After a week of early mornings and late nights, our natural reaction is to crave more sleep on the weekends. While extra shut eye on Saturday and Sunday mornings feel good (and a happy habit we’ve held onto since our teenager years), it throws off the upcoming week. Sleeping in late disrupts the balance between our sleep drive and circadian clock, which can result in disrupted sleep, causing crankiness, grogginess and worse, possible depression. Yikes.
And if your social calendar is full on the weekends, there’s no way to be prepared for the week ahead. Going to bed early on Sunday makes sense right? Unfortunately, this probably won’t work. Staying up late and sleeping in through the weekend, combined with thoughts of a stressful upcoming week can cause “sleep onset insomnia.” With your sleep drive and circadian clock thrown off, your body is simply not ready to sleep.
Naps, siestas, quick snoozes – oh my!
What’s the alternative? Walking around like sleepless zombies? Of course not. The solution (that we wish was the solution to every problem) is to supercharge with a power nap!
During the work week, napping can seem like an unobtainable gift from the sleep fairy. But if you can sneak one in, it’s a great way replenish energy. On the weekends try to eliminate the concept of sleeping in late, wake up at your normal time and replace that snooze time with an afternoon nap. As with all things sleep, balance is essential. Without causing a disruption in your natural pattern, there are 3 optimal nap times; 20 min, 60 min and 90 min naps.
Learning how to balance work, life AND sleep
Struggling to balance your sleep during the week and on the weekends? Feel free to steal these tips help you enjoy your life, get your work done AND optimize your sleep.
- Nosh on super meals – Foods high in antioxidants and protein, but low in processed sugars, fats and carbs can ratchet energy up and keep the sluggishness at bay. Focus on fish and green veggies at least one meal each day, supplementing with fruits and nuts for snacks. Begin your day with a low-cal, high protein breakfast.
- Exercise to keep active – Regular workouts can give you more energy throughout the day and regulate your body’s energy reserve expenditures. Going for a walk or short hike can be good activities to keep your energy levels up and give you time clear your head. Maybe go with a partner or a friend to catch up and chat.
- Limit work at home – Your brain needs a break from the stress which can keep you up at night while you’re trying to sleep. To help your brain relax and get ready for sleep, try limiting the amount of work you bring home – or make sure to stop work related activities an hour before it’s time to hit the pillow.
- Designate date nights or social even nights – While work is important and sleep is necessary, try to make fun a priority too. Dinner with friends, a movie date with your partner, putting these things in your calendar can help you to distress and wind down in the evenings.
- Prioritize chores and errands – Try not to stress about doing the dishes, sleep is more important. Figure out which chores and errands are most important to you and which ones you wouldn’t mind doing less often. Think about what you can eliminate, such as having your laundry done at the cleaners or pre-ordering your groceries online.
- Plan for “Me” time – Taking time for yourself may be easier to do on the weekends, so think about waking up at your normal time and tackling one of your hobbies or favorite activities. Perhaps you can sneak a nap in afterward.
- Shut off distractions – The longer engage your brain in work like activities such as emails and the internet, the longer it takes for you to relax into a sleep state and enjoy a restful night’s sleep. By turning off your phone and email an hour to 30 minutes before bed, you allow your body and brain to naturally slowdown in the evening as it prepares itself for sleep. Try this sleep playlist to help you wind down before bed.