One of my favorite things to do is go to bed on Friday nights without setting an alarm for the next morning. Few things are more satisfying than those extra hours of rest—especially after a long week.
Who doesn’t like waking up naturally, without an insistent ringing telling you it’s time to get up? Sleeping in is a habit that many people are used to indulging in. Starting as early as adolescence, the practice can easily continue into adulthood. Snoozing for 10 or more hours into Saturday and Sunday is, for a lot of us, a method of playing catch up on a work week riddled with poor or inconsistent sleep. It’s how we heal or rest up—or, at least, that’s what we’ve gotten used to telling ourselves.
As Nsikan Akpan points out in this PBS article, it turns out that your sleeping habits don’t cover those rollover minutes the same way your cell phone plan does. “People like to sleep in on the weekends because it makes them feel better,” says clinical health psychologist Kelly Glazer Baron. “The problem is: You’re at a greater disadvantage for getting on track during the week.”
According to a scientific study on sleep impairment, people don’t just adjust to a routinely disparate weekday and weekend sleep schedule. “People think that they’ve trained themselves to get by on less and less sleep,” explains Brant Hasler, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, “but what they’ve really done is lose track of the effects.” That means you’re not so much getting better at living with less sleep as you are getting worse at noticing what the bad habit is doing to you.
What should you do instead? Hasler recommends waking up at the same time every day—even when you’re off the clock. I know what you’re thinking: That’s easier said than done. Sure, it may seem unrealistic given how demanding your job is, but the only way to strike a healthier balance is to aim for more consistency. So maybe that means taking short naps over the weekend (and even during the week if you can finagle it) to balance out your weekly sleep.
Or, maybe a more attainable goal is sleeping seven hours on weeknights and nine on weekends—rather than say five and 12 or the proposed exact same number each night. The point is aiming for consistency, instead of lazing about in bed the entire morning on Saturday and Sunday.
So, next time you’re tempted to shut the blinds and start your weekend hibernation, give this method a try. With some consistency, you might even get the rest you’ve actually needed this whole time—and lose the urge to sleep in entirely. That way, you’ll still get to hit the sack without an alarm. And best part? Sleeping better in general means that you’ll get more hours of your weekend back, too.