How to break a weak sleep cycle: flaws of week-day sleepiness
Most Aussies spend their weekdays working away with family or job commitments, so it’s no wonder that by the time the weekend rolls around, many of us think that it’s the perfect time to catch-up on lost sleep.
But does trying to overcompensate for sleep actually end up balancing out a weak weekly sleep cycle?
You might feel as though you’re better rested on weekends by sustaining this uneven sleeping pattern, but chances are you aren’t accumulating enough quality sleep to help your body function at its optimum.
How much sleep do I actually need?
Similar to an individual’s differences in height and weight, the amount of quality sleep we need varies from person to person.
While some people might try and scrape by with between 5 to 6 hours sleep each evening, research has found that most Australian adults actually need to doze for at least 7 – 9 hours each night1.
Unless you’re prioritising sleep and making an active effort to switch off in time to clock up at least 7 – 9 hours each night, you may be feeling sluggish several mornings a week.
Maybe this is why Aussies love to squeeze a cheeky nap into their schedules. In fact, a recent study found that out of more than 1000 Australians surveyed, at least 13 per cent reported having a kip2.
What’s the deal with being awake on weeknights?
After social drinks and dinners, late-night sport games and the temptation of watching a movie – there’s numerous reasons as to why Australians find it hard to switch off and sleep on weeknights.
On average, Aussies’ sleep for seven hours on weeknights and only manage to squeeze in an extra 15 minutes or so on weekends in an effort to boost their weekly slumber stats3.
But these figures are insufficient to catch-up on the amount of sleep missed and – not surprisingly – the research also identifies that as a result, we’re not waking up feeling as fresh as a daisy.
In fact, Australia might be in the middle of a sleep deprivation epidemic that is impacting the nation’s productivity, risking safety and damaging mental health. Research has found that 33 to 45 percent of Aussie adults sleep either poorly or not long enough most nights, leaving them with fatigue and irritability4.
It’s time to reassess our priorities and realise that lazy weekends can’t compensate for week-day sleepiness.
Remember that playing catch-up doesn’t cut it
Sleep debt can accumulate for nights, weeks or more, and in most cases, it’s due to burning the candle at both ends.
Even if you are able to sleep your weekend away, playing catch-up with your sleep over a single weekend of extended sleep is highly unlikely to rescue you from your accumulated sleep debt5.
The good news is that with some effort and planning, you can repay your sleep debt.
How to repay your sleep debt
While there’s no quick fix, you can give your sleep cycle a makeover and repay your sleep debt. Here’s how:
- Make sure you’re doing all you can to get the best night’s rest possible. Start by downloading our free eBook, ‘8 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep’ for our expert advice
- Stop thinking of your week as ‘weeknights’ and ‘weekends’ and treat both nights the same. The key to good sleep is consistency!
- Create – and stick to – a realistic nightly routine. Switch off your electronic devices, run a bath, read a book – just make sure you’re preparing to sleep at least half an hour before you actually plan to, as it can take time to finish last minute tasks and fully wind down
- Bump up your sleeping hours gradually. A good trick to try is start by increasing your sleep intervals by 15 minutes over the course of a week – soon you’ll start clocking up the correct amount of hours
If you are following good sleep hygiene and still feel like there is an issue with your sleep, it might be a good idea to take our free online Sleep Assessment available on our website.
The assessment is quick and easy to do from the comfort of your own home, but better still it will give you an idea of what might be causing your sleep issues.