Wohlbefinden Forschung

Catching up on sleep - is that possible?

Christine Blume


Jan 10, 2023

Frau schlaeft Schlaf nachholen nukkuaa

Working hard during the week, leading a stressful everyday life and relaxing at the weekend:

Why that's not a good idea.

Job, family, social life: A lot of appointments can come together. Many people therefore tend to sleep too little during the week, i.e. less than the generally recommended seven to nine hours. They then look forward to being able to sleep in properly at the weekend. However, the calculation doesn't work out as desired, and it doesn't balance out in the long term. Anyone who sleeps too little over a longer period of time is putting their health at risk.

Metabolism suffers

Swedish researchers led by Torbjörn Åkerstedt [1] investigated the question of how such sleeping behaviour affects the body - working hard during the week and relaxing at the weekend. In a very large sample, they found no evidence that those who compensate for short sleep on working days at the weekend have an increased risk of death. However, short sleep at the weekend was associated with an increased risk of death. As far as metabolism is concerned, however, there are indications that it cannot be brought back into balance even with longer sleep at the weekend [2]. As a result, too little sleep on working days could increase the risk of obesity or type II diabetes.

Catch up in moderation

So you should try to get enough sleep during the week too. Sleeping in advance is practically impossible if we are not tired. You can't extend the natural duration of sleep indefinitely. Sleep cannot be memorised. The body only ever reacts to a previous sleep deficit.

The good news is that we can catch up on sleep. ‘But only to a certain extent,’ explains Salzburg sleep researcher Manuel Schabus. ‘Sometimes we sleep less because we have a lot to do, and then we sleep longer again. But if you want to sleep well and healthily in the long term, you should respect your natural sleeping times as often as possible.’ A well-rested person is more productive and can cope better with stress during the week.

Noticeable consequences

Anyone who sleeps one hour too little every day during the week will feel the effects immediately, even a weekend nap cannot compensate for this: The metabolism gets confused - which can lead to more hunger after dinner. You take in more calories, but use less energy and gain weight as a result. After a few days of too little sleep, the brain is just as poorly organised as if you had pulled an all-nighter. After sleeping until 11 a.m. on a Sunday, your body won't be happy when it has to get up at 7 a.m. on Monday morning.

Sleep² Tipps:

  • Try to get enough sleep even on working days. If this doesn't work out, you can ‘catch up’ on sleep at the weekend.
  • It is always advisable to pay attention to your body's own sense of sleep.

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