While few things feel better than sleeping in on weekends, doing so can actually lead to a fairly long list of negative side effects. From throwing off your internal clock, to suppressing your immune system, snoozing the day away may end up doing more harm than good. And that’s because, when it comes to staying healthy, sticking to a sleep schedule is key.
“Our bodies love a routine,” Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder ofTuck, tells Bustle. “As a matter of fact, our circadian rhythm is just that — a 24 hour internal clock that moderates when we need rest. To think that it is good to get five hours of sleep during the week and then nine hours on the weekends is far from a routine.” Instead, you should be aiming for about eight hours of sleep per night, while also going to bed and waking up around the same time — even on the weekends.
If you’re really tired, though, it is OK to sleep in just a bit. “It’s usually fine to sleep in an extra hour or two,” Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, behavioral sleep psychologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, tells Bustle. If you typically get up at 7 a.m. during the week, sleeping in until nine on the weekend shouldn’t have a major impact. You won’t, however, want to sleep in much longer than that.
Read on below for the ways sleeping in on the weekend might hurt your health, according to experts.
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It Can Disrupt Your Circadian Rhythm
“The main reason you shouldn’t sleep in on the weekends is that this habit can be quite confusing for your inner ‘circadian clock,” Dr. Schneeberg says. This is your internal sleep timer, and it’s what helps you feel tired at night.
“Because your brain releases sleep hormones and wake hormones […] it has an easier time knowing when to release these when our bedtimes and rise times are consistent,” Dr. Schneeberg says. “If you get up on weekdays at 7 a.m. and on weekends at 11 a.m., your brain gets a bit confused about when you want your wake and sleep hormones to be released.”
That’s why — however comfy your bed may feel — you’ll still want to stick to your routine, and get up as per usual.
You Might Experience “Jet Lag”
If you’re someone who struggles to wake up on time for work, sleeping in on the weekend will make it all the more difficult. “You may […] feel worse on Monday morning when you have to get up at 7 a.m. again,” Dr. Schneeberg says. “We even have a name for this: social jet lag. This means that you are changing your rise times as if you are traveling (even when you are not!).”
But you can also feel jet lagged on the weekend, too, including “all the symptoms that go along with it (such as grogginess, lethargy, and tiredness),” Martin Reed, certified clinical sleep health expert and founder of Insomnia Coach, tells Bustle.
It Can Lead To Sleep Deprivation
It’s no joke that sleeping in on the weekends can really throw off your sleep timer, including making it difficult to fall asleep on Sunday night. And that can snowball into bigger problems.
“Think about it this way: your body expects about eight hours of sleep time and 16 hours of wake time in a typical day,” Dr. Schneeberg says. “So, if you’ve gotten up at 11 a.m. on a Sunday, for example, your body thinks that you don’t want to go back to sleep until 16 hours later.”
Cut to you falling asleep at 3 a.m., waking up at 7 a.m. for work, and then having to go through your day on only four hours of sleep. Over time, the lack of sleep can add up, and eventually lead to symptoms of sleep deprivation.
It Can Impact Your Immune System
It may not seem like a big deal if you feel tired during the day. But a lack of sleep can have some pretty profound effects on your overall health, including your immune system.
“Your immune system function is reduced by lack of proper sleep and makes it more likely to contract all diseases,” Dr. Steven Olmos, DDS, Board-Certified in Chronic Pain and Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders, tells Bustle.
Getting those all-important eight hours per night can make a big difference when it comes to bolstering your immune system, and staying healthy.
Your Insomnia Symptoms Could Get Worse
“Sleeping [in] can be particularly harmful for anyone struggling with insomnia,” Ginger Houghton, LMSW, CAADC, owner of Bright Spot Counseling, tells Bustle. “For anyone wanting to fall asleep easier, experience fewer nighttime awakenings, or feel more refreshed, sleeping in on the weekends can make all of these things difficult.”
If you have insomnia, sticking to a sleep schedule should be your top priority. “Work to establish a set time you go to bed and a set wake up time,” Houghton says. “Over time, it will pay off in improved quality of sleep.”
Your Risk For Things Like Hypertension Goes Up
In more extreme cases, if you consistently don’t get enough sleep, it can start to have a bigger impact on your overall health, including raising your risk of things like heart disease and hypertension, Mike Kisch, co-founder and CEO of the sleep app Beddr, tells Bustle.
Of course, this isn’t likely to happen if you simply sleep in for an extra hour or two. But if you’re snoozing to the point of throwing off your sleep schedule — and end up sleep deprived as a result — it can start to wear you down.
It Can Impact Your Emotions
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, “those with the most variability in their sleep hours […] feel the worse physically and emotionally, and have more problems accomplishing things,” Catherine Darley, ND, from the The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, tells Bustle. So if you haven’t been feeling like yourself lately, an unpredictable sleep schedule may help explain why.
It’s totally understandable why you might want to sleep in on the weekends, and doing so for up to two hours is fine. Anything longer than that, though, can throw off your sleep schedule and potentially lead to other problems, including a suppressed immune system, mood changes, and worsening insomnia.
By going to bed and waking up around the same time every day — even on Saturday and Sunday — it’ll be easier to get the rest you need. And that will help you stay as healthy as possible.