Consistent Sleep Patterns Key to Mental and Physical Health

You know sleep is important so I won’t spend a lot of time trying to convince you. You’ve read tons of articles and heard countless experts talking about how sleep getting enough sleep lets your body and mind recover from the stresses of the day. But “getting enough sleep” is much easier said than done. During the week, you have work and family keeping you busy. On the weekends, which are supposed to be a period of rest, you might sacrifice your chance at sleep to get other stuff done. Or maybe you just can’t give up the opportunity to have all the fun you gave up during the week.

Recent studies, though, have shed some light on the full impact of these sporadic sleep patterns.


Stick To Your Schedule

Many of your biological systems, including your metabolism, are regulated by your internal clock. That clock is easily affected, for the good or the bad, by your sleep patterns. While you sleep, your body goes through certain maintenance routines that help to keep you running optimally during the day.

When you disrupt those patterns, and your body doesn’t know when to expect to be asleep, these functions are also thrown off. The same applies to the time you wake up, as well. A recent study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, found a strong link between consistent sleep and wake times and a healthy body weight. The study participants whose sleep schedule had a variation of less than one hour had a lower body fat percentage than those who allowed their schedule to lapse.

So, if you can keep your sleep and wake times the same every day, you can support all your fitness efforts during the day. Sometimes, though, we get in the habit of depriving ourselves sleep with the hope of making it up later.

Keep in mind that this study looked at the variations in sleep from day to day. Even if you keep you schedule the same during the week but sleep in on the weekends, you might not be doing yourself any favors.


The Catch-Up Sleep Lie

A study conducted by researchers at Penn State University College of Medicine looked at various markers in people who routinely used the weekends for catch-up sleep. Specifically, they watched the subjects’ daytime sleepiness, attention span, inflammation and cortisol levels.

Here’s the interesting thing: Every one of those measurements returned to normal after a weekend of rest except for attention span and cortisol. So even if you’re exhausted at the end of the week, you probably won’t feel completely focused and refreshed after a weekend of recovery.

But, this recovery sleep technique isn’t completely useless. It just isn’t a complete fix. The best option is maintaining a regular sleep pattern.

Napping can also be a powerful tool towards keeping you rested and recovered. Several studies have found that, even after a night of limited sleep, a nap can reverse many of the negative side effects.