There’s some debate about the benefits of catching up on lost sleep after a series of late nights. Sleep scientists question the benefit of lying in on the weekend to recover from the prior week’s late nights and early mornings.
Military sleep researcher Dr Tracy Rupp looked at this another way. She carried out a study to see if sleeping more ahead of an anticipated short night could be beneficial. For instance, if you have to fly to a different time zone next week to give an important presentation, will you be sharper and more alert if you get extra sleep this week?
The study took a group of 24 volunteers and gave half of them 10 hours in bed every night for a week. The other 12 volunteers continued their normal sleep pattern. After the first week, the entire group endured a further week with their sleep limited to just three hours per night in a lab, during which time they also took part in a series of tests to measure their reaction time and alertness. The 12 participants that had been given extended sleep outperformed those who had not ‘banked’ sleep.
In week three all participants were given 5 nights of 8 hours in bed to recover. Tests during this third phase also showed better recovery for those who had built up a reserve of sleep in the first week.
So when you know you’ve got a busy period coming up, when you need to be at your best, invest ahead of time by going to bed early.