Stories from Healthy Sleeping Habits

3 Ways to ‘Sleep In’ Without Totally Throwing Off Your Body Clock

Emily Laurence

Emily LaurenceJune 9, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/Oscar Wong

All week long, I look forward to Saturday and Sunday, the two days of the week that don’t require setting an alarm. Because I live alone, it’s truly up to me when it’s officially time to get out of bed on the weekends—and typically, that time ends up being a solid two hours later than when I get going Monday through Friday. And I love my extra time snoozing…that is, until Sunday night rolls around, and I’m wide awake way later than I want to be, wondering “hmmm, is it bad to sleep in on the weekends?”

If I’m being honest with myself, I already know it is bad to sleep in on the weekends because my recurring Sunday-night bedtime conundrum is precisely why sleep experts recommend waking up at roughly the same time, all seven days of the week, as a component of sleep hygiene.

“Sleeping later on the weekends is often associated with going to bed later. If you sleep later on Saturday and Sunday, come Sunday night your body has simply not been up enough hours during the day to be sleepy to go to bed come Sunday night. Hence the frequent Sunday-night insomnia,” says Shelby Harris, PsyD, sleep-health expert and author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia. “It may be because of work or stress for the coming of week, but it is also frequently because you are on a new [hypothetical] time zone. We often discuss this as ‘social jet lag’, because you adjust to a later shifted time schedule Saturday and Sunday, and it is hard to shift right back come Sunday night.”

But since sleeping in is a luxury I just don’t want to give up, I asked Dr. Harris for advice. Because maybe—just maybe—there’s a way I can have my sleep hygiene and have late weekend mornings in bed, too.

Since keeping your sleep schedule consistent doesn’t mean you have to wake up and immediately be productive, you can absolutely still implement strategies to feel like you’re sleeping in.

And as it turns out, I—and you, too—may be able to have it both ways. Dr. Harris says that since keeping your sleep schedule consistent doesn’t mean you have to wake up and immediately be productive, you can absolutely still implement strategies to feel like you’re sleeping in, without actually doing so. Below, she gives three ideas.

Instead of wondering “is it bad to sleep in?” fake it by using Dr. Harris’ 3 tips that won’t mess with your body clock.

1. lounge around in your pjs and read

According to Dr. Harris, the important part about maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is actually getting out of bed—but that doesn’t mean you have to do much else, or even get dressed, for that matter. “I’m not a huge fan of lingering in bed overall, since spending more time in bed can actually worsen insomnia for some people,” Dr. Harris says. “The bed is for sleep and sex.”

But other comfy furniture in your home—like your couch or favorite chair—are fair game. Meander over to another cozy part of your home and spend the morning relaxing, before getting dressed. It’s still a restful and rejuvenating way to ease slowly into your day, even though you aren’t literally hugging your nighttime pillow.

2. do some light stretching or yoga

If you’re someone who tends to go hard in everything you do during the week, dialing it back with a restorative activity, instead of exercise that’s decidedly intense, is a way to give your body and mind both a break, says Dr. Harris.

3. forget about your phone for an hour

It often seems as if the only time we aren’t on our phones is when we’re sleeping. And once you start replying to emails and texts and scrolling on social media in the morning, the day is no longer only yours. Giving yourself a tech-free hour is another way to relish in time that’s spent solely on yourself, in a restorative, self-fulfilling way, similar to effects of sleeping in.

If practicing these habits still isn’t enough to make you feel well-rested, Dr. Harris suggests trying to get more sleep throughout the week, not just on the weekends. “You likely can’t make up all the sleep that’s lost midweek on the weekends, so try and get more in the middle of the week, too,” she says. And, of course, there are ways to take a perfect nap if you do wan’t some additional weekend-afternoon snooze time.

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