Here's a polite reminder that you can’t “catch up” on sleep. That is, if you didn’t sleep well several nights this week — because you were out late partying; had some long nights at the office; tried to get a full night’s sleep, but tossed and turned instead; or some combination thereof — you can’t “make up” that lost sleep by snoozing until the early afternoon on Saturday. Nope, that’s not how sleep works. Two nights of 10 hours of sleep will not erase the damage of sleeping only six hours every other night of the week. And the false perception that you can make up sleep is counterproductive — basically helping people justify their erratic sleep habits and preventing them from adopting better ones.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night for adults, but sleep scientist Matthew Walker says that too many people are falling short of the mark. "Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain," Walker says. "Many people walk through their lives in an underslept state, not realizing it." Walker is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He points out that lack of sleep — defined as six hours or fewer — can have serious consequences. Sleep deficiency is associated with problems in concentration, memory and the immune system, and may even shorten life span.