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Catching up on lost sleep? It's a myth...

  • Study: Sleeping late on weekends only makes things worse
  • Naps, too -- your body's circadian cycle doesn't like change
  • Best approach is go to bed 8 hours before usual wake-up time
Catching up on lost sleep? It's a myth...

As the sleep-deprived dad of young children -- one of whom might, occasionally, sleep past 6 a.m. -- this news hits particularly hard.

It turns out you simply cannot 'catch up' on your sleep, say a bunch of buzzkill scientists. Sleep in 'til 10:30 on a Sunday all you want, they say, you will not be chipping away at your sleep deficit one bit.

In fact (and here's where it just gets cruel) sleeping in or taking delicious Saturday afternoon naps only makes things worse on Monday morning.

The problem, according to University of Texas Southwestern sleep specialist Dr. Gregory Carter, is that when we think we're catching up on sleep, what we're really doing is messing with our circadian cycle -- the body's internal clock which dictates sleep patterns.

Any disruptions (ie, sleep-ins or naps) longer than an hour will knock the cycle out of sync and make for a groggy Monday when you have to be up again at your usual hour.

However, there is a way to circumvent the circadian cycle: going to bed early. Carter said the idea is to always wake up at around the same time, so the best way to horde more sleep hours is to start getting them earlier.

"To maintain our internal clock, we need to go to bed eight hours before our usual time for getting out of bed in the morning," Carter advised.

OK, so it's not as much fun as staying up late -- but it may be better than throwing your alarm clock against the wall come Monday morning.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonFromHLN



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