Does Binge Sleeping Actually Help Sleep Deprivation?

Posted by Tyler Britton on Sep 30, 2020 8:00:00 AM


What is Binge Sleeping?

Here’s a common scenario. During the week you stay up late reading, watching TV, working, or doing things on your computer. You get up early for work, maybe only getting about five hours of sleep. After all, you can “make up” this sleep on the weekend.

Then on the weekend, you sleep in an extra couple of hours each day. That should make you sleep better right? This is probably a fairly common practice for most people. Americans average sleeping 6.8 hours per night during the week and 7.4 hours during the week.

The idea of sleep binging revolves around the notion of a “sleep debt”, which is:

  • Your body requires a certain about of sleep, which is different depending on your age
  • As you get less sleep than required, you become sleep deprived
  • This sleep deprivation causes a “debt” which you have to “pay” by sleeping more than the required amount

Sleep debts are extremely important to correctly understand, because there are common misconception about what a sleep debt is and how you “repay” it.

Why Binge Sleeping Doesn’t Work

The reason binge sleep doesn’t work is that your brain doesn’t respond to loss of sleep like a money debt. You can’t just “repay” your debt and suddenly be okay. You repay your debt by establishing a consistent pattern of getting enough sleep.

So if you binge sleep on the weekend, you might feel good in the hours after you wake, but the effects of sleep deprivation will remain.

The Right Way to Repay Your Sleep Debt

For starters, the word debt is misleading because it doesn’t work like money – you can’t just pay your debt back in a lump sum. Here’s an example of how this DOESN’T work:

  • You require 7 hours of sleep to get full rest
  • Monday through Friday you get 6 hours of sleep per night, for an effective “debt” of 5 hours
  • On Friday night and Saturday night, you sleep an extra few hours

Unfortunately, this is NOT how you repay your sleep debt. Sleep studies show that getting one or two long nights of sleep does not remove the effects of sleep deprivation.

The way you DO repay your sleep debt is by establishing a healthy pattern of sleep. In the same scenario above, what you would want to do to repay your sleep debt is:

  • Get extra sleep on the weekend
  • Get enough or a little bit of extra sleep every day the following week

In other words, getting over sleep deprivation involves consistent, restful sleep.

How Much Sleep Do We Need By Age


Commonly expected ranges of sleep we need are [National Sleep Foundation]:

  • <1 year: 12-17 hours per day (more sleep for newborns than toddlers)
  • 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • 6-13 hours: 9-11 hours
  • 14-17 hours: 8-10 hours
  • 18-65: 7-9 hours
  • 65+: 7-8 hours

Of course, we are all individuals and your sleep requirements may differ from these. These are simply some guidelines.

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation causes lower performance physically, emotionally, and mentally. Some specific effects are:

  • Lower sex drive
  • Less able to manage stress and anxiety
  • Less likely to get requisite exercise due to fatigue
  • Underperform at work, school, etc.
  • Chronic irritability that can interfere with relationships
  • Less engagement in activities
  • More brain fog and general apathy
  • The emotional impact of general inactivity due to fatigue

In short, chronic sleep deprivation can make you feel “abnormal,” less like yourself, a “worse” version of your normal self, and so on. Over time, these feelings and physical symptoms of sleep deprivation can weigh on our emotional and physical vitality. Alone or compounded with other symptoms, this can lead to depression.

Common Sleep Disorders Causing Sleep Deprivation

Sleeping disorders can lead to sleep deprivation if not treated. Some of the most common sleep disorders that generally result in chronic and sometimes severe sleep deprivation are:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Circadian rhythm disorders

If you are struggling with chronic sleep deprivation, please contact us or take a free online sleep test.

Take a Free Online Sleep Test

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