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Catch-up Sleep May Not Help as Much as You Think

Businessman asleep at his desk on white background

How often have you rationalized your way through a week of sleeping fewer hours than you should by saying you would catch up on the weekend?

According to a study conducted by researchers at Penn State University and three other schools, that catch-up sleep is only providing a limited amount of benefit. Test subjects were able to decrease their daytime sleepiness and fatigue with extra sleep on the weekends, but their brain function still showed signs of decreased performance.

The study subjects began with four nights of eight hours of sleep per night, followed by six nights with six hours of sleep per night, and then three catch-up nights with 10 hours of sleep per night. Those figures are not unusual. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says approximately one-third of Americans average only six hours of sleep per night.

A previous study conducted at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found that catch-up sleep was more effective if subjects had banked extra sleep for several nights prior to the nights of short sleep. Otherwise, recovery sleep did not fully reverse declines in cognitive function and reaction times.

This result is especially important in terms of workplace safety and job performance. Workers who are not at peak mental performance levels can put themselves, coworkers and the public in potential danger.

For information on the effects of fatigue in the workplace and issues such as sleep apnea, please call Chad Clippard, business liaison, at 573-331-3019.