From SELF magazine by Amy Marturana...
“People focus on getting enough sleep and that’s important, but a lot of people don’t emphasize the importance of a consistent sleep/wake schedule,” Rachel Salas, M.D., an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine specializing in sleep medicine, tells SELF.
Even if you’re clocking plenty of hours of sleep, if your bedtime and wake time changes every day, “studies show you’re going to function like a sleep-deprived person,” says Salas. Ignoring consistency makes getting enough quality sleep even more difficult.
A sleep schedule sets your body's internal clock...
When your schedule is all over the place, your circadian rhythm, or body clock, doesn’t have a chance to normalize. Your internal body clock is one of the most important factors driving sleepiness and wakefulness, Joseph Ojile, M.D., medical director of the Clayton Sleep Institute, tells SELF.
“When [your life and circadian rhythm] line up correctly, you have a much better chance of getting to sleep and getting up when you want,” Ojile says. If you don’t have a consistent schedule, your body struggles to give you the right cues when you need them."
It's more important to have a strict wake up time...
In the natural world, wake time is controlled by the first rays of sunlight. For almost all of us, this translates to maintaining a strict waking schedule, even if the light we are exposed to is artificial. Light travels through the optic nerve in your eye to a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. “That thing controls circadian rhythm, or body’s drive to have wake and sleep,” Ojile says.
What about sleeping in just an extra half hour or so? Salas says she has patients with very sensitive body clocks, so even a half hour difference can throw them off. But for the most part, 30 minutes of wiggle room should be OK. “What we don’t want is for people to become so strict that they get stressed out over it,” says Ojile.
No surprise, experts say “catching up” on lost sleep generally isn’t effective. But if you have to do it, Ojile says it’s better to go to bed earlier rather than sleep in. The important thing is getting back on schedule as promptly as possible. “If you’re a healthy sleeper, you’ll catch up during the week by just doing the right thing,” he says.