Binging is a behavior that involves indulging in an activity to excess – and it’s rarely seen as positive. Binging on a TV series, computer games, food, alcohol, and even exercise can be harmful. Health and wellness experts often say balance is key, but recent research has shown that binging on sleep over a long weekend can restore energy levels – if done correctly.
Sleep debt occurs when you repeatedly don’t get enough sleep. As a result, it accumulates and can adversely affect your health and how you feel. Sleep experts have said for years that sleep debt repayment is possible, but simply sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday isn’t enough and can throw off your sleep schedule.
The “long weekend sleep binge” entails more than a few extra hours on your buckwheat pillow. It is more like an at-home retreat to clear your mind, rest your body and improve sleep hygiene. It’s a 3-day fix that can leave you feeling restored, replenished, and renewed!
A 2016 Scientific Reports paper stated the optimal time it would take to repair sleep debt is three to four days. More specifically, one hour of sleep debt requires four hours of recovery, and although some extra sleep is good, it’s not a cure-all approach. You also need to eat right, exercise, and meditate.
So, if you no longer want to feel exhausted and want to make a change, you can follow the long weekend sleep binge itinerary developed by Mandy Ferreira and Daniel Budnis. This itinerary is completed over three full days, which is why it is best done over a long weekend.
Although this at-home sleep retreat technically starts on Saturday, you should make an effort to get to bed by 11 PM. It is critical you get enough sleep on night one for this sleep binge long weekend to be effective.
Day 1 - Saturday
The first night you want to get 10 to 11 hours of sleep. So, if you fall asleep by 11 PM the night before you should set your alarm for 10 AM. If you are accustomed to putting in late hours and not falling asleep until midnight or dealing with the occasional bouts of insomnia, then you may need a natural sleep aid to help. A natural sleep aid gives you a little extra help getting restful, deep sleep. It contains natural ingredients that are easily absorbed by the body and are non-habit forming. You also won’t experience the grogginess you can get with over-the-counter sleep aids.
At 10 AM, after your alarm gets off, you will get up and focus on diet and exercise. Start with a tall glass of water and breakfast rich in vegetables. For example, you can have a spinach omelet with peppers, mushrooms, and onion or fried tomatoes and beans. If you usually drink coffee or caffeinated tea, you can continue to have a cup but don’t overdo it. Try and cut back and keep it to one cup in the morning.
Throughout the day, focus on getting plenty of vegetables with every meal and drinking lots of water. You may want to use a large refillable water bottle that you can carry around with you to encourage more drinking.
Despite the name “sleep binge” you won’t spend your entire day in bed. Instead, you will improve your sleep environment, get some exercise and take a mental break. This weekend, stop looking at emails and social media. If you can, put your cell phone on Airplane Mode to prevent all incoming messages. To feel energized and replenished by Monday, you need to decrease stress and get emotional and mental rest. According to a study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, when you completely disconnect from work during the weekend, you will be more proficient and productive when you return to work.
Now that you have some free time away from your laptop and cell phone, you can spend it cleaning up your bedroom and getting some exercise. Clean sleep is better sleep, so wash your bedsheets, vacuum your mattress, carpets, and drapes and make your bed. If you have laundry piling up in the corner or a messy bedside table, it can create mental stress and make it more challenging to fall asleep. You want a peaceful environment that reduces stress, and today is the day you’re going to make that happen.
As for your exercise, choose an activity you enjoy and, if possible, get outside. A walk in nature, a bike ride, or outdoor yoga will get blood flowing and give you a healthy dose of natural light that will improve sleep quality and get your circadian rhythm in check. Exercise improves energy levels and sleep quality and should become a regular occurrence.
If you have some spare time after cleaning your bedroom and exercising, engage in relaxing activities like painting, reading, meditating, or listening to music. Try to get to sleep by 11 PM, taking a natural sleep aid around 10 PM if you wish.
Day 2 – Sunday
Today you will wake up a bit earlier, setting your alarm for 8 AM. By Day 2, you have had about 10 hours of sleep two days in a row which will have already made a significant impact. Today you should still prioritize water and veggie intake and continue to cut back on caffeine. Limit your coffee or tea to one or two cups in the morning.
In addition to increasing your vegetables, you should incorporate foods that refuel your body. For example, try nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, and high-protein snacks like hummus and trail mix. A weekend spent eating well is never a waste, but to feel better seven days a week, you should continue to eat well. Use your time today to meal prep and plan your food for the rest of the week. This will help ensure you get the nutritious foods you need and prevent you from getting greasy takeout. During the work week, pack yourself a healthy, light lunch with plenty of high-protein snacks to keep your energy levels up.
A sleep binge doesn't include naps, despite what the name may lead you to believe. You are strongly encouraged to avoid napping as it can disrupt your circadian rhythm, especially if you already have trouble sleeping. Instead, go for a walk or spend 30 minutes stretching. Yoga is an excellent choice for today’s physical activity as it is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and make you feel more energized.
Before laying on your buckwheat pillow, spend some time unwinding. You can light candles, have a relaxing bath, meditate, or read a book. Taking the time to unwind is an excellent practice as it primes your brain for bedtime. A consistent unwinding routine will help cue your brain for sleep, and you will fall asleep much faster. Again, try to get to sleep by 11 PM.
Day 3 – Monday
It’s the last day of your long weekend sleep binge, and it’s time to start getting back on a proper sleep schedule. Today set your alarm for 6 or 7 AM. Pick the time that is closest to what you usually set your alarm for during the week. If you fell asleep by 11 PM the night before, you will have gotten seven to eight hours of sleep. Resist the urge to hit the snooze button and get out of bed immediately after your alarm goes off.
Next, head to the kitchen and make yourself a healthy breakfast. When you skip meals or replace food with caffeine, your energy levels drop significantly. Using the meal plan you created as guidance, prepare your healthy breakfast and have one cup of coffee or tea if you want. A healthy, lighter lunch can help you maintain energy levels throughout the day. Rather than having one large meal mid-day, eat the healthy snacks you prepared. In addition, you can feel more alert in the afternoon by sticking to lower-calorie snacks.
Just as you did the previous two days, get some exercise. A 2016 study published in PLoS One found that exercise can help reduce the fatigue experienced by an overworked brain. If you have a lot of stress or a demanding job, the extra time spent working out each day will help. That said, you should prioritize sleep over the gym. So if you don’t have time for both, pick sleep.
Tonight you should repeat the same unwinding routine you did the night before and get to sleep by 11 PM.
Although your sleep binge long weekend may be over, to continue to feel rested, you need to prioritize sleep hygiene and quality sleep. Eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and continue to unwind before bed. If required, remember you can take a natural sleep aid to help you get the seven to eight hours of sleep a night you need. To feel energized, you need sleep, but only you can ensure you get the quality sleep you need!