Q: If someone generally doesn't sleep well on workdays, is it possible to "make up for lost sleep" on days off?

Although it may temporarily feel better to sleep in an extra few hours on the weekend or your days off, it's actually not possible to "make up" for lost sleep. When you don't get the sleep you need in the middle of the week, you begin to develop a "sleep debt." Sleeping in on the weekends helps to partially reduce the sleep debt,  but it does not remove the entire debt. Over time, the sleep debt continues to grow and grow.

The long-term build-up of sleep loss has been linked with cardiovascular disease and metabolic dysfunction. As a result, it is very important to obtain, as best you can, a full night's sleep every night.


Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D., C.BSM is Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Neurology as well as Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She is board certified in Behavioral Sleep Medicine by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. A graduate of Brown University, Dr. Harris received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Yeshiva University. Dr. Harris completed her predoctoral internship at Montefiore Medical Center where she trained in the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center, and has received advanced postdoctoral training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for anxiety and depressive disorders.

As a licensed psychologist, Dr. Harris specializes in behavioral sleep medicine and CBT for anxiety and depression. She has published and presented research on the neuropsychological effects of insomnia in older adults as well as behavioral treatments for insomnia, parasomnias, narcolepsy and excessive daytime sleepiness. Dr. Harris currently supervises students from the Montefiore Psychology Internship, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology Cognitive Behavior Therapy Program and the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center Fellowship. Dr. Harris is a consultant for the
New York Times "Consults Blog" and is frequently quoted in the media, including The New York Times "Well Blog", The Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, and Fitness Magazine. She has appeared on ABC7-NY's Eyewitness News and ABC's Primetime: Live.