Avoid going to bed too early and sleeping late on weekendsPeople who know I’ve written a book on insomnia often talk to me about their sleep. I hear lots of interesting observations, but sometimes people who complain about sleep have mistaken notions about how to improve it.

If you struggle with insomnia, take care to avoid falling into these two TRAPS:

1) Habitually going to bed early in an effort to get more sleep. As a rule, this is a bad strategy for people who have insomnia. A certain amount of sleep pressure has to build up every day before your brain is ready for sleep. Going to bed before your brain reaches this point sets you up to lie in bed awake, which creates anxiety and problems getting to sleep.

A better strategy—paradoxical as it may sound—is to stay up a little later than normal (while still getting up at your customary time in the morning). With the extra build-up of sleep pressure, you’re apt to fall asleep more quickly and sleep right through the night.

2) Sleeping late on weekends to catch up on lost sleep. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule isn’t always possible. Your inclination, after a late night out, is to want to sleep in. Good sleepers regularly catch up on lost sleep by sleeping late on weekends at no cost to themselves.

But people prone to insomnia have to be careful about when and how we catch up on lost sleep. Sleeping more than an hour (some experts say 30 minutes) later than usual in the morning can interfere with circadian rhythms and the build-up of sleep pressure that occurs during the day.

If you need to make up for lost sleep, it’s better to do so by going to bed earlier the following evening rather than sleeping late in the morning.

How do you catch up on lost sleep?

Posted by Lois Maharg, The Savvy Insomniac

Lois Maharg has worked with language for many years. She taught ESL, coauthored two textbooks, and then became a reporter, writing about health, education, government, Latino affairs, and food. Her lifelong struggle with insomnia and interest in investigative reporting motivated her to write a book, The Savvy Insomniac: A Personal Journey through Science to Better Sleep. She now freelances as an editor and copy writer at On the Mark Editing.


  1. Good post Lois, very informative. You touched on a key aspect of chronic insomnia: bedtimes and get-up times. Go to bed only when sleepy and get up at a very consistent time. Amazing how many people think the opposite: go to bed consistently and get up whenever. I tell my patients it’s like giving yourself jet lag.




  2. I’m glad you like the post, Michael. About 5 years ago, kicking and screaming, I surrendered myself to more regular sleep habits. I am much better off as a result!



  3. I think our bodies will naturally make up for lost sleep. I don’t try to sleep when I don’t feel like sleeping. Fatigue will set in anyway and lull me to sleep.



  4. You have a fantastic attitude, Christian. If you could patent it and sell it, you’d get rich!
    Seriously, the way you’re thinking about your sleep may well keep you from developing a serious problem down the line.



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