While weekends are clutch, I think we can all agree that they're not quite enough. With Sunday scaries putting an anxious spin day that's important for rest, the weekends don't have enough peaceful hours to allow us the time we need to really feel rejuvenated before the new work week starts. Though we might all be in a perpetual state of vacation desperation, experts say we might only need a three-day weekend to achieve a level of crucially beneficial stress relief.
It might appear, mentally, that we have to cash in all of our vacation days to see physical and psychological improvements, but experts say that a three-day weekend can be even more helpful than a full-on vacation. Though three-day weekends in the past might have meant an extra night to party, in adultland, a three-day weekend typically means another morning to sleep in, or another day to do nothing.
According to Dr. Niket Sonpal , New York Based Internist and Gastroenterologist and Adjunct Professor at Touro College, an opportunity to sleep more is an opportunity to refuel and better. Though one extra night might not sound like a jackpot, every bit really can help. Over the course of a week-long vacation, you might be less likely to put a high value on sleep every night. But a three-day weekend pushes you to be economical with your time and precious about your sleep, which is why Dr. Sonpal sees the mini break as an opportunity to covet.
"Sleep has a fundamental role in optimizing the way our brain processes information, our mood stability, the way we feel, and how our neurotransmitters work," Dr. Sonpal tells Bustle. On the flip side, a lack of sleep has the power to create systematic distress.
"Research from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands shows us that sleep deprivation actually desensitizes one of our brains’ serotonin receptors, which is responsible for helping alleviate depression and anxiety," Dr. Sonpal says, pointing out there are not only psychological dangers of not prioritizing sleep, but also physiological affects. Lack of sleep can make us biologically less sensitive to serotonin, which regulates appetite, mood, and body temperature.
If you're in a substantial sleep deficit and have been losing sleep consistently over time, a three-day weekend devoted to snoozing won't erase the damage. If anything, it will just mess up your sleep cycle and make it harder for you to sleep during the week.
Instead, Dr. Sonpal suggests the best way to go about replenishing lost sleep is to get to bed on time and add an hour to your sleep for a few days. "[You'll] begin to feel improvements in your mental state and your cognitive ability," Dr. Sonpal says, and you might also be well on your way to improved sleep hygiene over time.
If you stick with the early bed time, continuing to go to bed an hour or two early each night during that week, by the following weekend, you might feel better than you would if you had spent the entire week snoozing in a cabana somewhere wonderful. Though Dr. Sonpal says that the results of an extra day off will vary depending on how severe your sleep deficit is.
If you've been pushing it hard at work and getting to bed only about an hour or two later than desirable, extra hours of sleep during a day off can help get you back on track. "Correcting your sleep consequently improves your focus, your motor skills, your performance, your morale, and your general health," Dr. Sonpal says.
Even if you don't dedicate your three-day weekend to improving your sleep, simply having a day off to relax, read, and pull your head out of your work-related stress can have lasting effects. "[Relaxation] can also lead to improved health, a greater sense of purpose and connection, better relationships with those around us, a more productive work life, and generally being a happier person," psychologist Dr. Michael Roeske, PsyD, executive director at Newport Academy in Connecticut, tells Bustle.
It might be hard to see the value in a a single bonus day off, especially if you're carrying a massive sleep deficit or high stress level. But both doctors and psychologists agree that a short, focused time dedicated to relaxation can be hugely beneficial in refilling that deficit and establishing better sleep and mental health hygiene. What's more, after a three-day weekend, Roeske says that "a sense of restored mental energy will allow one to return to work with a fresh and more relaxed perspective." Are you listening employers?
Dr. Niket Sonpal , New York Based Internist and Gastroenterologist and Adjunct Professor at Touro College.
Dr. Michael Roeske, PsyD, Executive Director, Connecticut at Newport Academy
Roman V, Walstra I, Luiten PG, Meerlo P., (2005). Too Little Sleep Gradually Desensitizes the Serotonin 1A Receptor System. Sleep. doi: 10.1093/sleep/28.12.1505