There鈥檚 basically nothing we love more than sleeping in on the weekends. But if the reason you鈥檙e looking forward to cashing in on those extra zzz鈥檚 is because you鈥檝e been tossing and turning all week and not getting anywhere close to a聽full eight hours of sleep聽a night, spending extra time in bed might be doing more harm than good. A new study from Penn Medicine shows that spending less time in bed 鈥 and even getting up when insomnia hits and you can鈥檛 sleep 鈥 might be the key to ending your sleep problems long-term.

African American woman sitting in bed and yawning.

Do You *Actually* Have a Sleeping Problem?

First, let鈥檚 figure out whether or not your sleep issues are legit. You don鈥檛 need to be pacing your living room at night or ranting and raving at your cat 鈥檛il sunrise to be classified as an insomniac. Acute insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep three or more nights per week, for between two weeks and three months. And 20聽to 50 percent of Americans suffer from it. Sound familiar, Ms. Just-Inject-the-Coffee-Directly-into-My-Veins?

Health Effects of Sleep Loss

And you may think okay, so what? I can鈥檛 sleep 鈥 that鈥檚 just more time to do all those cool things I鈥檓 supposed to be doing in my twenties (YOLO). You might think you鈥檙e getting by just fine on little or no sleep, but the potential effects of chronic insomnia and/or sleep loss are pretty scary: impaired physical and mental performance, increased risk for depression and substance abuse and increased risk for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Not to mention the blows to your energy levels 鈥 you can only hack a good night鈥檚 sleep for so many days in a row before it starts to show at the office (don鈥檛 deny that super drowsy post-lunch period).

The Findings

Sleep researchers from Penn presented their findings at聽SLEEP 2016, the 30th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (which we like to imagine is a conference room full of mattresses and 1000 thread-count sheets). They spent over a year evaluating the sleep patterns of 416 people, from the good to the bad to the ugly (i.e. long-term chronic insomnia). Researchers found key evidence for the first time that supports the theory that attempting to increase your chances at falling asleep by staying in bed when you鈥檙e already awake (or 鈥渟leep extension鈥) could actually push you from acute to chronic insomnia.

鈥淭hose with insomnia typically extend their sleep opportunity,鈥 says Michael Perlis, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Penn Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program. 鈥淭hey go to bed early, get out of bed late and they nap. While this seems a reasonable thing to do, and may well be in the short-term, the problem in the longer term is it creates a mismatch between the individual鈥檚 current sleep ability and their current sleep opportunity. This fuels insomnia.鈥

So what do you do instead? If you find yourself waking up well before your alarm every morning, try just getting up and starting your day early. You might also want to consider upgrading your bedtime routine with some of our tips for getting better sleep this season.

How do you deal with sleepless nights? Tweet us your methods聽@BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)