Can ‘sleep banking’ help you catch up on sleep? I’m not entirely convinced…

Understanding sleep banking and if it can actually help you feel more rested

A woman in a checkered shirt, stretching on a bed and smiling while she sleeps
(Image credit: Alena Shekhovtcova / Pexels)

Whether you battle with insomnia or have had a few restless nights, sleep deprivation has a bigger impact on you than you might realise. Aside from feeling groggy and unable to concentrate, a repeated lack of sleep can lead to more dangerous side effects, like depression and an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes… so it’s something to be taken very seriously!

Catching up on sleep can be a little tricky, but a term called sleep banking has recently been doing the rounds, and it could be the answer to your sleep problems. But what is sleep banking and does it really work? Here’s everything you need to know about sleep banking and why I’m not entirely convinced that it works.

P.S. If your current sleep set-up is negatively impacting your sleep, it’s time to upgrade to the best mattress for you.

What is sleep banking?

Sleep banking is a practice that involves getting extra sleep before experiencing a period of less sleep.

Much like a regular bank, the more money you put in results in more money you can take out. Similarly, the more you take out, the more money you have to put back to get your balance back to normal. Sleep banking acts like this but for rest, so the more sleep you collect by getting extra shut-eye before a night of less sleep will result in you ‘paying off’ your sleep debt during the night you get less hours of rest.

Sleep banking is designed to help balance the sleep you’re losing so you feel more rested and alert the next day, even after you’ve had a rough night’s sleep.

(How) does sleep banking work?

woman sleeping

(Image credit: fizkes / iStock)

The concept of sleep banking might sound quite confusing (it took me a while to get my head round too), but many studies have shown that banking sleep can be effective.

In a 2015 study conducted by Stockholm University and the University of Oxford, the researchers asked 14 men between 26 and 37 to sleep longer than normal during six nights of the week before the seventh night was disrupted. The results showed that the six nights of extra sleep helped the men feel more alert and recover more quickly and easily when their sleep was interrupted.

So, if you wanted to try sleep banking, how exactly would you go about it? If you know you’re going to get less sleep on a Friday night because you’re out at an event, you might want to get an extra hour or 90 minutes of sleep on the nights leading up to Friday.

You might want to start banking this sleep from Monday to Friday, or only a couple days before. Alternatively, if you can’t manage an extra hour at night, having a nap during the day could help too (see how to have the perfect nap for more details).

Can sleep banking help you catch up on rest?

While sleep banking has often been recommended by experts, I’m not entirely convinced. One of the rules for good sleep hygiene is to get a consistent amount of sleep each night, and having these extra hours here and there can disrupt your circadian rhythm.

While it’s often beyond our control when we lose sleep, sleeping for an extra hour than you’re used to can and having an irregular sleep schedule can impact your rest, performance and productivity. Instead, sticking closely to the amount of hours of sleep that works for you – that might be six, seven, eight or even nine hours – is better in my opinion. 

Despite covering sleep and wellness on T3 for years now, I’m not a sleep expert but researchers have stated that sleep banking isn’t a quick fix to sleep problems and it might not help all the time. But, if you want to try it every now and again, it could be beneficial to you.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations! She's also in the know about the latest deals and discount codes from top brands and retailers.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!