Like scores of other busy individuals, you struggle to sleep much during the week. However, you always strive to make up for your sleep deficit during the weekend. You’ve even been known to sleep until noon occasionally.
If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, a new study published in Current Biology suggests catching up on sleep over the weekend isn’t as good of an idea as you think.
Binging on sleep on weekends won’t erase the adverse health effects of sleep deprivation on weekdays. Interestingly, your weekend catch up sleep might even exasperate health issues linked with sleeping too little during the work week.
To conduct the study, researchers selected a group of healthy young adults without existing health issues or sleep disorders. Each participant was placed into one of three groups.
The first group was allowed an abundance of rest, up to nine hours of slumber each night for nine nights. The second group was only permitted five hours of rest each night during the same nine nights. The third group was allowed five hours of slumber for five days. They were then permitted two nights of weekend sleep during which participants could rest as much as they wanted, including naps. After the weekend, the third group returned to two final days of limited rest.
Results revealed the two sleep-deprived groups munched on snacks more often after dinner. This caused weight gain during the short test. Besides packing on pounds, these participants also saw their blood sugar sensitivity drop by approximately 13 percent.
On average, the third group only slept about an hour more over the weekend. They did consume fewer calories after dinner than the participants who continued to get inadequate sleep during this time. However, the third group’s sensitivity to insulin stayed compromised. When these participants went back to their sleep-deprived schedule after two days of unlimited slumber, all the benefits of the additional rest vanished.
More importantly, this group displayed signs of diminished insulin sensitivity in their muscles and liver, which wasn’t detected in the group that wasn’t given make up sleep over the weekend.
In a press release, the lead author of the study, Christopher Depner, PhD, an assistant professor of research at the University of Colorado Boulder, said, “Our findings show that muscle- and liver-specific insulin sensitivity were worse in subjects who had weekend recovery sleep. This finding was not anticipated and further shows that weekend recovery sleep is not likely [to be] an effective sleep-loss countermeasure regarding metabolic health when sleep loss is chronic.”
The co-founder and chief medical officer of FusionHealthin Atlanta, Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, referred to the results of the study as “sleep health debt.” He informed Healthline, “Sleep is a fundamental daily building block for the health of your body, brain, and mind. If you do not get enough sleep, your health is impacted directly, and this may or may not recover with additional sleep.”
In the short-term, sleep deprivation might lead to inadequate stress response, poor problem solving, increased cravings for high-calorie foods, and diminished reaction time. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a host of serious health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and kidney disease.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, adults should get at least seven hours of slumber every night. If you’re struggling to meet this goal, practicing better sleep hygiene might be in order. To help you accomplish this task, establish a comforting bedtime routine. For instance, an hour before bedtime, you might want to take a shower, brush your teeth, and read a book. According to Healthline, “As you do your nightly ritual, your body will learn this is the signal to wind down and prepare for sleep.”
In addition to creating a bedtime routine, you need to make your bedroom a sleep-inducing space. It should be dark, quiet, and cool. If unwelcome sounds penetrate your space at night, a fan or white noise machine can help drown them out. Invest in a quality mattress, good sheets, and supportive pillows.
Ban your telephone and other electronics from your bedroom. Their bright lights can stimulate your brain and keep you up for hours.
Because the dangers of extra weekend sleep may outweigh the benefits, be consistent with your bedtime. Getting better sleep seven days a week will allow you to live a healthier, happier life.