Some people sleep in on the weekends to catch-up for lack of sleep on weekdays. However, a new study finds that this may not be effective, and can increase risks for diabetes and obesity.
Previous research suggested that insufficient sleep can increase the risks for obesity and diabetes, partly by increasing the urge to snack at night and decreasing the ability to regulate blood sugar. In fact, recent research even suggests that such effects can happen in just one night. And while they can be countered by sleeping in on the weekends, the recovery doesn’t last for very long.
As such, researchers of a new study published in Current Biology wanted to find out what happens to people whose sleep cycles go back and forth between sleep deprived work days and weekend sleep catch-ups. To do so, they gathered 36 healthy adult participants to stay at a laboratory for two weeks where their food intake, sleep, and light exposure can be monitored.
The first group was allowed nine hours of sleep for nine days, the second group was allowed five hours of sleep for nine days, and the third group was allowed to sleep for no more than five hours for five days, followed by two days of sleeping as much as they can before going back to sleeping for no more than five hours for the last two days.
Researchers found that, indeed, both of the sleep deprived groups snacked more at night, had reduced insulin sensitivity, and experienced weight gain. However, while those who were allowed to have a two-day sleep recovery period had mild improvements, the negative effects simply resumed when they went back to the sleep-restricted schedule.
In fact, those who had the two-day recovery sleep even had worse outcomes. Those who had the sleep-restricted schedules the entire time had a 13 percent reduction in insulin sensitivity, while those with the weekend recovery sleep had 9 to 27 percent declines. Furthermore, those on the weekend recovery group also had lower scores in sensitivity in the muscles and liver.
According to researchers, their study shows the importance of having a consistent sleep schedule, especially since fluctuating sleep schedule is actually a form of stress that is linked to metabolic abnormalities.