Sleeping Late on Weekends Doesn’t Make Up for Skimping on Shuteye All Week
Author: SELENE YEAGER
Regularly skimping on sleep doesn’t just make you feel like garbage—it could be seriously messing with your health, too. And while playing catch up on the weekends may feel good, it won’t mend your messed-up metabolism. In fact, it might make things worse, according to new research. You need to clock at least seven hours of shuteye most nights for optimum health, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Get less than that, as about one-thirds of Americans routinely do, and you risk metabolic meltdown. (https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html)
Specifically, chronic sleep deprivation alters your metabolism, so your muscles are less sensitive to insulin; your blood sugar goes up; your circadian rhythms and appetite hormones shift, making you hungrier and more prone to snacking, and you’re more susceptible to weight gain and heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929498/)
Lots of people try to make up for lost sleep by waking up later on the weekends. That might be a nice mental break, but if you go right back to your sleep-skimping ways on Monday, you might actually be making things worse on your waistline, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology. (https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30098-3)
To test how various sleep durations affected metabolism, the researchers divided 36 healthy men and women into three groups: One group could sleep up to nine hours each night for nine nights; one group was restricted to just five hours a night for the same duration, and the third was restricted to five hours of sleep for a five-day workweek, could sleep in as long as they liked for two days on the weekend, and then went back to five hours for two days starting Monday the following week.
Everyone who was sleep deprived snacked more in the evening, saw declines in insulin sensitivity (the ability to regulate blood sugar), and gained weight—roughly 3 pounds over two weeks, while the adequate sleepers didn’t experience any significant weight changes. Those who were allowed to sleep in on the weekends improved a little bit, snacking less at night during the weekend, than those who got insufficient sleep throughout the study. The make-up sleep didn’t do them any good once they went back to their short sleep schedule, however. Their biological clocks were set back, making them feel more wakeful when it was time to sleep, and they went right back to eating more after dinner and continued to gain weight.
“Our findings suggest that the common behavior of burning the candle during the week and trying to make up for it on the weekend is not an effective health strategy,” said senior author Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor and director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab in a story published in CU Boulder Today. (https://www.colorado.edu/today/2019/02/28/catching-sleep-weekend-doesnt-work)
When it came to regulating blood sugar, the weekend sleepers actually fared worse. While the constant short sleepers saw their whole body insulin sensitivity drop about 13 percent over the course of the study, the weekend recovery sleepers’ insulin sensitivity worsened by 9 to 27 percent, with sensitivity in their muscles and liver—two major players in blood sugar regulation—scoring worse than the other groups. Being unable to control blood sugar paves the way for weight gain and metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
“It could be that the yo-yoing back and forth—changing the time we eat, changing our circadian clock and then going back to insufficient sleep is uniquely disruptive,” said Wright in the article.
***The researchers speculated that making up for lost sleep might work if you only miss out on a full night’s rest a day or two a week—that’s something they hope to study—but in general, if you want to take care of your health and keep your waistline in check, aim for at least seven hours of sleep as often as possible.