Two consecutive nights of extended catch-up sleep—a typical weekend occurrence for many people—appears to counteract the increased risk of diabetes associated with the loss of sleep during the workweek—at least in lean, healthy, young men eating a controlled diet, according to a new study.
The pattern of cutting back on sleep during the workweek followed by catching up on sleep over the weekend is common. But sleeping only four to five hours a night can increase the risk of developing diabetes by about 16%—comparable to the increased risk caused by obesity, according to a study first published online in advance of the January issue of Diabetes Care.
Researchers allowed 19 healthy young men to sleep normally and spend 8.5 hours in bed for four nights. Next, the same volunteers were deprived of sleep and allowed only 4.5 hours in bed for four consecutive nights. They spent an average of 4.3 of those hours asleep each night. Then researchers allowed the study participants two nights of extended sleep, during which the volunteers averaged 9.7 hours of sleep.
After four nights of sleep restriction, the volunteers’ insulin sensitivity decreased by 23% and their diabetes risk increased by 16%. But after two nights of extended sleep, insulin sensitivity and the risk of diabetes returned to normal levels.
“The metabolic response to this extra sleep was very interesting and encouraging,” says senior study author Esra Tasali, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “It shows that young, healthy people who sporadically fail to get sufficient sleep during the workweek can reduce their diabetes risk if they catch up on sleep during the weekend.”