Can You Sleep Extra Hours on the Weekend to Repay Your Sleep Debt?

Sleeping more on the weekend to recover from sleep lost during a busy workweek is very common. Yet, recent study findings suggest that sleeping more on the weekend is not an effective strategy, and still leads to metabolic dysregulation and a higher risk of metabolic problems such as obesity and diabetes.

The study examined the connection between habitual weekend “recovery sleeping” and circadian timing, energy intake, weight gain and insulin sensitivity. Healthy, young adults were used as study participants and were assigned to one of three groups. The first group was the control group and had 9-hour sleep opportunities. The second had sleep restriction without weekend recovery sleep and 5-hour sleep opportunities. The third group was allowed to sleep for 5 hours during a 5-day workweek, as well as 2 days of weekend recovery sleep, followed by 2 nights of insufficient sleep.

The results showed that insufficient sleep increased after-dinner energy intake, as well as body weight. During weekend recovery, the participants slept for 1.1 hours more than the baseline group, and after-dinner energy intake decreased once again. However, when the participants experienced insufficient sleep after the weekend, the after-dinner intake and body weight increased again. The group that had only insufficient sleep had decreased insulin sensitivity compared with baseline, and the drop was approximately 13%. Yet the insulin resistance of those who were allowed to recover at the weekend equally dropped by between 9 and 27%. Without management, insulin sensitivity can lead to further metabolic issues. 

This study suggests that sleeping more on the weekends to recover from a recurrent lack of sleep during the week is not as health-promoting as getting sustained good-quality sleep throughout the week. 

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