Can Weekend Catch-Up Sleep Lower the Risk of Diabetes?

A new study, by researchers at the University of Chicago, suggests that two consecutive nights of extended sleep a week can counteract the effects of reduced sleep times during the other nights of the week.

An increasing body of research has shown a correlation between lack of sleep and an increased risk of diabetes. Now a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago suggests that 2 consecutive nights of extended sleep can reverse the effects of restricted sleep during the other nights of the week. 

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The study, published in Diabetes Care, included 19 young healthy male volunteers. They were monitored following a schedule of spending 8.5 hours in bed for sleep for 4 nights, then another schedule of just 4.5 hours in bed for 4 nights. While adhering to the 4.5 sleep schedule, subjects were allowed 2 nights of extended sleep (average 9.7 hours). 

After the 4 nights of sleep restriction, the volunteers’ insulin sensitivity decreased by 23% and their diabetes risk increased by 16%. However, tested after 2 nights of extended sleep, their insulin sensitivity and diabetes risk returned to the level it was at when they had normal sleeping levels.

“[The research] shows that young, healthy people who sporadically fail to get sufficient sleep during the work week can reduce their diabetes risk if they catch up on sleep during the weekend,” said senior author Esra Tasali, MD, professor at the University of Chicago. With the development of technology and email, the work day has extended for many, highlighting the importance of understanding the implications of sleeping for shorter periods.

The authors acknowledged that the study’s findings should be put into the context of the small sample during a short period of observation. The authors also point out how the volunteers were given a calorie-controlled diet, though in reality it is the trend of sleep-deprived adults to eat more with a preference for sweets and fatty foods. 

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