A recent study shows that catching up on lost sleep might be even more important than previously thought.
In the cut and thrust of modern life, it is not uncommon for people to scrimp on the amount of sleep they get.
Missing a couple of hours each night from Monday to Friday, followed by a binge at the weekend is certainly not an unusual sleep pattern for many people.
Catching up on sleep has become synonymous with the weekend, and, for many people, sleeping in is the most anticipated feature of a Saturday and Sunday morning.
A recent, short-term study, performed at the University of Chicago sleep laboratory, showed that grabbing a few extra hours of shut-eye is more than a relaxing treat, it has important implications for anyone who might be on the verge of diabetes.
Diabetes and sleep
Diabetes is a major issue in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 29.1 million Americans have the disease, which is almost 1 in 10.
A medical problem of such huge scale requires research that delves into every conceivable facet. Diabetes is complex, so every potential avenue is being dissected in an attempt to curb its ever-onward march. One such angle of study is the effect of sleep on diabetes.
Perhaps not as obvious as diet and fitness, sleep seems to be a considerable factor in some cases of diabetes.
A number of studies have investigated this intriguing area. A meta-analysis published in Diabetes Care in March 2015 found that a sleep duration of 7-8 hours gave the lowest risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas longer and shorter sleep durations were both associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Another study, published in the same journal, found that diabetics who were poor sleepers had 23% higher blood glucose levels in the morning and 48% higher levels of insulin. In other words, diabetics who slept poorly had 82% higher insulin resistance than diabetics who got the correct amount of sleep.
Studies seem to suggest that a lack of sleep not only exacerbates existing diabetes in patients, but it also puts healthy people at risk of developing diabetes.
Catch-up sleep and diabetes
The present study, led by Josiane Broussard, altered the sleeping schedules of 19 healthy male volunteers. For the first session, the group was allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours a night for 4 nights. During the second session, the members of the group were only allowed to sleep for 4.5 hours per night for 4 nights.
Following the deprived nights' sleep, the participants were allowed 2 nights of extended sleep. During this catch-up sleep, they averaged 9.7 hours per night.
The volunteers were monitored for insulin sensitivity and a predictor of diabetes risk called the disposition index.
The researchers found that after 4 nights of sleep deprivation, insulin sensitivity dropped by 23%, and their risk of diabetes increased by 16%. After 2 nights of extended sleep, however, both parameters returned to normal.
Senior author Dr. Ezra Tasali said of the results:
"The metabolic response to this extra sleep was very interesting and encouraging. It 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."
The authors are quick to note that this is by no means a conclusive study. The research was carried out on a small sample of healthy, lean males, and the new sleep regime was only enforced for the equivalent of 1 working week.
Additionally, the study group had a controlled diet, whereas people who are chronically sleep deprived tend to preferentially consume high-fat and high-sugar foods.
Dr. Tasali plans to extend the investigation in future trials. "Going forward," he says, "we intend to study the effects of extended weekend sleep schedules in people who repeatedly curtail their weekday sleep."
Although the results can only be tentative at this stage, they underline the importance of a healthy sleep schedule. Medical News Today recently covered research showing that broken sleep can raise the risk of stroke.