Why catching up on sleep is a metabolic nightmare 2019-06-10T18:21:07+00:00
sleep and metabolism

Research suggests catching up on sleep may be worse for you

If you’re missing out on sleep during the week, don’t rely on the weekends to catch up – new research suggests it might actually be worse for you.

A small study in the US has indicated not only that people who sleep poorly during the week are hungrier after dinner, suffer disruption to their body clock and experience lower insulin sensitivity – an increased need for insulin, because the body isn’t responding properly to the insulin the pancreas produces – but that the insulin damage might actually be worse if you’ve tried to catch up over the weekend.

The results

In the study, researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, observed 36 healthy adults aged 18 to 39 in a laboratory, monitoring their food intake, light exposure and sleep.The adults were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first group were allowed to sleep for nine hours each night over the nine-day study period. The second group were limited to five hours a night. The third group were restricted to five hours of sleep on weekdays but could sleep as much as they wanted at the weekend.

The researchers found that even when given the chance, people found it difficult to recover lost sleep. While they managed some extra sleep on the Friday and Saturday nights, they found it harder to fall asleep on the Sunday night and in the end, got just 66 minutes more sleep on average.The extra weekend sleep decreased participants’ desire to snack after dinner, but this returned once their sleep was restricted again.

More surprisingly, in the group who had their sleep restricted the whole time, whole body insulin sensitivity declined by 13 percent; in the group who were allowed to catch up on sleep at the weekend, it worsened by 9 to 27 percent, with sensitivity in the muscles and liver scoring worse than the other groups. This was a finding that the researchers had not anticipated.

Study co-author Ken Wright, professor of integrative physiology at the university and director of its Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, said, “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.”

The study was published in the journal Current Biology, but was far too small for any firm conclusions to be drawn without further investigation. There is, however, a growing body of research linking poor sleep to metabolic problems, and long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. The NHS says that one in three people suffer from poor sleep. If your company is involved in scientific research, you could be eligible for government funding through the research and development tax credits scheme. At R&D Tax Solutions, we specialise in helping companies make successful claims. Have a look at our page on how to calculate r&d tax credits and our r and d tax credit calculator to see how much you could be eligible.

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