Study: Weekend ‘catch-up’ sleep linked to weight gain

Think sleeping in on the weekend can repair the damage for a week of sleepless nights? Think again. Researchers are reporting that weekend ‘catch-up’ sleep might make things worse, including an increased risk of weight gain.  

In the study, the researchers enlisted 36 healthy adults age 18 to 39 to stay for two weeks in a sleep laboratory, where their food intake, light exposure, and sleep patterns were closely monitored. After baseline testing, the volunteers were divided into three groups. One was allowed plenty of time to sleep—9 hours each night for 9 nights. The second was allowed 5 hours per night over that same period. The third slept no more than 5 hours nightly for 5 days followed by a weekend when they could sleep as much as they liked before returning to 2 days of restricted sleep.

People who experienced sleep insufficiency during the week and then engaged in weekend ‘catch-up’ sleep gained weight and showed a 27  percent lower insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, the researchers noted.

“This study demonstrates the importance of getting sufficient sleep on a regular schedule,” said Michael Twery, Ph.D., director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). “Frequently changing sleep schedules is a form of stress associated with metabolic abnormalities.”

The study, funded by NHLBI, was published in Current Biology.