Study Proves You Can Never Catch Up on Sleep You Lose

We all know how important it is to get enough sleep, but many of us have a hard time finding the time to do just that. Indeed, with demanding work hours and commutes it is hard enough just to find the time to relax let alone sleep the recommended number of hours.  

Of course, there are days when you have little—or nothing at all—scheduled and so it would make sense to try and catch up on your lack of sleep on those days, right?  

Well, a new study warns that this might not actually be as effective as we would all hope.  In fact, the study suggests that losing sleep has negative consequences that we can never regain, even if you do “make it up on the weekend.”

In a study—albeit quite a small one—researchers in Colorado demonstrated that getting five hours of sleep every night leads to other health consequences like late-night eating, weight gain, reduced insulin sensitivity, and the delayed release of melatonin (the naturally-occurring human hormone linked with sleep regulation).  More importantly, though, the study warns that these consequences do not really go away after a weekend of “oversleeping” to make up for those lost hours if you are just going to go back to unhealthy sleep patterns once the work week starts again. 

According to lead researcher Christopher Depner, PhD, who is an assistant research professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado (Boulder), “For participants in the weekend recovery (WR) group, ad libitum weekend recovery sleep failed to prevent any of these metabolic derangements when assessed during recurrent insufficient sleep following the weekend.”

The study divided 36 participants into three groups: a control group, of 8, who slept nine hours and two experimental groups, of 14, who slept five hours.  One of the two 5-hour groups were given ad libitum recovery sleep hours for two nights; the second group did not get recovery sleep time.  Both of the 5-hour groups were unable to get sufficient sleep, both saw weight gain and late-night eating, both had disrupted circadian rhythms, and both experienced insulin insensitivity.  

This study has been published in the journal Current Biology and echoes a 2018 study in Scientific Reports which investigated the relationship between heart and metabolic health and (in)sufficient sleep.

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