Catch-Up Sleep Can Reduce Diabetes Risk Tied to Sleep Loss


diabetesSleep deprivation’s effect on someone’s performance and mood is well known. Several studies have also shown that not getting enough sleep can lead to health problems, including weight gain and diabetes. However, a new study offers hope for sleep-deprived young adults and others chronically staring at the clock all night long. Research shows that a couple nights or weekend days of catch-up sleep can reduce the effects of sleep loss that are tied to the risk of diabetes.

The study, which was published in the latest issue of Diabetes Care, was conducted using 19 relatively young and lean men as the subjects. So, it is not a representative sample, but the results show something college students have sworn by for years. They indicate that sleeping in on weekends can reverse some of the negative effects of several nights of sleep deprivation, including the metabolic changes that can pack on the pounds.

The men participating slept normally for four days, after which they were evaluated for insulin levels and diabetes risk. Then, the researchers restricted their sleep time to a little over 4 hours for four consecutive nights. The men were then allowed two consecutive nights of extra-long sleep. On the first night, they spent 12 hours in bed and stayed there for 10 hours the second night. Throughout the study, the participants were given a calorie-controlled diet. Their weight was measured before they were given their intravenous glucose tolerance test after the normal, restricted, and extra-long sleep sessions.

After the nights of poor sleep, the men’s insulin sensitivity indicating their ability to regulate their blood sugars was 23 percent lower and their risk for diabetes increased 16 percent. However, the two nights of extended sleep enabled the men’s sensitivity and risk to return to their normal levels.

The researchers found it encouraging that extra sleep does generate a metabolic response. The study’s co-author Dr Esra Tasali, from the University of Chicago, commented, ‘The metabolic response to this extra sleep was interesting and encouraging.” He added that the study does show that young, healthy males who occasionally fail to get sufficient sleep during their work week can reduce their risk of developing diabetes by catching up on sleep on the weekends.

The study did have limitations starting with the laboratory setting versus a more real-world set-up. However, the authors’ write-up noted that the study was clinically relevant because patterns of sleep like the men endured (i.e. restrictions on sleep on workdays and longer sleep periods to recover on weekends) are common nowadays.

One of the study’s other leads, Dr. Josiane Broussard, who is an assistant research professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, acknowledge that this was a small, controlled study with only health men as participants. “Whether a pre-diabetic or overweight person would improve is really not known,” admitted Broussard. “And while I would hypothesize that women — who also have impairments when sleep-deprived — would also improve, there could be a difference in the degree of their improvement. So really this study raises many more questions than we answer.” The scientists plan to continue their research on whether catch-up sleep can reduce diabetes risk tied to sleep loss on a more long-term basis and with other populations.

Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss

Diabetes Care: Two Nights of Recovery Sleep Reverses the Effects of Short-term Sleep Restriction on Diabetes Risk
U.S. News & World Report: Catch-Up Sleep May Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Risk Tied to Sleep Loss: Study
Daily Mail: Why a lie in IS good for you: Catching up with your sleep at the weekend ‘reduces the risk of diabetes’
MedPage Today: Up late all week? Sleeping till noon on Saturday may help
U.S. National Institutes of Health: How is the body affected by sleep deprivation?

Photo courtesy of Vic’s Flickr page – Creative Commons license