The negative health effects of skimping on sleep during the week can’t be reversed by marathon weekend sleep sessions, according to a sobering new study.
Researchers have long known that routine sleep deprivation can cause weight gain and increase other health risks, including diabetes. But for those who force themselves out of bed bleary-eyed every weekday after too few hours of shut-eye, hope springs eternal that shutting off the alarm on Saturday and Sunday will repay the weekly sleep debt and reverse any ill effects.
The research, published in Current Biology, crushes those hopes. Despite complete freedom to sleep in and nap during a weekend recovery period, participants in a sleep laboratory who were limited to five hours of sleep on weekdays gained nearly three pounds over two weeks and experienced metabolic disruption that would increase their risk for diabetes over the long term. While weekend recovery sleep had some benefits after a single week of insufficient sleep, those gains were wiped out when people plunged right back into their same sleep-deprived schedule the next Monday.