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Research published in Current Biologyshows that sleeping on the weekends to make up for lost sleep during the week has no beneficial effect for adults. In this small study, 36 healthy men and women were assigned to 1 of 3 groups after 3 nights of unregulated sleep.
The first group was allowed to sleep up to 9 hours per night for the length of the study; the second group was allowed up to 5 hours per night; and the third group modeled “weekend-recovery sleep” The third group slept a maximum of 5 hours a night for 5 days, were allowed to sleep as much as they wanted for 2 days, then returned to 5 hours per night for another 2 days.
After continuous sleep deprivation, recovery sleep provided no benefit. Although the recovery sleep group was allowed to sleep as much as they wanted over a weekend, they managed to get an average of only 3 hours of extra sleep over 2 nights.
The extra sleep on the weekend disrupted participants’ body rhythms when they returned to sleep deprivation. After the recovery sleep period, they were more likely to awaken after insufficient sleep, even though their natural body rhythm promoted more sleep.
The researchers also measured eating patterns, weight gain, and changes in insulin sensitivity. The recovery group was less likely to snack at night during the recovery period, but they reverted to late-night eating as soon as sleep deprivation resumed. During the study, the group gained an average of 3 pounds and experienced a 27% decrease in insulin sensitivity.
“The key take-home message from this study is that … weekend recovery or catch-up sleep does not appear to be an effective countermeasure strategy to reverse sleep-loss-induced disruptions of metabolism,” said Kenneth Wright, Jr., PhD, University of Colorado.
James E. Galvin, MD, MPH
Zahra Goodarzi, BHSc (Hon), MD, MSc, FRCPC; and Zahinoor Ismail, MD, FRCPC
Jeffrey L. Cummings, MD, ScD