Sleeping in on weekends does not compensate for lost sleep: Study

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Extra hours, studying all night long or over-binging on TV shows might lead to insufficient sleep. A recent study found that getting extra sleep at the weekend does not compensate the negative health effects of losing sleep during the week.

In order to recover from sleep loss during the workweek people try catching up on some sleep at weekends. A study, conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, disproved this assertion.

"Sleep is an important component of a healthy lifestyle," senior author Kenneth P. Wright Jr., Ph.D., a professor of integrative physiology, told ABC News.

Insufficient sleep can influence the timing at which people eat throughout the day. The metabolic changes can lead to weight gain and a reduced sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Sleep Foundation stated that adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity or depression may arise from insufficient sleep.

Within the study, three groups of participants were randomly formed and observed for two weeks. The first group slept nine hours every night. The second group slept five hours during the week without any extra sleep on weekends. The third group slept five hours during the week and got some extra sleep on weekends. Both the second and the third group had an increased after-dinner energy intake and body weight versus baseline. Plus, their whole-body insulin sensitivity decreased.

Since all participants were healthy and young, applying the results to older adults or people with medical problems is difficult. Also, there are no exact results yet if men and women respond differently to extra sleep on weekends.

All kinds of not-yet-diagnosed sleep problems might be a reason for insufficient sleep. Therefore, it can be helpful monitoring the amount of time spent using so-called "sleep stealers" like TV, cell phones and other electronic devices. Also, finding your own routine and going to bed the same time every night is recommended. The bedroom should be dark and quiet, and no electronic devices should be used before bedtime. Doing exercises on a regular basis can support a restful sleep, whereas large meals, caffeine and alcohol at night are counterproductive.

Keeping a sleep diary and visiting a doctor is strongly recommended when you still have sleep problems.