Type 2 Diabetes: Can You Really 'Catch-Up' On Sleep?

First Posted: Jan 18, 2016 06:01 PM EST

Research continuously goes back and forth on whether or not we can play "catch-up" when it comes to sleep. Now, new findings published in the journal Diabetes Care examine how we can get back some missed rest on the weekends.

Previous studies suggest that sleeping just four or five hours a night during the week can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, the new findings suggest that it could be reversed with extra sleep on the weekends. In fact, researchers found that men in the study who were given two days of "recovery" sleep had a 23 percent drop in insulin sensitivity when compared to normal levels of four days of hardly any sleep.

"The metabolic response to this extra sleep was interesting and encouraging," said study author Dr Esra Tasali, of University of Chicago, via The Daily Mail. "It shows that young, healthy people who sporadically fail to get sufficient sleep during the work week can reduce their diabetes risk if they catch up on sleep during the weekend."

During the study, researchers initially looked at 19 healthy, young and lean men who were allowed to sleep 8.5 hours for four consecutive nights in a sleep lab (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.) Researchers found that they slept an average of 7.8 hours a night.

Then, they were placed on a lab-controlled sleep deprivation schedule in which volunteers could sleep up to 12 hours of sleep on the first recovery day (from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m.) and up to 10 hours of sleep on the second recovery day (from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.). Furthermore, the sleep was followed by glucose (blood sugar) testing--with the average participant sleeping about 9.7 hours a night.

Findings revealed a 23 percent drop in insulin sensitivity when compared to normal levels after four days of too little sleep. Furthermore, a key diabetes risk measure known as "disposition index" that examines the interaction between insulin sensitivity and the acute insulin response to blood sugar revealed a drop by 16 percent following sleep restriction, according to Health Day.

Fortunately, the study shows that just a small catch-up sleep period may be all that's necessary to reverse the negative, short-term impact of sleep loss for diabetes risk.

However, follow-up studies will be necessary in determining if weekend sleep recovery is as affective when people miss sleep over the weekdays over longer periods of time.

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