You Actually Can't Catch Up On Sleep, Study Finds

Study Parents’ sleep doesn’t recover until 6 years after having a baby

Study Parents’ sleep doesn’t recover until 6 years after having a baby

Results of the experiment are published in the journal Current Biology.

"The key take-home message from this study is that ad libitum weekend recovery or catch-up sleep does not appear to be an effective countermeasure strategy to reverse sleep loss induced disruptions of metabolism", Wright said in a statement. While it may feel nice to hit the snooze button on weekends, the extra sleep poses little real health benefits, according to Kenneth Wright of the University of Colorado Boulder.

The researchers invited 36 healthy men and women aged in their mid-twenties into the lab and divided them into three groups. The first was allowed nine hours of sleep for nine nights. The second group had five hours per night for nine nights.

The outcomes showed that those in the sleep-restricted groups had the tendency to snack more at night, therefore gaining weight and experiencing a drop in insulin sensitivity - the weekend sleep-in group reduced their snacking over the two days.

"In the end, we didn't see any benefit in any metabolic outcome in the people who got to sleep in on the weekend", said Chris Depner, lead author. Researchers found that this "recovery" sleep did not prevent weight gain or reduced insulin sensitivity. In the weekend recovery group it worsened by 9 to 27 percent, with sensitivity in the muscles and liver scoring worse than the other groups. Even when people don't have a choice about losing sleep due to child-care responsibilities or job schedules, they should think about prioritizing sleep in the same way they would a healthy diet or exercise. While they gained some ground Friday and Saturday, their body clocks shifted later Sunday night making it hard to fall asleep even though they knew they had to get up early Monday morning.

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The study doesn't entirely rule out catching up on lost sleep - Wright said weekend recovery sleep could still counter the side-effects of one or two nights of restricted sleep during the week. Most people need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly during the day.

For now, the takeaway is this: Consistency matters.

By simulating a typical week of sleep, the study offers a unique look at the effects of sleep schedules and sleep restriction, says Jeanne Duffy, Ph.D., a neuroscientist in the division of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "Frequently changing sleep schedules is a form of stress associated with metabolic abnormalities".

The most effective solution for sleep deprivation is deceptively simple: get more sleep.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Sleep Research Society Foundation.

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