Pre-parenthood, desperately waiting for the weekend to come, I would catch up on my sleep from the restless, sleep-deprived week prior. The after-work cocktails that inevitably led to staying out way later than planned would leave me only only the weekends as an option to catch up on my Z’s. Even now, as a parent, I find myself trying to get naps in on the weekend while he sleeps to make up for hours I missed during the week. But a new study shows that a snoozefest on certain days to make up for skimping on the others cannot make up for the negative health effects caused by those sleepless days.
It has now been ingrained in us that we should be getting six to eight hours of quality sleep each night, but if you are one of those “I’ll sleep when I am dead” types, signs of sleep deprivation may have already reared their ugly heads. Researches have known for decades that routine sleep deprivation can cause weight gain, diabetes and many other increased health risks.
In a research study by Current Biology, scientists knew that obtaining extra sleep during the weekend is a common strategy to recover from sleep loss incurred during the workweek. While the influence of recovery sleep on metabolic dysregulation from not getting enough sleep is poorly understood, they tried to understand how the makeup sleep impacted circadian timing, energy intake, body weight, and insulin sensitivity. In their findings, energy intake from after-dinner snacks and body weight had increased; insulin sensitivity was reduced during reoccurring insufficient sleep following the catch up sleep from the weekend. So while there may have been minor improvements during the nights when extra sleep was had, the studies show that they were not long lived after the workweek started the whole cycle again. The benefits they may have seen on the weekend were wiped clean come Monday.
Catch up sleep may have some small benefits, but when you go back to your routine, those benefits are rather short-lived. Despite the luxury of weekend recovery sleep, the participants in the study still gained nearly three pounds over a two-week period and had experienced metabolic disruption that could increase their risk for diabetes in the long term.
There are steps we can take to make sure we are clocking in the right amount of hours. While everyone has their own reason for not sleeping, simply cutting out television or screentime right before bed is the first step. It is totally understandable that most of us are not catching those zzz’s due to childcare or job schedules, but cutting out the small, avoidable stuff can help put our minds at ease faster, allowing us to fall easier into slumber.
Unfortunately some of us are aware of the seriousness of sleep deprivation, but suffer from insomnia and anxiety that gets in the way of our desire to sleep eight hours. Some small steps toward working through that are meditation and daily exercise. Another trick to try is eating dinner with ample time to digest your food before going to bed – try eating three hours before bedtime.
Getting in the right amount of sleep should be right up next to diet and exercise in terms of health maintenance. Poor sleep affects our hormones, which then leads to high glucose levels, insulin resistance, weight gain and increased cortisol levels. So, my advice to you if you are experiencing unexplainable weight gain would be to examine your sleep schedule, because it may be the culprit. Creating a sleep routine – going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day – can help regulate your Circadian rhythms to help improve your sleep.