Updated: Jul 30
It probably comes as no surprise that Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. From work stress to coping with a new baby at home, there are plenty of reasons why we don’t get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
But one highly-debated question may finally have an answer: can you catch up on sleep after it’s been lost?
A recent article published by NPR tackled this topic and the answer is a definite…maybe.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
We all know what it feels like to have a rough night of sleep – we’re groggy, unfocused, and likely irritable. But new research suggests it can do more than leave us grumpy and groggy. A study from Current Biology found that regularly getting inadequate sleep can quickly contribute to weight gain and even the early onset of type 2 diabetes.
The study, led by Christopher Depner, found that participants who received five hours of sleep or less for five days in a row gained as much as five pounds. Some participants experienced such a significant decrease in insulin sensitivity that by the end of the study were considered pre-diabetic.
One reason for this weight gain could be tied to leptin and ghrelin – important hormones for appetite regulation. When we sleep, leptin levels increase and ghrelin levels decrease. This tells our brains that we have substantial energy for the time being. When we don’t get adequate sleep, these hormone levels can inverse. This flip can potentially contribute to feelings of hunger even when we’re not hungry.
Depner believed that these effects were temporary and participants would return back to normal once their regular sleep habits resumed. But these findings are important to consider for people who typically get inadequate sleep.
“Making Up” Sleep on Weekends
Recent research in Sweden investigated this topic. They found that individuals who got less sleep during the week but who “made up” sleep on the weekends, didn’t have an increased risk of premature death, compared to the control group in the study. This led researchers to conclude that “long weekend sleep may compensate for short weekday sleep.”
A word of caution when sleeping in this weekend: don’t overdo it. Sleeping in beyond an extra hour or two has the potential to throw off bedtimes, causing a domino effect. And while “less” weekday sleep may be able to be made up on the weekends, chronic sleeplessness can pose major threats to our physical health as well as our mental health.
If you’d like to find ways to naturally get better sleep, try looking at your sleep hygiene – habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. Luckily, there are simple and easy habits you can start today that can have a positive impact on your sleep.
These tips are a great place to start, but if you're looking for more, give us a call at 800.600.4096.
Layton, Julia. (2006, October 6). “Is a lack of sleep making me fat?”. Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/sleep-obesity.htm
Aubrey, Allison. (2019, March 24). “Nappuccinos To Weekend Z’s: Strategize To Catch Up On Lost Sleep.” Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/03/24/705345481/nappuccinos-to-more-weekend-zs-strategize-to-catch-up-on-lost-sleep?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social