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Binge-Sleeping on the Weekend Can Stave Off Diabetes

Here's your excuse to sleep in on Saturday AND Sunday.

We previously reported on an Endocrine Society study that claimed binge-sleeping on the weekend isn’t enough to make up for lost sleep—that a loss of just 30 minutes each night can hurt your metabolism and promote weight gain and insulin resistance in the long run. But new research from the University of Chicago says otherwise. 

Though this new research was conducted on a markedly smaller participant group (19 volunteers, as opposed to 522), the researchers claim two consecutive nights of extended sleep (a.k.a. your Saturday and Sunday) can counteract the increased risk for diabetes associated with the short-term sleep restriction that plagues your work week. And there’s particularly good news for the typical Men’s Fitness reader: These results were seen in healthy, lean, young men who consumed a controlled diet. 

During the first phase of the study, the men were allowed to sleep normally, spending 8.5 hours in bed for four nights. During the second phase, the same volunteers were sleep deprived, allowed only 4.5 hours in bed for four consecutive nights, then allowed two consecutive nights of extended sleep, in which they averaged 9.7 hours of sleep.

After both phases, researchers determined the subjects' insulin sensitivity (basically their insulin’s ability to regulate blood sugar). After the four-night sleep restriction, the volunteers' insulin sensitivity decreased by 23 percent and their diabetes risk increased by 16 percent. But after the two nights of extended sleep, their insulin sensitivity and risk of diabetes returned to normal sleep levels, effectively reversing the negative metabolic effect of too little sleep.

"Though this is evidence that weekend catch-up sleep may help someone recover from a sleep-deprived week, this was not a long-term study and our subjects went through this process only once,” study author Josiane Broussard, PhD, said in a press release. “Going forward we intend to study the effects of extended weekend sleep schedules in people who repeatedly curtail their weekday sleep."

The researchers also point out an increased risk of developing diabetes is not the only drawback of inadequate sleep. Chronically sleep deprived people are more likely to experience inflammation and high blood pressure, are more prone to traffic accidents and less alert, and have difficulty concentrating, reasoning and solving problems. 

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