Though prior research has warned that a lack of sleep could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests that “catch-up” sleep might reverse that risk — at least over the short-term.
Conducted at the University of Chicago, the research found that two consecutive nights of “catch up” sleep on the weekend can reverse the increased risk of diabetes associated to a short-term sleep deficit during weekdays.
“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,” said senior study author Esra Tasali, associate professor of medicine at the university.
Sleep experiment conducted on 19 healthy young men found that four nights of sleep deprivation were linked to changes in their blood –which suggested that their bodies weren’t handling sugar as they normally would.
However, when the men got extra sleep the following two nights, blood tests showed a return to normal.
For the first session, the group was allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours a night for 4 nights. During the second session, that was reduced to 4.5 hours per night for 4 nights.
During this catch-up sleep, they averaged 9.7 hours per night.
Results showed that after four nights of sleep deprivation, insulin sensitivity dropped by 23%, and their risk of diabetes increased by 16%. After 2 nights of extended sleep, however, both parameters returned back to their normal states.
“It gives us some hope that if there is no way to extend sleep during the week, people should try very hard to protect their sleep when they do get an opportunity to sleep in and sleep as much as possible to pay back the sleep debt,” said lead study author Josaine Broussard of the University of Colorado Boulder.
“In real life, you’d be losing sleep week in and week out, so we don’t know whether catch-up sleep can give you this kind of risk improvement in that context. But the good take-away from this work is that at least in terms of diabetes risk, it seems that you’re not necessarily totally screwed if you experience sleep loss,” added Broussard.
The study findings were published online in Diabetes Care.