How Dangerous is Sleeping In

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    While it seems like just a guilty pleasure, sleeping in can wreak havoc on your health in a number of ways.

    Many people try to make up for their lack of sleep during the week by sleeping in on the weekends.

    But researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder recently released a study showing that sleeping in leads to weight gain and other health problems.

    In the study, 36 healthy young men and women were divided into three groups and given different sleep requirements for ten days.

    The participants were asked to stay at a research facility during the course of the study, and none had any existing health impairments that would otherwise affect their quality of sleep.

    The first group was allowed to sleep 9 hours each night of the week, including on weekends.

    The second group was restricted to only 5 hours of sleep a night, including on weekends.

    The third group was restricted to 5 hours of sleep Monday through Friday, but allowed to sleep in as long as they wanted during the weekends.

    The study showed that both of the sleep-deprived groups snacked more after dinner and gained weight.

    The men sleeping 5 hours every night of the week/weekend showed a 2.8% increase in their weight, while the women’s body sizes went up by 1.1%.

    The men who got to sleep in on the weekend showed a 3% increase in weight, while the women’s body sizes went up 0.05%.

    Even more surprising was what also happened to the group who slept in on the weekends.

    Dr. Kenneth Wright Jr., who directs the sleep lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder commented on the study, saying, “Even though people slept as much as they could, it was insufficient. As soon as they went back to the short sleep schedules on Monday, their ability of their body to regulate blood sugar was impaired.”

    One reason for this may have been because their circadian rhythm had been altered, thus depriving the body of certain hormones.

    Not only that, but the weekend group showed increased sensitivity to insulin in both their muscles and liver, a result not found in the second group on restricted sleep.

    That’s important, says Wright, because the muscles and liver are two of the most important tissues that absorb blood sugar after eating.

    “That helps us understand why is it that when we don’t get enough sleep, we have an increased risk for things like diabetes,” he says.

    “In short, insufficient sleep schedules will lead to an inability to regulate blood sugar and increases the risk of metabolic disease in the long term.”

    Metabolic syndrome carries an array of symptoms such as fat around the waistline, abnormal cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure—all of which can raise the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

    Another surprising finding was that only men seemed able to achieve full recovery on sleep during the weekends. They slept longer on both Friday and Saturday nights, but women slept longer only on Saturday nights.

    To improve your sleep, Dr. Susheel Patil offers the following advice on the John Hopkins site:

    Everyone should get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to feel fully rested.

    Often, people will try to catch up on sleep over the weekend to repay the “sleep debt” we accumulate over the week. While this can help, one weekend of increased sleep is not enough to repay [it].

    Here are some of my recommendations for getting into a better sleep routine:

    • Consider exercising 3 to 4 hours before bedtime
    • Have a winddown routine of 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed
    • Go to bed at a regular time each night
    • Wake up at a regular time every morning
    • Avoid naps during the day
    • Avoid alcohol and caffeine after 12pm

    With obesity affecting nearly 1/3 of all Americans, powering through the week on limited sleep and then playing catch up on the weekends is a dangerous approach.

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