woman sleeping in bed

Good news for all you weekend sleepers! An intriguing new sleep study suggests that using your two consecutive days off to catch up on sleep could reverse the increased risk for diabetes which you might accrue during your sleep-deprived work week.

According to lead study author and University of Chicago associate professor of medicine, Esra Tasali, the study indicates that young people who are healthy but get inconsistent sleep during the week can, in fact, reduce risk for diabetes by catching up on that sleep over the weekend.

The study involved 19 healthy young men who were monitored during various sleeping conditions. One night, they were allowed to sleep normally: 8.5 hours in bed for 4 nights in a row. One night, they were sleep deprived and then allowed two nights of longer sleep: 9.7 hours a night for two nights.

The study showed that after four nights of sleep restriction, insulin sensitivity decreased by 23 percent and diabetes risk increased by 16 percent. But after two nights of extended sleep (following the 4 consecutive nights of sleep restriction) insulin sensitivity and diabetes risk levels returned to normal.

University of Colorado assistant research professor Josiane Broussard comments, “In this short-term study, we found that two long nights spent catching up on lost sleep can reverse the negative metabolic effects of four consecutive nights of restricted sleep.”

But she also makes sure to note that this is a very small and well controlled environment: four days with regulated hours; and all of the subjects were healthy men of the same age.

“In real life,” she says, “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.”

She also goes on to caution, however, “Whether a pre-diabetic or overweight person would improve is really not known. And while I would hypothesize that women — who also have impairments when sleep-deprived — would also improve, there could be a difference in the degree of their improvement. So really this study raises many more questions than we answer.”