Sleeping in on the weekend won't help you recover from lost sleep

Research we're watching

Many people skimp on sleep during the week and try to make up for lost time on the weekend. But a study published February 28 in Current Biology shows this strategy won't necessarily reverse the ill effects of sleep deprivation on your body.

The study, conducted in a sleep lab, tested the health effects of three sleep strategies over a two-week period. Participants in one group were allowed to sleep up to nine hours a night. Those in a second group were limited to five hours a night. People in the third group slept five hours nightly during the week, but were allowed to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday.

Researchers found that people who were sleep-deprived — defined as getting less than seven hours a night — experienced changes to their metabolism, showed a 13% drop in insulin sensitivity, and gained an average of three pounds throughout the course of the study. The group allowed to catch up on sleep over the weekend saw no improvement in those markers, and researchers found that their sleep quality actually deteriorated when they went back to their five-hour weekday sleep schedule.

The message is this: Rather than playing catch-up on the weekend, it's far better to stick to a consistent sleep schedule that allows for at least seven hours a night.

Image: © Mladen Zivkovic/Getty Images

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.