According to a new study, men who lose sleep during the work week may be able to lower their risk for type 2 diabetes by catching up on their hours of sleep during the weekend.
In the U.S., diabetes affects nearly 26 million people and costs an estimated $174 billion annually.
This study found that insulin sensitivity, which is the body's ability to clear blood sugar from the bloodstream, improved significantly after three nights of ‘catch-up sleep’ on the weekend in men with long-term, weekday sleep restrictions.
Insulin regulates blood sugar levels. The body of a patient with type 2 diabetes cannot effectively use the insulin it produces; in other words, it becomes ‘resistant’ to insulin. On the other hand, retaining or restoring the body's sensitivity to insulin reduces diabetes risk.
Previous research has shown that experimental sleep restriction can have harmful effects on insulin sensitivity in healthy, normal people. This new study is about people who lose sleep during the week - but the good news is that by extending the number of hours they sleep, they can restore their insulin sensitivity.
Study researchers examined 19 non-diabetic men, who for six months or longer self-reported inadequate sleep during the work week. On average, these men received only 6.2 hours of sleep each work night. But they regularly caught up on their sleep on the weekends, sleeping an extra 37.4% or 2.3 hours every night. Their reported sleep times were verified by actigraphy, in which each man wore a small device on his wrist that monitored sleep-wake cycles.
These men spent three nights in a sleep lab on each of two separate weekends and were randomly to two of three sleep conditions: 1. 10 hours of sleep, 2. Six hours of sleep or 3. 10 hours in bed, in which noises during deep sleep aroused them into shallow sleep without waking them.
On the fourth morning, the research staff measured their blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Each individual had the same food intake during the study visits, so that their diet would not influence their results.
When the men slept 10 hours a night on each of three nights of catch-up sleep, their insulin sensitivity was much better than when they had persistent sleep restriction. Not only that, their insulin resistance test scores also improved with sleep extension.
So if you lose sleep during the week because of your hectic work schedule or busy lifestyle, you too can lower your diabetes risk by catching up on your hours of sleep during the weekend.
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