Life

Why 'Sleeping In' on Weekends is Not a Healthy Option for Some

It’s that time of year again. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, we’ll be “springing forward” and shifting our clocks ahead one hour and switching to daylight savings time. While this yearly routine leads the way to prolonged daylight in the afternoons, it also upsets our sleep in the short-term by losing an hour.

But for those adults who don’t get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, it’s more than an inconvenience. Springing forward affects those with sleep health issues the most. Moreover, a new study finds that “catch up” sleep on weekends, or “sleeping in” on Saturdays and Sundays, is not a healthy strategy, especially for the those who are sleep-deprived on weekdays.

The study, published last week in the journal Current Biology, found that people who did not sleep enough during the week — but snatched extra hours on the weekend — tended to snack more, have weight management issues and carried an increased risk of diabetes.

“Our findings suggest that the common behavior of burning the candle during the week and trying to make up for it on the weekend is not an effective health strategy,” said the paper’s senior author, Kenneth Wright, director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Of the adults, aged 18 to 39, who were monitored as part of the study, the sleep-deprived groups snacked more at night, resulting in weight gain. They also experienced decreasing insulin sensitivity, a warning sign for diabetes risk. Those who “recovered” sleep time on weekends only saw some mild improvement on Saturdays and Sunday — but those benefits evaporated as soon as they resumed their Monday-through-Friday schedule of restricted sleep.

“When people are thinking about a healthy lifestyle, they have to consider what they eat and if they exercise,” said Jeremy Tabak, M.D., medical director of Baptist Sleep Center at Galloway and Baptist Hospital’s Sleep Diagnostic Center. “But how much sleep they are getting should be right up there with a healthy diet and exercising regularly,”

The National Sleep Foundation states that many adults assume eight hours in bed amounts to meeting the daily sleep requirement. But they fail to take into account, the number of times they wake up throughout the night, or minutes spent tossing and turning under the covers, “which can seriously cut down on both the quantity and quality of that sleep,” the Foundation says.

Sleep health experts stress the importance of creating a bedroom environment devoid of any activated electronic devices — smartphones, tablets and TVs. “I think it’s very important for the bedroom environment to be conducive to good sleep,” says Dr. Tabak. “So, you want a dark room and a cool room, sufficiently cool without being overly cold, and a quiet room.”

Sleep diagnostic centers can help patients diagnosed with sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Many people who don’t get enough sleep may not suffer from these conditions. Nonetheless, their disrupted circadian biological clocks can contribute to a range of serious health issues, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, headaches and depression. The body’s internal circadian clocks regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.

Here are tips to getting a better night’s sleep:

  • Establish a routine for bed and wake-up times, and keep that schedule consistent throughout the week.
  • Turn off electronic devices when you go to bed.
  • Avoiding eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
  • If you are unable to fall asleep, try going to another room and reading until feeling sleepy — then return to bed.
  • Exercise regularly throughout the week.
  • Keeping the bedroom quiet, dark and a comfortably cool temperature.

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