“It (the study) shows that young, healthy people who sporadically fail to get sufficient sleep during the work week can reduce their diabetes risk if they catch up on sleep during the weekend,” said senior study author Esra Tasali, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago in the US.
The pattern of cutting back on sleep during the work week followed by catching up on sleep over the weekend is common and the new finding, published online in the journal Diabetes Care, could affect large numbers of people who work long hours.
Even short-term sleep deficit, with four or five hours of sleep per night, can increase the risk of developing diabetes by about 16 percent – comparable to the increase in risk caused by obesity, the study pointed out.
“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,” Josiane Broussard, assistant research professor at University of Colorado, Boulder noted.
For the study, the researchers recruited 19 volunteers, all healthy young men. On one occasion, they were allowed to sleep normally, spending 8.5 hours in bed for four nights.
On another occasion, the same volunteers were first sleep deprived, and later they were allowed two nights of extended sleep, during which they averaged 9.7 hours of sleep.
After four nights of sleep restriction, the volunteers’ insulin sensitivity — the ability of insulin to regulate blood sugars — decreased by 23 percent and their diabetes risk increased by 16 percent.
After two nights of extended sleep, however, insulin sensitivity and the risk of diabetes returned to normal sleep levels, the study said.