Make-Up Sleep Improves Insulin Sensitivity—Possible Type 2 Diabetes Prevention

The destructive effects of sleep deprivation include weight gain, insulin resistance, increased risk of stroke, among a long list of conditions and symptoms. Yet many of us do not get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, especially during the week. A study presented at The Endocrine Society’s recent Annual Meeting offers some good news for those of us who sleep less on weeknights while making up for it on weekends.

The researchers studied 19 non-diabetic men who reported at least six months of insufficient sleep during weeknights. The men reported sleeping an average of 6.2 hours on weeknights, which was verified by a monitor that detects sleep-wake cycles. The men spent three nights in a sleep lab on two separate weekends. Those men who slept 10 hours a night for three nights had greatly improved their insulin sensitivity when compared to those men who only got 6 hours of sleep, or who slept for 10 hours with continual sound-interruption.

“The good news is that by extending the hours of sleep, adult men—who over a long period of time do not get enough sleep during the working week—can still improve their insulin sensitivity,” stated lead researcher Peter Liu, MD, PhD.

Insulin sensitivity is the ability of the body to move sugar (glucose) into cells from the bloodstream. Insulin sensitivity determines blood sugar levels. The more insulin sensitivity there is, the better the blood sugar levels are. Conversely, insulin resistance is the inability of the body to move sugar into cells, thus raising blood sugar levels. Sleep deprivation has been found to increase insulin resistance.

More research is needed to confirm these results in a larger group of people, and also in women. Whether make-up sleep helps reduce the other detrimental effects of lack of sleep remains to be seen, but at least there is some hope for those of us who lack sleep. Getting seven to eight plus hours of sleep per night is still the best way to maximize health benefits, however. So when you can, try to get a full night’s sleep.

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