Why your weekend lie-ins don’t make up for a lack of sleep in the week

Most of us are under the impression that having a much-needed lie-in during the weekends will help make up for the sleep we’ve lost during the working week.

Whether you’re an insomniac or just have a hectic schedule that means you can’t quite fit in the recommended seven to nine hours, Saturday and Sunday mornings are when many of us like to ‘catch up’ on the sleep we’ve been lacking.

However, a new study has revealed that this might all be an illusion, as weekend lie-ins don’t actually make up for a week of terrible slumber.

Getty Images

In fact, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, who conducted the study, they could actually be making things a lot worse.

As reported by HuffPost, the research team drew the conclusions by enlisting 36 healthy adults, aged 18 to 39, to stay for two weeks in a laboratory. Here, the volunteers had their food intake, light exposure and sleep monitored.

The scientists divided the participants into three groups: the first one was allowed a substantial amount of sleep time (nine hours each night for nine nights), the second was allowed five hours per night over that same period, while the third group (named the ‘recovery group’) slept a maximum of five hours per night for five days, followed by a weekend where they could sleep as much as they liked.

The results demonstrated how sleep restriction and catching up on rest at the weekend affects metabolic health, as it highlighted that the two sleep restricted groups snacked more at night, backing up previous studies that have made a direct link between a lack of sleep and risk of obesity.

Getty Images

The study also found that the people in groups one and two gained weight and saw declines in insulin sensitivity during the study period. Meanwhile the recovery group saw mild improvements during the weekend, including less snacking. However, this benefit totally disappeared as soon as they returned to their weekday sleeping pattern. Also, the group actually only got 66 minutes more sleep on average at the weekend.

Plus, the overall impact turned out to be even worse for them as they saw a higher decline in body insulin sensitivity than the two other groups.

Emphasising on the outcome, the study’s lead author Kenneth Wright said: ‘The common behaviour of burning the candle during the week and trying to make up for it on the weekend is not an effective health strategy.’

So, it sounds like having a consistent sleeping pattern seven days a week really is better than trying to catch up. But it’s easier said than done…