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If your parents have ever nagged at you to get out of bed and do something productive on a Saturday morning, you can now tell them that sleeping in on weekends is a good practice, especially for those who regularly do not get enough sleep during the week. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago sleep laboratory, suggests that catching up on sleep — by sleeping in on weekends — reduces the risk of diabetes.

 Sleeping in on the weekends can help reduce sleep debt.

Image Source: Astronaut Images.

Losing a few hours of sleep every day is increasingly common among people in modern times. Similarly, diabetes is an increasingly pressing issue in the US — 22 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease involves the hormone insulin, which normally signals cells to intake glucose from the bloodstream. People with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, while people with Type 2 diabetes do not react properly to insulin.

While the kind of food an individual eats and the exercise an individual engages in definitely contribute to the risk of Type 2 diabetes, the study suggests that sleep deprivation may also contribute to the risk of the disease.

 Diabetes may be influenced by lack of sleep.

Image Source:  Peter Dazeley.

The researchers studied 19 healthy male volunteers, regulating the amount of sleep the members got during two four-night periods. They compared 8.5 hours of sleep a night (the control) for that group to a subsequent period of 4.5 hours of sleep a night (for the same group) followed by an average of 9.7 hours a night for two more nights. The volunteers’ insulin sensitivity (low insulin sensitivity is associated with Type 2 diabetes) decreased by 23 percent and their risk of diabetes (measured using the disposition index) rose 16 percent. These numbers returned to normal after the two nights of extra sleep. The researchers concluded that making up for sleepless weekdays by sleeping in on the weekends is advantageous. 

These results imply that individuals can catch up on sleep during the weekend, according to senior author Dr. Ezra Tasali. However, the small sample size, short study period, and relatively homogenous demographic of the study may have affected the data. Other variables like diet might also have skewed the results. At the very least, the study adds to a growing base of evidence that lack of sleep negatively affects people with diabetes.

Feature Image Source: Erin Murphy

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