We all do it. We shave off sleep time during weekdays because of our lifestyle or work commitments. We think we can catch up on weekends, but did you know that losing just half an hour of sleep everyday during the week can have long-term consequences on your metabolism and body weight?
Sleeping In During Weekends Doesn’t Cut it
The sleeping habits of 522 individuals were recently studied by the UK’s University of Bristol and the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in order to assess “sleep debt” — a measure of the difference between how much people sleep on weekdays and weekends.
The study found that catching up on sleep during weekends can’t reverse the effects of sleep debt, and those who slept for shorter hours on weeknights were disrupting their metabolism and were more prone to becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes.
Shahrad Taheri, the study’s lead author, explains:
“While previous studies have shown that short sleep duration is associated with obesity and diabetes, we found that as little as 30 minutes a day, sleep debt can have significant effects on obesity and insulin resistance at follow-up.”
At the start of the study, the participants, who were required to keep sleep diaries to calculate their sleep debt and who slept less than the recommended sleep time, were found to be 72% more likely to become obese compared with those who slept during the recommended hours.
The link between sleep debt, obesity and diabetes were found to be significant six months into the study.
By 12 months, researchers found that those who shaved off 30 minutes of weekday sleep were prone to a 39% increase in risk of insulin resistance and 17% increase in risk of obesity. Diabetes increases the risk of strokes, heart attacks, blindness and other serious health issues.
The Right Amount of Sleep Every Night
Sleep experts recommend that adults get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, that teenagers get nine hours, and that children get between nine to ten hours.
The natural rhythm of hormones in the body becomes disrupted when you are sleep-deprived, making you more susceptible to a pre-diabetic state. In other words, a lack of sleep causes weight gain because the brain sends signals that generate an increase in appetite and the need to consume carbohydrates. Taheri writes:
“Sleep loss is widespread in modern society, but only in the last decade have we realized its metabolic consequences. Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success.”
Night shifts, social lives and job pressures were cited by the report as having the most impact on sleep debt.
Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep, according to The Daily Mail:
— Keep your bedroom dark to fall asleep faster. Light disrupts the body clock.
— Lie flat to avoid aches that might wake you up. Also, make sure your neck is flat over the pillow to avoid neck pain.
— Eat a couple of hours before going to bed. Doing so will allow you to sleep more deeply. And avoid alcohol, sugar, and caffeine, all of which can disrupt sleep.
— Get exercise, which boosts uninterrupted sleep. Just don’t do it right before bed because your body temperature “can take a few hours to drop back to a normal level.”
— Ventilate your bedroom. Dust and mold can cause irritation, interrupting good sleep.
— Go to bed at roughly the same time every night. Your body will then be able to recognize when it’s time for sleep.