Sleeping in on the weekend won’t make up for rest lost during the week – study

Having a lie-in over the weekend does not compensate for any hours of sleep lost during the week, researchers have warned.

Studying a group of adults over a two week period, scientists found that those who slept no more than five hours for five days before two days of sleeping as long as they liked, gained next to nothing compared with those who followed a longer, more structured sleeping pattern.

The results indicated that people who slept in on the weekend can benefit from a mild recovery but the effects wear off as soon as they go back to their normal sleep-deprived patterns during the working week.

Woman yawning
The effects of sleeping in on weekends wear off as soon as people go back to their normal sleep-deprived patterns (Julien Behal/PA)

"Our findings suggest that 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," said Kenneth Wright, director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab, and senior author of the paper, published in Current Biology.

"It could be that the yo-yoing back and forth – changing the time we eat, changing our circadian clock and then going back to insufficient sleep – is uniquely disruptive."

The sleepers were tested against a second group instructed to sleep nine hours every night for nine days, and a third group told to sleep for only five hours a night, with their food intake and light exposure continuously monitored.

The outcomes showed that those in the sleep-restricted groups had the tendency to snack more at night, therefore gaining weight and experiencing a drop in insulin sensitivity – the weekend sleep-in group reduced their snacking over the two days.

"In the end, we didn't see any benefit in any metabolic outcome in the people who got to sleep in on the weekend," said Chris Depner, lead author.

In total, the weekend recovery group only managed to gain 66 minutes of extra sleep on average, while men recovered more lost shut-eye than women.

According to the NHS, one in three people in the UK suffer from poor sleep. Most people need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly during the day.

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