You can’t make up for lost sleep at weekends!

So many of us do it. Work like demons during the week, eat late, collapse in front of the TV or carry on working at the computer late into the night. We barely scrape 6 hours sleep…but comfort ourselves that we will be able to have a long lie-in at the weekend to restore and revive (assuming we don’t have young kids waking us up, of course!).

Sorry to disillusion you, but another study has just come out to say that we are fooling ourselves. With increasing evidence on the value of sleep, it seems that a regular 7-8 hours a night is best – not a few hours here and a long lie-in there. There’s more research too, highlighting the importance of our in-built body clock…which runs on a strict 24 hour cycle (give or take 15 minutes or so) and affects all our basic mechanisms from hormone production to food digestion. Get out of sync with that body clock at your peril – it plays havoc with health, weight and more.

So, what’s the bottom line from this new study?

Well, it wasn’t huge numbers but it divided participants into 3 groups. The first got the opportunity for 9 hours sleep a night for 9 nights, the second had restricted sleep (maximum 5 hours a night) for 9 nights, the third had restricted sleep for 5 nights, 2 nights of ‘catch up’ sleep then back to restricted sleep for a further 2 nights.

The study group that was allowed weekend ‘catch up’ sleep only managed to repay an hour or so of the average 12 hours of sleep lost during the week and ended up in a similar state of poor health to the fully sleep restricted group.

Both of these groups with sleep restriction ate more in the evenings and gained weight as a result – similar to previous studies showing that poor sleep leads to weight gain. What’s more they had increased insulin resistance – an imbalance in hormones that can progress to type 2 diabetes and predispose to heart disease, liver disease and more.

Trying to catch up with sleep at weekends didn’t help much – in fact it disrupted the body clock further leading to symptoms similar to jet-lag – and any small benefits from the extra sleep were rapidly lost when the tiring working week followed.

This study adds to the mounting evidence that getting a regular good night’s sleep is one of the best things we can do for our health, weight and wellbeing. What’s more, keeping our body clock ticking happily away without disruption means that all of our vital, carefully regulated, body processes can do what they are supposed to – and that’s to keep us running efficiently and effectively.

Don’t fool yourself – sleep deprivation isn’t a recipe for long-term success, even if you get a weekend lie-in!