If you treat yourself to a nice lie-in on the weekend in a bid to catch up on lost sleep, you certainly aren’t alone. Catching up on sleep over the weekend may do more than just recharge your batteries, though. New research suggests the extra sleep may help prevent obesity caused by sleep deprivation.
A 2017 study published in the journal Sleep recruited more than 2,000 individuals from the general population with an average age of 43. Participants were evaluated through a face-to-face interview that included questionnaires on relevant characteristics such as height, weight, typical sleep durations, and any other medical conditions. Shift workers were excluded from the study.
Researchers found that among all participants, the average sleep duration was seven hours and 18 minutes and the average Body Mass Index (BMI) was 23. Just under one quarter of all participants were found to be obese.
The effect of weekend lie-ins
The study revealed that 43 percent of all participants slept for longer on the weekends compared to their average weekday sleep durations, with the average amount of weekend catchup sleep being one hour and 48 minutes. Those who slept for longer on the weekends had significantly lower BMI scores compared to those who did not get any weekend catchup sleep.
The association of weekend catchup sleep with lower BMI was so significant, researchers found that every additional hour of weekend catchup sleep was associated with a decrease in BMI of 0.12.
What if I don’t do weekend lie-ins?
Interestingly, researchers found that those who enjoyed an average sleep duration of more than seven hours but did not get extra sleep on the weekends had a lower BMI than those who averaged less than seven hours of sleep and did not get extra sleep on the weekend.
Additionally, those who slept for longer on the weekend generally got less sleep on weekdays and reported insufficient sleep more often than those who did not catch up on sleep over the weekend.
This suggests that weekend lie-ins have the biggest influence on your BMI if you average less than seven hours of sleep on a nightly basis.
How does sleep protect against weight gain?
Chronic sleep deprivation has already been linked to weight gain and high blood pressure. One study found that sleep deprivation makes sweet foods more appealing and another found that we buy more food at the grocery store when we are sleep deprived.
The simple fact that we spend more time awake when sleep deprived, and therefore have higher energy requirements, can also lead to over-eating.
Adequate sleep more important than weekend lie-ins
As the authors of this study pointed out, although catching up on sleep on weekends can be a quick fix to help compensate for insufficient sleep during the week, it is not a long-term solution.
It’s usually best to stick to a regular sleep schedule — and this involves going to bed and getting out of bed at the same time every day, including weekends.
With that being said, if you are struggling with insufficient sleep and feel that weekend lie-ins are all that keep you going, this study’s authors did suggest that they may be a better option than daytime naps, which have been associated with health conditions such as diabetes and depression.
See more helpful articles:
Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free insomnia sleep training. His online course uses CBT techniques to teach participants how to sleep better without relying on sleeping pills. More than 5,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.