New research suggests that catching up on sleep at the weekend could improve insulin sensitivity and thus help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The finding comes from a team of researchers who set out to discover what happens to the body’s sensitivity to insulin – the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels – in people who make up for a lack of sleep during the working week at the weekend.
Decreased insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, is one of the major risk factors for both pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
For the study, experts from Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute in the US and the University of Sydney, Australia, monitored a group of 19 healthy, non-diabetic men, with an average age of 29.
The men reported they had only been getting around six hours of sleep on weeknights for an average of 5.1 years. But they said they regularly made up for lack of shut eye at the weekend, regularly sleeping for another two hours or more on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.
Fasting blood samples were taken from the men following a three-night sleep lab experiment, and the test results revealed that insulin sensitivity was much improved after a weekend of longer sleep (10 hours a night).
“We all know that we need to get adequate sleep but that is often impossible because of work demands and busy lifestyles,” said lead researcher Dr Peter Liu.
“Our study found that extending the hours of sleep can improve the body’s use of insulin, thereby reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in adult men. Reducing the incidence of this chronic illness is critical.”
The findings, which were presented this week at the Endocrine Society’s annual conference in San Francisco, support previous research linking sleep restriction with increased insulin resistance.

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