Sleep is indispensable – unfortunately


By John DiTraglia



What a shame we have to spend a third of our lives asleep, even though it’s fun. There is growing evidence that trying to skirt this inevitability of sleep time by modern people is a risk factor for obesity and diabetes. Furthermore trying to make up for sleeping fewer than the 7 hours recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine during the work week by sleeping in on weekends also won’t make up for the damage to metabolism associated with insufficient sleep according to a study in Current Biology. (1,2)

These researchers brought 36 healthy normal weight adults, aged 18 to 39 years, into their sleep lab and randomly assigned them to one of three groups: – control group of sufficient sleep consisting of up to nine hours of sleep per night for nine nights. – sleep restriction without weekend recovery consisting of up to five hours of sleep per night for nine nights. – sleep restriction with weekend recovery of up to five hours of sleep per weeknight with unrestricted sleep on the weekend.

The sleep deprived people had a decline in insulin sensitivity that was actually worse for the group that got to catch up on the weekend. Sleep restricted participants also ate an excess of 500 Calories per night after dinner. Sleep deprived participants with weekend recovery ate even more – more like 640 extra calories. Since not sleeping burns more calories it would make sense that they had to eat more but they ate too much more. Both sleep restricted groups gained three pounds by the end of the project.

Another well known problem with catching up on sleep during days off is that it makes it harder to get to sleep on Sunday night and get up on time for work or school on Monday morning.

These were healthy young people. Maybe it would be even worse for people who aren’t.

I’ve come recently to another sad realization. Wasting time is also an intractable fact of life and may also be good for you. Add to that the time it takes getting ready then commuting to work and it’s a wonder we manage to get anything done.

1. Rubin R. Sleeping in doesn’t mitigate metabolic changes linked to sleep deficit. JAMA June 4,2019;321(21):2062-3.

2. Depner CM. et al. Ad libitum Weekend Recovery Sleep Fails to Prevent Metabolic Dysregulation during a Repeating Pattern of Insufficient Sleep and Weekend Recovery Sleep. Current Biology. March 18,2019;29(6):957-67.

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By John DiTraglia

John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- jditrag@zoomnet.net or phone (740) 354-6605.

John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- jditrag@zoomnet.net or phone (740) 354-6605.