HomeWellnessLifestyleCan we fix sleep debt by sleeping in on the weekends?

Can we fix sleep debt by sleeping in on the weekends?

In a recent study in Current Biology, researchers determined whether making up for lost sleep by sleeping in on the weekend can fulfill sleep debt.

Millions of people around the world suffer from sleep debt. Sleep debt is a major risk factor for obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. Not only does a lack of sleep contribute to diseases, but it also changes the behavioral and physiological processes that can lead to weight gain and reduced insulin sensitivity. The potential differences in gender sleep debt were examined by researchers.

In a recent study published in Current Biology, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder in the United States assessed sleep, energy intake, weight gain and insulin sensitivity during nine nights of sleep debt. A total of 36 healthy adults, from ages 18 to 39, were enrolled in a two weeks study to monitor their food intake, light exposure and sleep pattern. The participants were enrolled into three groups, control group, sleep restriction group, and weekend recovery group.

The first group was allowed nine hours of sleep every night for nine nights. The second group was allowed five hours of sleep every night for nine nights. The third and final group were allowed to sleep no more than five hours per night for only five nights followed by a weekend where they were allowed to sleep as much as they like.

Sleep-restricted participants snacked more at night and gained more weight

The study showed that the sleep-restricted group and the control group snacked more at nights, gained weight and saw declines in insulin sensitivity during the study. Those enrolled in the weekend recovery group saw very little improvements during the weekend, but that went away when once they started the sleep-restricted work week.

Sleeping in on the weekends did not prevent consequences associated with lack of sleep

Those enrolled in the study found it impossible to recover sleep that has been lost. The researchers found that weekend recovery is not effective in preventing the consequences associated with lack of sleep over weeks at a time. Frequent lack of sleep after weekend recovery sleep shows the hepatic and muscle insulin sensitivity were reduced.

This study can be used as the foundation for future studies on sleep debt. One limitation mentioned in the study is the total amount of sleep recovered during the weekend recovery provided. Researchers determined weekend recovery sleep can be a benefit for those who do not get enough sleep during the week.

Written by Nicole A. Brown, MS


  1. Depner, C.M., Melanson, E.L., Eckel, R.H., …, Stothard, E.R., Morton, S.J., Wright, K.P. (2019). Ad libitum weekend recovery sleep fails to prevent metabolic dysregulation during a repeating pattern of insufficient sleep and weekend recovery sleep. Current Biology. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.069
  2. University of Colorado at Boulder. (2019). Sleeping in on the weekend won’t repay your sleep debt. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-02/uoca-sio022719.php


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