Making Up Sleep May Not Help

Catching up on sleep doesn’t reverse damage to the body caused by sleep deprivation, according to a new study. In fact, so-called recovery sleep may make some things worse.

About one of every three adults regularly gets less than seven hours of sleep a night. Over time, lack of sleep can lead to changes in metabolism. These increase the risk for obesity and diabetes.

Some people try to make up for a lack of sleep by sleeping more on their days off. A research team studied this strategy for two weeks in 36 men and women. After three nights of normal sleep, the participants were split into three groups.

The first group slept up to nine hours a night. The second group was allowed a maximum of five hours of sleep a night. The third group had a maximum of five hours a night for five days, but were then allowed to sleep in for two days. They then had two more days of sleep deprivation.

Those who had only five hours of sleep a night gained about 3 pounds on average during the study. They also had a 13% decrease in a key measure of metabolism called insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is the body’s ability to use insulin properly and control blood sugar levels.

Those who had recovery sleep gained about 3 pounds but had a 27% decrease in insulin sensitivity. Their natural body rhythms were also disrupted. They were more likely to wake up during the nights following the period of recovery sleep.

“Catch-up sleep does not appear to be an effective strategy to reverse sleep loss-induced disruptions of metabolism,” says Dr. Kenneth Wright, Jr., who led the study at the University of Colorado.

“The dominant pattern of sleep, arguably since time immemorial, was biphasic,” Roger Ekirch, a sleep historian at Virginia Tech University and author of “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past” (Norton 2005), told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience. “Humans slept in two four-hour blocks, which were separated by a period of wakefulness in the middle of the night lasting an hour or more. During this time some might stay in bed, pray, think about their dreams, or talk with their spouses. Others might get up and do tasks or even visit neighbors before going back to sleep.”

References to “first sleep” or “deep sleep” and “second sleep” or “morning sleep” abound in legal depositions, literature and other archival documents from pre-Industrial European times. Gradually, though, during the 19th century, “language changed and references to segmented sleep fell away,” said Ekirch. “Now people call it insomnia.”

The idea that its natural to sleep “on time” and once a day is a big scam to begin with.

Unless they use that as a baseline the study is not honest.

I’m seeing a sleep specialist right now because my sleep pattern has changed markedly over the past year. I either have trouble falling asleep of fall asleep and wake 15-60 minutes later. I sometimes wake up several times a night. For the past 8 weeks I’ve been on what amounts to a sleep deprivation schedule designed to reset my body, then slowly adding more sleep hours until I’m at 6+ hours of largely uninterrupted sleep. So far it’s doing an OK job.

In the process of doing this I learned there’s a blood sugar component. If my blood sugar is in the 110-130 range I’m very anxious and I have a tough time falling asleep and staying asleep. My best sleep comes when I’m 80-100, or strangely, 200+. Has anyone else experienced this? The sleep doc hasn’t heard of this.

I’ve bumped up my basals so I stay much closer to the lower end of my range and that helps, save for the alarms when I dip even slightly below 80. I’ve been using Basal-IQ the last 2-1/2 weeks and that’s made a tremendous difference eliminating minor lows without manual intervention. Now I can run closer to 80 through the night.

I asked the doctor about the biphasic sleep idea. She doesn’t put much credence in it because most of her patients don’t exhibit symptoms that would be eliminated by asking them to move to two segments separated by a 1 hour+ period. She also pointed out that most people can barely fit 6-7 hours of sleep into their hectic schedules. The concept of adding a 1+ hour waking period just isn’t an option for most.

Yes, I used to hear that a high blood sugar was better than a sleeping pill! The way it was worded (which isn’t how I worded it just now) was much better and made me laugh out loud! I’m surprised that the sleep doc never heard of it.

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