The Benefits of Sleeping In

Most of us enjoy sleeping in on the weekends after a long week at the office. And recent findings from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Lab suggest that this may actually be beneficial for your health! Although the study was done on a small scale, the results may provide support for a more in depth investigation.

What They Found
The researchers had 19 healthy young men follow either a normal sleep schedule (8.5 hours) or a restricted sleep schedule (4.5 hours). After sleeping 4 days on one of these schedules, the participants were allowed two consecutive nights of 12 hour and 10 hour sleep “recovery” sessions. The researchers measured subjects’ insulin sensitivity in the mornings throughout the experiment, and they found that those who were on restricted sleep schedules had 23% lower insulin sensitivity. The good news, though, is that insulin sensitivity was restored after the recovery sessions.

What Is Insulin Sensitivity and Why Is It Important?
Insulin is a hormone that controls how much sugar is in your bloodstream. When you eat a meal, your blood sugar rises and insulin is produced to control it. The less sensitive your body is to insulin, the more sugar stays in your blood. When sensitivity is very low, it can lead to type 2 diabetes. Therefore, in order to keep healthy blood sugar levels (and reduce your disease risk), your body needs to be able to respond to insulin sufficiently. The initial results of this new study support previous trials that showed changes in metabolic processes due to a lack of sleep, as well as an association between poor sleep patterns and diabetes.

How It’s Linked to Aging
As we age, insulin production decreases which makes insulin sensitivity all the more important. This research suggests that depriving ourselves of sleep, especially chronically, may make it harder to control elevated blood sugar. To some extent, we can’t do much about reduced insulin production as we age. Therefore, maximizing insulin sensitivity (by sleeping well) is extra important. And, as this particular study showed, having those two nights of weekend recovery sleep could make all the difference. So get those extra Z’s in this weekend!

(Feature photo courtesy of

Marcel Davidse

Marcel Davidse was an intern with the Healthy Aging Project in the fall of 2016, and graduated in December 2016 from the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder.