Tip: The Truth About Catch-Up Sleep

Does sleeping in on weekends help you make up for poor weekday sleep? Or does it just make you fatter? Science has taken a look.

Sleep and Weight Gain

No sleep, no gains in the gym... or losses if we're talking about fat loss.

A recent meta-study (a study of studies) came to the conclusion that most people need 7 to 9 hours per night, and that virtually everyone who slept 6 hours or less per night wound up suffering from various health issues. Also, no one wanted to be around their grouchy asses... we can assume.

But what about total weekly sleep? Can you make up for missed hours by sleeping in on the weekends, what the researchers call "catch-up" sleep?

A new study looks into this. They wanted to know if there was a relationship between BMI (body mass index, which is a bit crude, but works okay for non-athletes) and the amount of catch-up sleep on the weekend. Lack of sleep is associated with fat gain. But if subjects slept in on the weekend, would they be leaner?

Inadequate sleep messes with you by increasing the risk of obesity and hosing your metabolism via increases in ghrelin and reductions of leptin levels. This leads to an increased appetite and caloric intake plus piss-poor glucose use. Not good.

In this new study, the researchers enrolled 2836 subjects. After an analysis of their sleep habits, they divided them into weekend catch-up sleepers (CUS) or non-CUS groups.

The group that slept in on the weekend had a predicted BMI that was significantly lower than the non-CUS group. The catch-up sleepers actually slept less on weekdays, but achieved more sleep across the week by sleeping in on the weekends.

The researchers concluded: "Compensatory sleep extension on weekends may have a protective role against weight gain due to chronic partial sleep loss."

So try to sleep as much as you can, but if you find yourself not getting enough sleep during the week, sleep in on the weekend to add to your weekly total hours and reduce the risk of fat gain.

  1. Im HJ et al. Association between Weekend Catch-up Sleep and Lower Body Mass: Population-Based Study. Sleep. 2017 Jul 1;40(7). PubMed.
Mike T Nelson, PhD, is a metabolism and fitness expert specializing in improving body composition and performance in athletes.  Dr Nelson is a university instructor and owner of Extreme Human Performance.   Follow Mike T Nelson on Facebook