Can Catch-Up Sleep Pay Back Your Sleep Debt?

For the one out of six Americans sleeping less than seven hours per night, a sleep debt may feel “normal.”1 But, similar to a financial debt, the real cost may not be immediately apparent and can be damaging with time.

Sleep debt is costly for your body

Even a few nights of insufficient sleep can leave you sleepy, with slower reaction times, foggy thinking, overall decreased performance, and, perhaps, a less than sunny disposition. Less noticeable is the disruption that may happen silently inside of our body: The effects of long-term sleep deprivation can possibly lead to negative health consequences.

Weekend catch-up sleep: does it work?

Extra weekend shut-eye is a coveted treasure for the sleep-deprived. While we know it makes us feel better, can those extra hours of sleep reverse the health risks of a sleep-poor Monday-Friday?

Catch-up sleep and weight gain

Studies have found a consistent link between sleep deficiency and weight gain—even over a very short time frame.2 In fact, when it comes to weight, every hour of sleep counts—not only for weight gain but also preventing it. In a study of over 2,000 participants, those who slept longer on the weekends, nearly two hours longer on average, had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t. Further, every extra hour of weekend catch-up sleep was associated with a significantly lower body mass.3

Strategies to help you get—and stay—out of sleep debt

So short-term, catch-up sleep can be helpful for paying back your sleep debt. But it shouldn’t be your only strategy. In addition to eliminating lifestyle-related sleep issues (overscheduling, limiting caffeine and electronics before bed, room temperature and darkness, etc.), you may want to consider dietary supplements that help support relaxation and healthy sleep.*

Some ingredients that can help support rest and relaxation include:

  • Magnesium bis-glycinateMagnesium may help relieve muscle tension related to stresss and help support nervous system health. However, while abundant in green, leafy vegetables, magnesium is often lacking in the Standard American Diet. Further, it can be depleted by stress. So, magnesium deficiency in not uncommon. The bis-glycinate form enhances magnesium absorption and intestinal tolerance.*
  • TaurineTaurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is abundant in the central nervous system, and it may play a role in regulating the brain’s chemical environment.  Laboratory evidence suggests that taurine may influence GABA metabolism.  Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that has a calming, relaxing influence.*
  • Folate and vitamin B12—These vitamins are cofactors for neurotransmitter production, including serotonin. Serotonin is associated with mood, sleep, and relaxation.*
  • Vitamin B6—This vitamin helps the body convert glutamate (a stimulatory neurotransmitter) into GABA, which can support a calm and relaxed state.*
  • Melatonin—Produced and released by the pineal gland, melatonin helps regulate sleep, waking, and the body’s circadian rhythm (or time clock).* Changing time zones, evening shift work, and bright light exposure during desired sleep times can all inhibit melatonin release and potentially disrupt sleep patterns.*
  • Sleep-friendly botanicals—Extracts of passionflower, hops, valerian, and Chinese skullcap provide added support for relaxation and a sense of calm.*

There are a number of specialized formulas that contain the above ingredients which can help you relax and relieve occasional sleeplessness.* Talk to your healthcare practitioner to determine which options are best for your individual needs.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
  1. National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Time. https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times Accessed 7.19.17.
  2. Spaeth AM; Dinges DF; Goel N. Effects of experimental sleep restriction on weight gain, caloric intake, and meal timing in healthy adults. SLEEP 2013;36(7):981-990.
  3. Hee-Jin Im, MD, MMSc, Shin-Hye Baek, MD, MMSc, Min Kyung Chu, MD, PhD, Kwang Ik Yang, MD, PhD, Won-Joo Kim, MD, PhD, Seong-Ho Park, MD, PhD, Robert J. Thomas, MD, MMSc, Chang-Ho Yun, MD, PhD; Association Between Weekend Catch-up Sleep and Lower Body Mass: Population-Based Study. Sleep 2017; 40 (7): zsx089. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsx089
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About Maribeth Evezich

Maribeth Evezich, MS, RD is a functional nutrition and therapeutic lifestyle consultant. Maribeth is also a graduate of Bastyr University and the Natural Gourmet Institute. Whether she is in her kitchen experimenting, at her computer researching, or behind the lens of her camera, she is on a mission to inspire others to love whole foods. as much as she does. She lives in Seattle and is the founder of Lifestyle Medicine Consulting, LLC and the culinary nutrition blog, Whole Foods Explorer. Maribeth Evezich is a paid consultant and guest writer for Metagenics.

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