Weekend Exercise Warriors–Now Weekend Sleepers?

We all know some weekend warriors who load up on their exercise on the weekends to make up for doing less physical activity during the week, but now researchers in Hong Kong found that catching up on sleep on the weekends may help in preventing some health problems, at least in kids ages 5-15 participating in a year-long study. Children who got less sleep tend to be heavier (as measured by body mass index, or BMI) than children who slept more, but among those who slept less than eight hours a night, the kids who compensated for their weekday sleep deficit by sleeping late on weekends or holidays were less likely to be overweight or obese. The overweight children tended to get less weekend and holiday sleep and spent more time doing homework and watching TV than their normal-weight peers. Although there’s a lot of evidence linking short sleep duration with a higher body weight, this study is the first to show that attempting to make up for lost weekday sleep on the weekends may help kids avoid weight gain. Of course, there’s also some evidence that kids who are not getting enough sleep get less physical activity, perhaps because they’re too tired, which could contribute to weight gain.
There’s no doubt that lack of sleep affects adults, too. In today’s society, people are generally sleeping one to two hours less than a few decades ago, and that lack of sleep may be resulting in higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is strongly linked with insulin resistance and decreased immune function. It’s likely that getting enough sleep may help you not only manage your diabetes better, but also keep up your regular exercise and fight off the swine flu. While the study cited was in children and not in adults, for now it’s safe to assume that getting adequate amounts of sleep will likely benefit your overall health and your body weight, even if you get more by simply catching up on the weekends.

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