Published on 17 March 2015

People who find they need a lie-in at weekends to catch up on sleep lost in the week could be at an increased risk of developing health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

A recent study, by a team at the University of Bristol in the UK and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, looked at the effect of "sleep debt" - a measure of the difference in the nightly hours asleep on weekdays and at the weekend.

Their findings, were recently presented at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Diego, and suggested that by increasing sleep people may be able to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Irregular sleeping patterns could contribute to people developing type 2 diabetes

As part of the study the sleeping habits of 522 people found those losing sleep on weekdays were more likely to develop the conditions.

It is now expected that the findings will be tested in larger trials, following other studies that also showed the negative impact that shift work can have on people’s health, where instances of type 2 diabetes have previously been reported.

The action of throwing the body clock out of sync is thought to disrupt the natural rhythm of hormones in the body, leading to a host of health problems.

However, many people cut their sleep during the week and catch up at the weekend due to the pressures of work and social lives.

Professor Shahrad Taheri, from Weill Cornell, said: "We found that as little as 30 minutes a day sleep debt can have significant effects on obesity and insulin resistance."

He added: "Sleep loss is widespread in modern society, but only in the last decade have we realised its metabolic consequences."

"Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success."

The study was funded by the UK's Department of Health, where 10% of healthcare budgets are already spent on treating diabetes.

The condition can lead to blindness, increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as damaging nerves and blood vessels - dramatically increasing the risk of a foot needing to be amputated.

What the researchers do not know is the impact of improving people's sleep so they get more on a weeknight and do not need a weekend lie-in.

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