The sleep ‘side effect’ that leads to weight gain, high BP and heart disease

Are you in debt to the Sandman? Maybe you’ve cut down to five or six hours of sleep per night, because that’s the only way you can find enough time in the day.

Sure, you feel a little tired. But you figure, you’ll refill your sleep savings account on the weekend when you have extra time. Or next time you take a vacation from work, you’ll sleep for a week straight.

Well, this approach to sleep will catch up with you sooner rather than later. Shorting yourself on sleep literally shortens your life and increases your risk for cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

And sleeping in on the weekend won’t solve all your problems. In fact, the latest research shows making up missed sleep is not as simple as it seems…

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You can’t make up missed sleep

So you’re not getting seven to eight hours of sleep during the work week. No big deal, right? You can just make it up on the weekend. Wrong.

A recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions shows that when you miss out on sleep, the damage is done whether you make it up later or not.

The study included 21,000 older female health care professionals with no history of heart disease or cancer. Women who got less sleep were more likely to have poor heart health. No surprise there. But there was one surprise…

Women who slept two extra hours every weekend to make up for their missed sleep during the week were still more likely to have poor heart health. So sleeping in on the weekend didn’t have any benefit… at least not for their hearts.

Why is missing sleep so bad for your heart (whether you make it up or not)?

Well, sacrificing sleep regularly increases cortisol, the flight-or-fight hormone in our body, which contributes to inflammation, weight gain and high blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease.

Plenty of past studies show that getting less sleep is bad for your heart. But this one of the first to show that missing out on sleep every night leads to a sleep debt that you can’t easily make up. According to researchers, it’s sending a clear message to people who take the weekend warrior approach to sleep and health.

“People tend to leave all healthy behaviors to the weekend,” said Michelle Albert, M.D., the study’s senior researcher and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “We call those people weekend warriors, who hit the gym on the weekend but remain sedentary all week. Healthy behaviors, including healthy eating, exercise, and achieving adequate sleep, should occur throughout the week.”

Pace yourself weekend warriors

What’s the solution to this missed sleep-heart dilemma?

Well, if you can, start spreading out your responsibilities (and sleep) more evenly throughout the week. I know it’s no fun to think about saving work and chores for the weekend, but if it means you can get at least seven hours of sleep during the week, it’s a healthier approach to life.

In fact, researchers say the healthiest approach to sleep is to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Get about the same amount of sleep every night (at least seven hours). And try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Here are some other tips for healthy sleep:

And when you’re tempted miss out on an hour or two of sleep to finish something for work, get the dishes and laundry done, or finally finish that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for six months, remember you’re racking up a debt you can’t easily make up.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!


  1. Sleep and Disease Risk — Harvard Medical School. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  2. Catching up on sleep over the weekend may not help the heart — MedicalXpress. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  3. Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep — Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and