Sleeping In On The Weekends Can Help You Live Longer, Study Finds

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Researchers have carried out a study to determine how lack of sleep during the week and weekend can correspond with an individual's mortality rate.

Sleeping in feels great, and now a new study from sleep scientists at Stockholm University's Stress Research Institute finds that it may also be an effective way to make up for the sleep you missed during the week, contradicting previously held beliefs on the matter. "The real question is whether there is, in fact, a build-up of deficit, or biological changes that are gradual over time, even though you get recovery sleep".

The study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, is based on data from more than 38,000 adults, collected during a lifestyle and medical survey conducted throughout Sweden in 1997. According to the results, people younger than 65 who got five hours of sleep or less seven days a week had a 65 percent higher morality rate than people who got a healthy six or seven hours of sleep. It found that people who regularly slept about five hours or less a night, including on weekends, saw a higher mortality rate - the likelihood of death during the study period - compared with those who regularly got seven hours.

He said his team "suspected" that studies that didn't look at catching up on sleep during weekends "may not be enough".

"What happens is, if you are well-rested, your sleep drive will be low in the morning, and it builds and builds over the day, when at night you need to go to bed to relieve that pressure for sleep".

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But there was no increased risk of death for those who slept five or fewer hours during the week but then managed eight or more hours' sleep on weekend days.

From there researchers performed tests on the participants to study their reaction times. "People can not learn to live on insufficient sleep and they may not be aware of their reduced cognitive abilities".

"Possibly, long weekend sleep may compensate for short weekday sleep", the authors wrote.

The new study focused only on the link between sleep duration and longevity, yet sleep loss can also have negative effects on cognitive, behavioral and metabolic health. For one thing, sleep duration was self-reported by participants. Stuart Peirson, an expert in the human body clock who was not involved in the research, told The Guardian it "fits with what we do know about sleep", offering a more nuanced view on how much sleep we need to get. "We're still in a fairly early stage of understanding the mechanism by which amount of sleep relates to different health risks", Dinges says. He said: "You can't keep burning the candle at both ends".

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