Sleeping in on the Weekend Could Help You Live Longer

A growing body of research is highlighting the importance of getting a good night's sleep, with numerous studies showing that a chronic lack of shut-eye can increase your risk of death.

However, the constant distractions of modern society and busy work schedules make it difficult for many people to achieve the required amount of rest during the week.

But according to a new study, published in Journal of Sleep Research, the negative effects of a few nights of short sleep could be counteracted by staying in bed over the weekend.

Researchers from the Stress Research Institute (SRI) at Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute—Sweden's foremost medical university—examined medical and lifestyle data from more than 43,000 adults, following them for a period of 13 years.

They found that people under 65 who only managed to snooze for an average of five hours or less in the week but then slept for eight hours or more over the weekend did not have an increased risk of death compared with individuals who slept at least six to seven hours every night.

To ensure that the data was not being skewed in some way, the scientists took into account various factors such as gender, body mass index, physical activity levels, smoking status and whether or not the individuals did shift work.

A lie-in over the weekend could counteract the negative effects of short sleeps during the week, according to a new study. iStock

"The results imply that short (weekday) sleep is not a risk factor for mortality if it is combined with a medium or long weekend sleep," the researchers wrote in the study. "This suggests that short weekday sleep may be compensated for during the weekend, and that this has implications for mortality."

But the restorative properties of having a longer sleep only worked up to a point, according to the findings. The researchers found that people who slept for eight hours or more every day of the week had a 25 percent higher mortality rate compared to those who managed six or seven hours a night.

First author of the study Torbjörn Åkerstedt from the SRI said the assumption is that "weekend sleep is a catchup sleep," The Guardian reported, although he notes that the research does not definitively prove this is the case.