A sleep in on the weekend is a luxury for most of us juggling busy lives, but research has found that catching up on sleep can actually extend our lifespan.
The Swedish study reiterated what we already know so well – not getting enough sleep is bad for our health. The researchers surveyed 38,000 adults over a 13 year period and found that those under 65 who consistently got five hours of sleep or fewer per night during the week have a higher risk of death, compared to those who get a solid six to seven hours of shut eye a night.
Fortunately, they found that if you're one of those people who struggles to get a full night's sleep, the damage can be reversed. Having a long snooze on the weekend to make up for those late nights during the week can be remarkable in reducing the mortality risk.
Study participants who only slept five hours or less per night, but then caught up on sleep on the weekend had no increased mortality risk, compared to those getting six or seven hours a night.
Torbjörn Åkerstedt, one of the authors of the study, suspects that catching up on sleep on the weekend may help to counteract the lack of sleep during the week.
"I suspected there might be some modification if you included also weekend sleep, or day-off sleep," he said.
While the study didn't investigate the direct link between sleep patterns and mortality rates, getting little sleep was suggested to have an overall negative effect on the body.
The magic number? Eight or more hours of sleep on weekends is what you'll need if you plan to catchup on those lost hours from averaging five hours or less during the week.
Interestingly, study participants who consistently got more than eight hours of sleep a night were found to have a 25% higher mortality rate. Åkerstedt says this may be a sign of underlying health problems, resulting in the urge to sleep more.
Good news for all us alarm snoozers – time to pay off that sleep debt.