Hope for Sleeping in on the Weekends

Hope for Sleeping in on the Weekends

It has long been understood that not getting enough sleep each night is associated with higher mortality, and there is a long-held belief that attempting to “catch up” by sleeping in on the weekends is not actually enough to outweigh the effects of reduced sleep during the week. New research, however, seems to show that sleeping additional hours on the weekends to “catch up” actually may balance out that risk.

In the current study, researchers at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, looked at the sleep patterns and mortality rates of nearly 40,000 participants, and examined different combinations of weekday and weekend sleep. Those participants under age 65 who consistently got seven hours of sleep on both weekdays and weekends were considered the “reference group.” Participants who consistently slept five or less hours each night had a 65% higher mortality rate, and those who consistently slept eight or more hours had a 25% higher mortality rate than the reference group. However, participants under age 65 who slept five or less hours on weekdays but then “caught up” by sleeping nine or more hours on the weekends ended up having the same mortality risk as the reference group.

These results may indicate that sleeping in on the weekends potentially allows someone to “catch up” on missed sleep during the weekdays, despite long-held beliefs. Some limitations to this study exist, and more research will need to be done in order to confirm and clarify the findings, however this study paves the way for future research to give us all hope that longer periods of sleep interspersed with shorter ones may be able to balance out the health risks.

Åkerstedt T, Ghilotti F, Grotta A, et al. Sleep duration and mortality – Does weekend sleep matter?. J Sleep Res. 2018;e12712. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12712