Sleeping in on Saturday has long been chastised by sleep experts and moms alike — but a new study says the habit could lower your risk of death.
Researchers at Stockholm University discovered that adults who logged up to five hours of sleep every night increased their risk of mortality. However, when people who only slept five hours a night during the week compensated by snoozing nine hours a night on the weekends, their risk of death did not increase.
To conduct the study — which was published in the Journal of Sleep Research —scientists looked at data on sleep habits collected from more than 43,000 people under 65 years old. Then, they studied death records taken 13 years after the initial data was obtained to determine if and how sleep habits impacted mortality. Of course, other factors like education, body mass index, and smoking can take years off your life, so they accounted for those, too. Their conclusion? “Long weekend sleep may compensate for short weekday sleep.”
So, what does this mean for you?
The study’s findings might come as a surprise, since sleep experts have previously advised against trying to “catch up on sleep” on the weekend. Last year, sleep scientist Matthew Walker told NPR that sleep is not like a bank.
“You can’t accumulate a debt and pay it off at a later point in time. If I were to deprive you of sleep an entire night, and then in a subsequent night give you all the sleep you want, you never get back all that you’ve lost,” he said.
This new study changes that way of thinking.
“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 study authors wrote. “This suggests that short weekday sleep may be compensated for during the weekend, and that this has implications for mortality.”
Of course, getting enough sleep every night is still ideal: The team found that people who slept six or seven hours consistently didn’t heighten their risk of mortality.
But hitting the hay early isn’t always easy. If you have trouble getting to bed, practicing meditation has been found to lower anxiety and make you feel more relaxed. Or, try one of these other six tips, like downing a glass of milk at night, to fall asleep fast.
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