Sleeping in on the Weekends Might Help You Live Longer

sleeping in
Image Credits: Scott on Flickr

Many of us have experienced periods of time where we didn’t get enough sleep during the week. During those times it sure felt good sleeping in on the weekends if we had the chance. That being said, for years we have heard one expert or another tells us that we can’t make up for a lack of sleep by sleeping in on the weekends.

We have also heard that not getting enough sleep can have a negative effect on our health.

So during those times when we haven’t been getting enough sleep during the week and decided to sleep in on the weekends, It seems like even though it felt good to get the extra sleep the experts were saying that it didn’t really make a difference in our overall health.

Now there is research that suggests that getting some extra sleep on the weekends might actually be a good thing in certain situations.

Findings at Stockholm University

Researchers from Stockholm University in Sweden looked into the sleeping habits of more than 38,000 adults getting self-reported data about their sleeping habits on work days and non-work days. For purposes of the study, the non-work days were defined as weekends. They then followed the death record for these people over the next 13 years. What they found was very interesting as it relates to sleeping in on weekends.

The first thing they found was that people younger than 65 who slept less than 5 hours both during the week and on the weekends had a 65% higher mortality rate when compared with people who slept 6-7 hours per night.

The second thing that we found to be interesting was that the researchers found no difference in mortality for people who slept less than six or seven hours per night during the week, but slept longer on the weekends.

So if sleeping too little is bad is sleeping a lot better? The researchers also found that people who slept for more than 9 hours per night also had a higher mortality rate than the reference group. However, the reason for this higher mortality rate isn’t necessarily clear. Spending excessive amounts of time sleeping could be associated with some underlying health problems.

Should We Trust This Research?

The short answer to this is yes. The researchers followed a large group (over 38,000 people) and statistically analyzed the results to make sure their findings were valid.

That being said, this is probably a good starting point for future research for a couple of reasons.

First, there isn’t a whole lot of other research that looks at differences between sleep during the week and on weekends. So the findings of this study point toward the need to explore the impact of different amounts of sleep during the weekends as compared to during the week.

The second thing this study is missing is a follow-up with the individuals to see if their sleeping patterns changed throughout the course of the study. Sleeping habits were reported for individuals at the beginning of the study and there was never follow-up to see if their sleeping patterns changed over time.

The third thing that would be interesting to look at going forward would be how getting extra sleep on weekends might impact various health conditions. This study only kept track of mortality rates getting a more in-depth look at specific health issues and how they might be impacted by getting extra sleep on the weekends would be very interesting.

So What Does This Mean for You?

Experts still say that getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night is the ideal amount of sleep for your body.

If you are getting the recommended amount of sleep every night should you try to sleep in on the weekends? No. This study found that getting extra sleep on the weekend was helpful to people who didn’t get enough sleep during the week. It did not find anything suggesting people with a normal sleep schedule would benefit from sleeping longer on weekends.

That being said, we all encounter times in our life when things get really hectic in our work life, home life, or both. During those times it can be nearly impossible to get the sleep we need on a nightly basis – especially during the workweek.

So when you find yourself in one of these sleep-deprived stretches know that getting a few extra hours of sleep on the weekend can help you offset the negative effects of not getting enough sleep during the week. While this is not a long-term solution or sleep strategy, this could help you minimize the effect of not getting enough sleep during the week until you can get back into your preferred sleep schedule.