Yes, You Can Make Up For Lost Sleep On The Weekend, Study Says

"Possibly, long weekend sleep may compensate for short weekday sleep."

While we're often pressed for time during the week, forced to forfeit sleep in exchange for productivity, many long for the weekend so they may reclaim quality time with their bed. Yet, while people regularly claim they're going to "catch up on sleep" during this 48-hour period, there's been doubt as to whether or not doing so was even possible. But now, thanks to a recent study, there's evidence that sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday could repair the damage done during the week.

Psychologist Torbjorn Akerstedt, director of the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, and his colleagues published findings in the Journal of Sleep Research that focus on the impact of sleeping in on days off — the weekend, for most — and how some additional snooze time might make up for lost sleep on weekdays. The study, which tracked more than 43,000 people over a span of 13 years, found that participants younger than 65 who slept for fewer than five hours per night on weekdays faced a 52 percent higher mortality rate, while those who slept for fewer than the recommended seven hours per night on weekdays — but slept for an extra hour or two on weekends — lived as long as individuals who sleep seven hours each night the entire week.

"The mortality rate among participants with short sleep during weekdays, but long sleep during weekends, did not differ from the rate of the reference group," according to the study summary. "Among individuals ≥65 years old, no association between weekend sleep or weekday/weekend sleep durations and mortality was observed. In conclusion, short, but not long, weekend sleep was associated with an increased mortality in subjects <65 years. In the same age group, short sleep (or long sleep) on both weekdays and weekend showed increased mortality. Possibly, long weekend sleep may compensate for short weekday sleep."

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Of course, in recent years, many companies have come to understand the important role sleeps plays with regard to employee productivity. As Amanda Pressner Kreuser, co-fonder and managing partner at Masthead Media, writes for Inc., "Understanding that sleep makes people more productive workers and leads to less on-the-job injuries, top companies are encouraging power naps in the workplace. Companies including Google, Uber, Ben & Jerry's, and even accounting firm PwC are building naps into the company culture — some even going as far as to designate sleep areas or secure napping pods to make napping a reality."

Yet, while the correlation seems accurate, Akerstedt cautioned that this "tentative conclusion" will require further exploration. His peers echoed this sentiment, as well.

Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine, for instance, warned The Washington Post that sleep is not like a financial transaction, as we can't deposit zzzs over the weekend and expect to cash them out later. Instead, he suggest comparing sleep to a diet. "For the sleep-deprived," Ben Guarino writes, "sleeping in on a weekend is like eating a salad after a series of hamburger dinners — healthier, sure, but from 'one perspective the damage is done.'"

Grandner also urged the overworked and underslept not to view sleep as time lost. "We live in a society that considers sleep unproductive. What's more un-American than unproductive time?" Just as we require food and water, our bodies also require sleep to maintain overall health. Binge-watching the latest shows might be all the rage right now, but binge-sleeping cannot substitute good, consistent sleeping habits every day of the week. 

Many people brush off sleep deprivation by claiming they'll sleep when they're dead. But, if these findings are accurate, they might find themselves holding true to this promise much sooner than anticipated.

Cover image via Stock-Asso / Shutterstock

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