How your weekend sleep-in could help you avoid an early death

Busy people often love to say "I can sleep when I’m dead", but they may get their wish sooner than they’d like.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that sleep and our own mortality are inextricably linked.

Simply put, the less you get, the higher your chances of serious health issues such as heart disease – and the idea you can "catch up" on lost sleep has been criticised by doctors and health experts.

However, there may be something in this after all, especially if you’re a fan of a lie-in at the weekend.

Research has shown that longer sleep over the weekend may counter short sleep over the course of the week.

Specifically, it showed adults who got just a few hours’ sleep each night during the week had no raised mortality risk if they had a long snooze at weekends – compared to those who consistently stuck to six or seven hours a night.

"Sleep duration is important for longevity," said Torbjörn Åkerstedt, first author of the study, at the Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, and Karolinska Institute, also in the Swedish capital.

The study was published in the Journal of Sleep Research , and uses comprehensive data from more than 38,000 adults, collected during a lifestyle and medical survey conducted throughout Sweden in 1997.

It didn’t just stop there. The participants’ fate was tracked for up to 13 year using a national death register.

According to Åkerstedt , research had previously only looked at links between sleep duration and mortality, with the focus solely being on week night sleep.

"I suspected there might be some modification if you included also weekend sleep, or day-off sleep," Åkerstedt explained.

"The assumption in this is that weekend sleep is a catch-up sleep," he added, though he noted the study did not prove that to be the case.

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