Weekend sleep may make up for deficits, but enough sleep every night is better

A study by Swedish researchers suggests that possibly, long weekend sleeps may compensate for short weekday sleeps. The study involved over 43,000 people who were followed for 13 years.

Researchers found that those who slept fewer than five hours a night all week long had a 52 per cent higher mortality rate, or chance of death, compared to those who slept seven hours every night. But if those who had short weekday sleeps slept in on their days off, their mortality rate was the same as those who consistently got seven hours of shuteye.

Those who slept a long, nine hours a night had no higher mortality. The study was published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Prof. Kimberly Cote says sleep is powerful and everyone should make it a priority.

Consequences for safety and performance

While the study is interesting, it has limitations, says Kimberly Cote, a psychology and neuroscience professor at Brock University and a past president of the Canadian Sleep Society.

She says death is not the only consequence of sleep deprivation, and that no one should conclude from this study that it’s okay to miss out on sleep during the week and make up for it on days off. “When you cut down on your sleep for even one night, there’s negative consequences the next day for your well-being and your performance,” she says.

“Even that one-hour time change in the spring is enough that we see increased auto accidents around the world. So, it’s not a good idea to restrict your sleep. There are consequences for your safety, your performance and your functioning.”

Not everyone needs the same amount of shuteye, but sleeping between seven and nine hours an night is considered optimum for most people.

Sleep as important as food and exercise

Cote says the best advice is for individuals to find out how much sleep they need and then to consistently get that amount. She wishes everyone understood how important sleep is for our well-being. “A good way to think about it is that sleep is as important for your health as diet and exercise. It seems to be the thing that people don’t take as serious.”

She notes that some cultures consider sleep to be a luxury and that people who sleep in are lazy or unproductive. But she says: “We should thing of sleep as a performance enhancer…Sleep is powerful. It’s needed for the totality of your well-being and everyone should make it a priority.”

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