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You can pay off “sleep debt” by snoozing longer on weekends, a study suggests


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Photo: Stocksy/Alexey Kuzma

Although a consistent sleep schedule is key to unlocking healthy benefits such as skin that feels fresh and rejuvenated and a strong heart and immune system, a new study says that you can catch up on sleep on the weekend and undo some of the damage caused by lack of zzz’s Monday through Friday—like feeling like you’re drunk at work.

The findings were published in the Journal of Sleep Research, which analyzed the relationship between sleep and mortality rates; it examined data from more than 38,000 adults in Sweden who answered a medical survey in 1997 and then were tracked for 13 years through a national death register. According to the results, people younger than 65 who got five hours of sleep or less seven days a week had a 65 percent higher morality rate than people who got a healthy six or seven hours of sleep. (In case I hadn’t stressed this enough, sleep really is important!) But they also showed that people who got five hours of sleep a night during the week and then caught up on weekends by snoozing for eight hours or more a night experienced the same mortality rate as those who consistently slept six or seven hours nightly.

Since the longer you are awake, the more sleep you need—your “sleep debt” needs to be “paid off.”

However, too much regular sleep (eight or more hours nightly) was linked to a 25 percent higher mortality rate than those who slept six or seven hours nightly—but that may be because oversleeping can be an indicator of health problems, as lead author of the study, Torbjörn Åkerstedt, PhD, a professor and director of Stress Research Institute, told The Guardian.

Although busy bees will be pleased to hear their hectic lifestyles won’t negatively impact their longevity (at least where zzz’s are concerned), you should know that the study is limited: Participants were only asked about their sleep habits once in 1997, and they self-reported them, which sacrifices accuracy. Still, Stuart Peirson, PhD, associate Professor in the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, said the results make sense, since the longer you are awake, the more sleep you need—your “sleep debt” needs to be “paid off,” he told The Guardian.

Hopefully, additional research will find further evidence to support the ethos of work hard, sleep hard.

These are other sleep myths you should also stop believing and how to upgrade your sleep situation.

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