Contrary to general wisdom, research now shows you can make up for a sleep deficit.
Listen, and hear me: those of you who use your weekends for a much-needed crash-n-burn snoozefest, you’re doing it right.
Contrary to general wisdom, it is actually possible to catch up on lost sleep. Elite Daily reports that using your weekend to right the wrongs of scanty sleep during the week can pretty much level the playing field when it comes to the link between sleep and mortality.
In other words, this study, which was done at the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University in Sweden, looked at how someone’s sleep schedule affects how long they’ll live. The researchers examined data from more than 43,000 adults, which was first collected in 1997, and then they compared that data with Sweden’s national death register to check on the status of these individuals.
According to Business Insider, the study found that adults under 65 who habitually got only five hours of sleep or less each night had a much higher risk of an early death than people who clocked in closer to six or seven hours of sleep each night. The interesting, or newer finding in this research, though, is this: Those who made up for lost hours of weekday sleep by sleeping in on weekends didn’t have a raised mortality rate in comparison to the sleepers with more consistent hours.
Of course, the article goes on to mention that timing is key. It plays havoc on your circadian rhythm to wake up early five days a week, and then sleep till the afternoon the other two, so it’s best to try and tack those extra hours of sleep to the beginning of your bedtime.
But “what’s best” and “what’s possible” aren’t always the same thing, particularly for those of us who work full-time and have kids. Weekends are my saving grace — I wake up at 4 a.m. during the week, and I have zero qualms about sleeping until 10 on the weekends (or as late as my children allow). Does it wreak havoc on my circadian rhythm? Probably. But do I feel somewhat like human being again after two days of sleeping late? Definitely.
Also, the point of the study done in Sweden is to point out that it is possible to make up for a sleep deficit, not to lay out the most ideal way to do it. After all, a sleep deficit already isn’t ideal — so having the luxury of choosing the optimal way to make up for it seems a tad idealistic.
What we should all really take away from this is one important fact: if you’re short on sleep, get more however you can. Whether that’s going to bed at 8 on a Friday night, sleeping in till 11 on a Saturday morning, or snoozing in the subway on your way to meet friends, do it. Grab that sleep by the horns and don’t let go — you may just live longer for it.