For various reasons, many of us don’t get enough sleep each night. Between digital distractions and various sleep disorders, it can be difficult to get a full eight hours of sleep each night. Many people, especially young adults, try to pack as much sleep as possible into the weekends by sleeping in to make up for night after night of staying up too late. Yet despite what many of us tend to believe, most sleep researchers agree that sleep cannot simply be ‘made up’ by sleeping in a few days here and there after regularly not getting enough sleep. However, that long-standing knowledge might not be as clear cut as it seems according to a new study out of Stockholm University in Sweden.
The study looked at the sleep habits and overall health indicators of 43,000 individuals. The data showed that individuals who got less than five hours of sleep each night had much higher rates of mortality than individuals who got more. According to lead author Torbjörn Åkerstedt, sleep researcher at the Center for Stress Research at Stockholm University, these findings contradict one of the established theories of sleep science which says sleep cannot be ‘made up’ by sleeping in:
It seems like you actually can compensate by catching up on sleep during weekends. This is in effect an argument for lazing around all weekend. There probably is an upper limit, but it’s anyway better to increase [sleep hours] on the weekend rather than not doing it at all.
Of course, the study also found that individuals who regularly got eight hours of sleep or more each night also had a higher prevalence of mortality, indicating that either too much sleep is bad for you or that many environmental factors can lead to both increased mortality and longer sleep duration such as “work demands, adult family demands, socioeconomic disadvantage, contagious diseases, boredom, lifestyle, or major life events.” Still, the fact that one of the leading sleep research centers has found evidence that sleeping in is good for you should be good news to those of us who enjoy our weekend sleep-ins. If only I could get my toddler to understand.