It pays to catch up on your weekend z’s — sleeping later may prevent an early death, according to a study published Wednesday.
Swedish researchers found that adults under age 65 who get five or fewer hours of shuteye every night all week are at greater risk of death than those who sleep at least seven hours a night.
But people who manage only a few hours of sleep nightly during the workweek have no increased risk of dying — as long as they sleep in on weekends, according to the study.
“Sleep duration is important for longevity,” said Torbjörn Åkerstedt, head of the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, according to the Guardian.
“It seems that weekend compensation is good” for the sleep-deprived, said Åkerstedt, who cautioned that the study’s conclusions were “tentative.”
People who slept for fewer than seven hours each weekday, but caught an extra hour or two of zzzz’s on weekends, lived just as long as those who always slept seven hours, the study found.
The study — published in the Journal of Sleep Research — is based on data from 38,015 people in Sweden that was collected in a 1997 survey as part of a fundraiser for the Swedish Cancer Society.
The participants were followed for up to 13 years, using a national death register, based on their weekend vs. weekday sleeping habits.
Åkerstedt said researchers had previously studied the relationship between sleep duration and mortality but had focused on sleep during the workweek.
“I suspected there might be some modification if you included also weekend sleep, or day-off sleep,” he said.
When factors such as gender, smoking and physical activity were considered, results showed that those under age 65 who got five or fewer hours of sleep a night all week had a 65 percent higher mortality rate than those getting six or seven hours every day.
But there was no higher risk of death for those who slept five or fewer hours during the week but then slept longer during the weekend.
Meanwhile, those who slept for eight or more hours, seven days a week, were found to have a 25 percent higher mortality rate compared to those who slept six or seven hours a day.
The study also found that the link between sleep patterns and mortality disappeared for those age 65 or older. Åkerstedt said that was perhaps because older people got the sleep they needed.
Diane Lauderdale, an epidemiology professor at the University of Chicago, told the Washington Post that the group studied was not representative of most people.
Fewer than average were smokers, for instance. People who regularly smoke might not be as eager to participate in a cancer society event, she noted.
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