Why a weekend lie-in is actually good for your health

Is there any greater joy than waking up, realising it’s a Saturday and then rolling over for another couple of hours of sleep? And with a bank holiday weekend ahead, we get three whole mornings of delicious lie-ins to enjoy.

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While some people think you shouldn’t get up later on the weekend, as it disturbs your sleep patterns, a new study published in the Journal of Sleep has found that if you are sleep-deprived on weeknights, then sleeping more than eight hours at the weekend could help you to live longer. So now you have a scientifically backed excuse for lazing in bed with a coffee until mid-morning.

Researchers in Sweden concluded that adults under 65 who averaged five hours or less of sleep on a week night, had a 65% higher chance of an earlier death than those who managed to get an extra hour or two on weekends.

“Sleep duration is important for longevity,” said Torbjörn Åkerstedt who led the study at the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University. The study used data collected from 38,000 adults in 1997, participants were then followed for up to 13 years, using a national death register.

Their findings support the theory held by some sleep experts that if you accumulate a ‘sleep debt’ i.e. not banking enough enough sleeping hours on weekdays, then you need to ‘pay it off’ at the weekend.

However, before you get carried away, over-sleeping can also be bad for your health: the same study found that people who slept more than eight hours every night also faced a shorter life expectancy. Six to seven hours a night, they concluded, was the optimal amount, but if you’re getting less than that, a weekend top-up is a good idea.

Struggling to nod off? Read our expert guide to getting a good night’s sleep.