Average sleep duration at weekends and the percentage of those saying they did not feel rested at waking, did fall with age.
But people who managed less than five hours each day for a week, then around six to seven hours at the weekend were no more likely to die than those who consistently slept six to seven hours a day over the same period.
The mortality rate among participants with short sleep during weekdays, but long sleep during weekends, did not differ from the rate of the reference group. But a professor from the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University said perhaps short sleepers are catching up on some of the sleep they missed on the other days. People who slept too much, regularly conking out for eight hours or longer a night, also had a worse mortality rate.
However, the effect of short sleeps over a few days may be countered by a later lie-in. Among individuals ≥65 years old, no association between weekend sleep or weekday/weekend sleep durations and mortality was observed. That was compared to those who slept seven hours a night.
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People who got less sleep during the week and slept in on weekends had the same mortality rate as those who get seven hours per night.
"I think people like the idea that you can compensate for lost sleep", Åkerstedt said. Past studies really only looked at sleep patterns during the week, and recommended that people change their sleeping habits gradually over time.
The study found that for people 65 and under, weekend sleep could make up for deficits of sleep accrued during the week.
And could even help you live longer.