Is Sleeping In On The Weekend Bad For Your Health?

It's tempting to sleep in on the weekends and catch up on some sleep, especially when you don't have to be at work, school, or the gym at a specific time in the morning. But is it bad for your health?

If you've lost some sleep during the week — called sleep debt — you probably want to sleep in to make up for it. Sleep is essential for good health, and most adults need seven to nine hours every night, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Your performance suffers when you don't get enough sleep. A 2018 study found that when people get fewer than six hours of sleep each night, they had problems completing basic tasks and had a five-fold increase in lapses in attention. Also, their reaction time almost doubled when compared to people who got at least seven hours of sleep or more. The people who slept less than six hours didn't even know that their performance was poor — and they didn't feel tired.

In some circumstances, sleeping in might be okay

But there is hope for you if you like catching up on sleep on the weekends. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research followed 43,880 adults in Sweden for 13 years and compared their death rates in correlation to their self-reported sleep habits. 

The researchers found that adults younger than 65 who consistently slept five hours or less were 65 percent more likely to die early when compared to those who slept six to seven hours a night, on average. Those who slept eight or more hours nightly had a 25 percent increased risk of early death. But those who slept short hours during the week and longer hours during the weekends did not have an increased risk of death. It seems it might be healthier to sleep in a little on the weekends if you have less sleep during the week.

Other evidence shows sleeping in on the weekends isn't healthy

However, it's always better to have a consistent sleep schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, rather than trying to make up for lost sleep on the weekends, as long as you're getting seven to nine hours a night. Too much or too little sleep has poor effects on health. For example, a 2018 study published in the European Heart Journal looked at 116,000 people from seven different regions worldwide. Those who slept 10 or more hours a night had a 41 percent increased risk of death, heart disease, or diseases of blood vessels in the brain. People who slept six hours or less every night also had an increased risk of death or cardiovascular disease. 

Consistency is key. If you make up for an hour or so of sleep on the weekends, it probably won't negatively affect your health, but you might have a more difficult time getting up with your alarm on Monday morning. It's better to have a set bedtime and wake time because your body thrives on routine. Talk to your health care provider if you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping the recommended seven to nine hours a night. They can refer you to a sleep specialist who can help determine the problem and give you a solution.