Sleeping for less than six hours was found to hinder the ability of study participants to perform simple tasks, regardless of whether or not they felt rested, due to a lack of focus. We can't deposit zzzs over the weekend and expect to cash them out later.
This new study is actually fairly revolutionary when it comes to sleep sciences.
"If somebody is routinely awake for more than 18 hours daily, then they are also routinely sleeping for less than six hours daily", explained Dr. Klerman.
There's no clear-cut answer yet on why sleeping on weekends makes a difference.
The researchers also came to the surprising conclusion that regularly having more than eight hours a sleep a night could also be connected with a higher mortality rate.
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"We found that chronic short sleep duration, even without extended wakefulness, resulted in vigilant performance impairments". Monday was found to be the day of the week when people feel the least energetic. That was compared to those who slept seven hours a night.
Why short-short sleepers, as well as long-long sleepers, had higher-than-average mortality rates is not fully understood. In the same age group, short sleep (or long sleep) on both weekdays and weekend showed increased mortality. Oversleeping is probably not a cause of harm, Akerstedt suspected, but a sign that something else is wrong. "There's no obvious biological mechanism", Lauderdale said.
It's not so much about being able to store up sleep, but he thinks short sleepers who are changing their habits on the weekends are making up for some of what they lost during the week.
Self-reporting may be considered a limitation of the study, but researchers note it's a practical way to accumulate large-scale data. The performance of sleep-deprived individuals was no different among those who reported feeling alert and those who said they felt exhausted. "It's a fuzzy picture that's true", he said.