New research suggests people who get too little sleep during the week can make up for it on the weekends. According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, people who slept less than five hours each night throughout the week had an increased risk of early death compared to those who slept six to seven hours every night. People who get less than five hours during the week, but who catch up on some of that lost sleep on the weekend, do not have the same risk.

These results suggest that sleep is not a risk factor for mortality if it is combined with a medium or long weekend sleep.

Some studies have shown that napping is also beneficial if you don’t sleep too long.  A nap—defined as daytime sleeping that lasts between 15 and 90 minutes—can improve brain functions ranging from memory to focus and creativity, and for some people, naps are as restorative as a whole night of sleep.

Napping isn’t for everyone. If you can’t sleep during the day or have trouble sleeping in places other than your own bed, napping might not be an option. There are also some occasions when a nap is not recommended; for example, if you feel groggy and disoriented after waking up from a nap. If you experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might worsen these problems and long or frequent naps might interfere with nighttime sleep.

If you’re experiencing an increased need for naps and there’s no obvious cause, talk to your doctor. You could be taking a medication or have a sleep disorder or other medical condition that’s disrupting your nighttime sleep.

As we age, our sleeping patterns sometimes change.  If you are experiencing changes such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking, or often waking up tired or sleepy, try these “experiments” to see if a lifestyle habit might be contributing to your problem.

  • Avoid drinking fluids, including alcohol, at least two hours before bedtime to minimize trips to the bathroom. Alcohol has the additional problem of waking you once your body starts metabolizing it, so you might fall asleep easily but wake during the night.
  • Take a short mid afternoon nap when your schedule allows and see if you feel more rested overall.
  • Ease aches and pains that could disrupt your sleep by stretching for a few minutes each morning and at night.