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"I suspected there might be some modification if you included also weekend sleep, or day-off sleep".

A sleep study revealed that less than six hours of sleep a day can limit the brains ability to function properly.

"The results imply that short (weekday) sleep is not a risk factor for mortality if it is combined with a medium or long weekend sleep", researchers wrote in a press release.

"This suggests that short weekday sleep may be compensated for during the weekend, and that this has implications for mortality.", concluded the authors.

Torbjörn Åkerstedt, first author of the study, at the Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, said: "Sleep duration is important for longevity".

It found that those under the age of 65 who got five hours' sleep or less, seven days a week, had a 65% higher mortality rate than those getting six or seven hours every day.

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Getting less than five hours of sleep all week was also associated with higher mortality rates.

"The use of repeated measurements through follow-up questionnaires would have helped keeping track of sleep habits changes", they noted in their paper.

Researchers examined data from almost 44,000 people who took part in a 1997 Swedish medical survey - and then tracked how many died within the next 13 years.

From there researchers performed tests on the participants to study their reaction times. "More so, our study suggests the importance of longer episodes of sleep, rather than a ‘split sleep schedule, though further evidence would be needed to test this directly".

The study has its limitations, as participants were asked to recall their sleep patterns rather than being observed sleeping, but Åkerstedt has an idea about what might be driving this difference in mortality.

Average sleep duration at weekends and the percentage of those saying they did not feel rested at waking, did fall with age. Stuart Peirson, an expert in the human body clock who was not involved in the research, told The Guardian it "fits with what we do know about sleep", offering a more nuanced view on how much sleep we need to get. "If you eat OK during the week and you splurge a little on the weekend, you probably aren't hurting your health, but if you eat crap all week, no amount of Brussels sprouts or kale that you eat on the weekends can make up for that", he said. "People can not learn to live on insufficient sleep and they may not be aware of their reduced cognitive abilities".