Oversleeping: How Much Sleep Is Too Much?

Did you know that sleeping too much may be just as dangerous as sleeping too little?

By Nicole Gleichmann

Oversleeping isn’t something that many of us worry about. Sleep is a good thing, so can you really get too much of it? Unfortunately, excess sleeping can be just as dangerous as not clocking enough hours under the sheets each night.

The Dangers of Oversleeping

Scientists have conducted many studies to examine the effects of sleep on our health. In these studies, researchers have discovered that excess sleeping can lead to health problems including:

  • Pain: Back pain is a common side effect of sleeping too much.
  • Cardiovascular disease: In a study of 72,000 women, it was found that sleeping nine hours or more each night was correlated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. The reason for this relationship is not yet known.
  • Obesity: Those who sleep 9-10 hours each night have been found to have a greater chance of being obese than those who sleep 7-8 hours each night, even when exercise and food intake were taken into account.
  • Diabetes: Disordered sleep, whether too little or too much, has been found to increase diabetes risk.
  • Headaches: Sleeping too much can lead to headaches. This is likely caused by sleep’s impact on our neurotransmitters.

What Causes the Need for Excess Sleep?

Depression

Those who are depressed are more prone to poor sleep habits, such as oversleeping or insomnia, than those who are not. Depression can make it hard to want to get up and do anything, and instead, some people with depression will stay cooped up in their bed for long hours.

Conditions that Lead to Poor Sleep Quality

There are a variety of conditions that lead to disordered sleep. When you wake up often during the night or you are unable to get enough deep sleep, you may find yourself needing to extend the quantity of time that you sleep each night. Conditions that impair your sleep and lead to oversleeping include:

  • Sleep apnea: Those with sleep apnea have trouble breathing properly during the night. Sleep apnea leads to frequent waking and a resultant loss of sleep and lack of deep, restorative sleep.
  • Chronic pain: Chronic pain can make it incredibly difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep during the night. Insufficient sleep quantity and quality can lead to people staying in bed for long periods of time.
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS): RLS results in the need to move your legs when you are resting and can negatively impact your sleep.

These and other conditions can make getting a good night’s rest next to impossible without proper treatment. While some people may know that they have a condition that is making quality sleep difficult, there are others who do not know that they have a sleep disorder. If you find that you always need a lot of sleep, see a sleep specialist to determine if you have one of these conditions.

Conditions That Make You Need More Sleep

Some medical conditions increase the quantity of sleep that you need each night without directly inhibiting sleep quality.

One of the most common of these is hypersomnia, a neurological sleep disorder that results in excessive sleepiness. Symptoms of hypersomnia include:

  • The insatiable urge to sleep during the day.
  • Regularly sleeping longer than 8 hours but not feeling rested.
  • Waking up with sleep inertia, a feeling of extreme fatigue and mental cloudiness when you get up in the morning.
  • Intense grogginess or brain fog, especially in the mornings, that can make it hard to focus or think.

Another condition that can directly lead to a need to sleep more is narcolepsy. Narcolepsy interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which can result in oversleeping during the night and falling asleep unexpectedly during the day.

Drugs

Both recreational and pharmaceutical drugs can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, resulting in fatigue and oversleeping. Alcohol is one of the primary culprits. When you consume alcohol close to bedtime, your sleep quality suffers, which can lead to a need to sleep longer hours.

Some medications can lead to oversleeping. These include antidepressants, sedatives, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotics.

Why Is Sleeping Too Much Dangerous?

There are two ways in which oversleeping may be dangerous. The first is that an underlying condition may lead to increased mortality risk as well as excess sleeping. The second is that sleeping too much may itself lead to health issues.

In a review of sleep studies published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, it was found that when healthy adults sleep longer than they normally do, they report increased difficulties with mood, energy, and fatigue. This study suggests that getting too much sleep in and of itself can lead to decreased health and quality of life.

How Much Sleep is Too Much?

Scientists have long sought the answer to what the ideal amount of sleep is. While it no doubt varies from one person to the next and over one’s lifetime, one length of time appears in study after study. Research suggests that the ideal length of sleep for the average adult is 7 hours a night.

However, if you clock more than 7 hours, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you sleep too much. According to the National Sleep Foundation, some adults may need up to 9 hours of sleep. If you find yourself regularly getting more than 9 hours of sleep each night, you may want to see your doctor or a sleep specialist.

The Caveat: Sleeping in On the Weekends

When we talk about oversleeping, we are not discussing sleeping in on the weekends. In a study of 43,800 adults <65 years old, scientists discovered something interesting. Those who didn’t sleep enough during the week and caught up on sleep during the weekend had no significant difference in mortality rate when compared to people who regularly slept 6-7 hours per night (the quantity associated with the lowest mortality risk).

So, if you find yourself sleeping only 5 hours each weeknight, let yourself sleep in on the weekends. That extra sleep may just help you live a longer, healthier life.


Conclusion

Oversleeping can be just as dangerous as not sleeping enough when it comes to your health and longevity. Aim for 7 hours of sleep per night, and if you find yourself averaging more than 9 hours, or if you feel tired after getting a full night’s sleep, see your doctor to determine if your oversleeping is a sign of a bigger issue.


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