Experts often talk about how Americans aren’t getting nearly enough sleep these days. But what about the opposite problem? Sure, it’s a lot less common, but is it bad to get way more than the recommended amount of sleep? The answer is yes.
First, a quick note: This is not referring to people who sleep slightly more than seven to nine hours a night. For instance, routinely getting 10 hours of sleep is still healthy, even though most people don’t need it (only about two percent of the population does). It’s also not about people who sleep in super late one Saturday after a long week, are dealing with jet lag, are exercising intensely (like training for a marathon), or are sick with the flu. This is about people who sleep 11 or more hours a night, day in and day out.
So if most people need seven to nine hours a night, what’s causing some people to sleep much longer? One cause could be that the quality of sleep is very poor, possibly due to a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea. There could also be an underlying physical condition, like hypothyroidism. The cause could also be a mental health problem, like depression. In fact, even if you don’t feel sad, you might have a low-grade depression—meaning, your brain chemicals are off-balance and causing you to sleep for an extended amount of time.
Whatever the cause, certain medical issues are associated with chronically oversleeping. For example, the risk for diabetes, obesity, headaches, back pain, and heart disease are all higher in people who oversleep. Oversleeping also can throw your circadian rhythm off balance and stop you from getting enough sunlight exposure—two problems that can weaken your immune system and make it likelier that you’ll catch a disease. Due to these risks, anyone who is sleeping longer than normal should see a doctor or sleep specialist to figure out what is going on and treat the underlying problem.