Is it Possible to Get Too Much Sleep?
Too many Americans don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. According to the CDC, more than one third (1) of adults sleep less than the recommended seven hours. Chronic short sleep can lead to serious health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even death (2).
But the reverse of sleep deprivation can also be a problem. Oversleeping may be a symptom of or lead to serious health issues, including obesity and depression. It’s beneficial to know the signs of oversleeping, so that you can address any underlying problems.
How Much Sleep Is Too Much?
Generally, experts recommend adults get between seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but this can vary based on individual needs. There will also be times when you’ll need more sleep than usual, such as when you’re suffering from jet lag, experiencing an abnormal amount of stress, or recovering from an illness.
You’ll know you’re getting enough sleep when you wake up feeling refreshed and restored. However, if you’re regularly sleeping more than nine or 10 hours per night, and you still feel tired during the day, that’s a sign you’re oversleeping. Around 8% (3) to 9% of people (4) oversleep, with women being more likely to do so than men.
Symptoms of Oversleeping
Regularly sleeping for more than nine hours a day is often the first sign that you’re getting too much sleep. Other symptoms of oversleeping may include:
- Reduced productivity levels
- Lower energy
- Memory problems
- Anxiety symptoms
- Persistent daytime sleepiness and fatigue
Potential Causes of Oversleeping
Several factors could explain your need to oversleep. Sleep disorders and underlying health conditions can both contribute to sleeping too much, in addition to other causes.
Common sleep disorders that lead to oversleeping include hypersomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. People with hypersomnia experience extreme sleepiness during the day, no matter how long they sleep at night or how frequently they nap.
People with sleep apnea experience temporary lapses in their breathing during sleep. These lapses result in loud snoring, choking, or gasping sounds that can wake them up and disrupt their sleep. Even if the person stays asleep, their sleep quality is reduced, leading to daytime tiredness and a desire to sleep more.
People with narcolepsy can experience sudden episodes of sleepiness during the day, suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, and feel a need to oversleep as a result.
Underlying Health Condition
An underlying health condition, physical or mental, can also contribute to oversleeping. For example, hypothyroidism (5) can lead to higher levels of exhaustion, fatigue, and a need to oversleep. People with hypothyroidism are nearly twice as likely to oversleep.
Sleep problems are also one of the main symptoms (6) of depression. Some people suffer from insomnia and sleeping too little, while others suffer from hypersomnia and oversleeping. As with oversleeping in general, women who have depression are more likely to oversleep than men.
Other factors may contribute to oversleeping. Overuse of alcohol (7) can disrupt the sleep cycle and increase your sense of tiredness during the day. Certain medications can also increase your sleep needs and cause you to sleep more than usual.
Lower socioeconomic status and education levels have also been linked to oversleeping. This may be because people in these groups have reduced healthcare access and may have underlying health conditions that have gone undiagnosed.
Complications of Oversleeping
Chronic oversleeping, left unchecked, can increase your risk for headaches, fatigue, and illnesses.
Getting regular sleep is essential for people with diabetes. Both oversleeping and undersleeping have been associated with an increased risk of diabetes. Long sleepers, or those who habitually sleep more than nine hours (8), are more likely (9) to develop diabetes than those who sleep seven to eight hours per night.
Both short and long sleepers are significantly more likely to become obese. In one 10-year follow-up, women who were oversleepers were more than four times more likely (10) to have become obese when compared to those with normal sleeping habits.
Chronic migraines or headaches (11) can disturb sleep, as can the overuse of the medications used to relieve these conditions. A common coping mechanism for migraines is to try to sleep them off. However, this can lead to further disturbed sleep later that evening — and consequently, oversleeping the following day.
Oversleeping is strongly associated with depression. Individuals with depression who sleep too much often report that it worsens their symptoms and overall quality of life. It may also increase their risk for suicide.
Long sleepers are significantly more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who sleep seven to eight hours. Women who suffer from insomnia and long sleep have an even greater risk (12).
Oversleeping has also been linked to a higher mortality rate. Individuals who sleep more than nine hours per night have higher mortality rates than those who sleep between seven and eight hours. However, the correlation may be due in part to other conditions associated with oversleeping, such as obesity, heart disease, lower socioeconomic status, and depression.
Tips for Getting a Healthy Amount of Sleep
If you’re worried that you’re sleeping too much, talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out what’s causing you to oversleep and provide recommendations for getting a healthier amount of sleep.
In the meantime, you can work on improving your sleep hygiene. Start by following a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. This includes going to bed around the same time every day, and waking up when your alarm sounds the first time. Avoid napping during the day, especially for periods longer than 30 minutes.
You may also want to reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake, and incorporate more healthy foods into your diet. Exercise in the morning can help you wake up. A regular exercise routine (13) also promotes better sleep.
At night, make your bedroom as dark, cool, and quiet as you can. Then, in the morning, use light strategically to wake yourself up. You may find it beneficial to use a dawn simulator as an alarm clock and open window curtains to let in the sunlight.
A good night’s sleep is beneficial for your health, but a long night’s sleep isn’t necessarily better. Consider what may be contributing to your need to oversleep, and consult your doctor for their advice.
+ 13 Sources
- 1. Accessed on March 8, 2021.https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html
- 2. Accessed on March 8, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25226585/
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- 5. Accessed on March 8, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31752113/
- 6. Accessed on March 8, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18979946/
- 7. Accessed on March 8, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16492658/
- 8. Accessed on March 11, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17625932/
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