Oversleeping

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Oversleeping from time to time is common. Excessive sleep may be normal or it could be a sign that your body is making up for poor or insufficient sleep or recovering from an illness. Sleeping in every once in a while is not harmful, and most people soon return to their usual sleep patterns.

For some people, oversleeping can become a serious issue, affecting their work and social life. Regularly oversleeping, napping at inappropriate times, and waking up not feeling refreshed may be signs of an underlying health condition and warrant a visit to your doctor.

Learning how much sleep is right for you can help you better understand whether you are oversleeping and take steps to improve your sleep hygiene.

How Much Sleep is Too Much?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers guidelines regarding how many hours of sleep is needed for different age groups. Adults generally require between seven and nine hours of sleep to feel well rested. Infants, children, and adolescents require more sleep as they grow and develop.

While the definition of oversleeping can vary from person to person, excessive sleep generally refers to adults who sleep nine hours or more each day and whose sleep habits interfere with their daily lives. According to a survey of adults in the United States, just over 8% of people report sleeping nine or more hours each night. Other studies have found that around 2% of people report sleeping 10 or more hours every day.

Not everyone who regularly sleeps more than nine hours has an underlying health issue. Some people are naturally long sleepers who have restful and restorative sleep without any effect on their daily lives. Other reasons for needing some extra sleep include catching up on lost sleep, getting over being sick, or resting after strenuous exercise.

Symptoms of Oversleeping

For many people, sleeping a few extra hours feels refreshing and doesn’t lead to any uncomfortable symptoms. When oversleeping becomes chronic or is caused by an underlying health issue, it can leave people feeling disoriented and begin to affect their waking hours.

One of the most challenging symptoms of oversleeping is daytime fatigue. Around one quarter of people who sleep nine or more hours each night report feeling sleepy throughout the day. This fatigue can make it difficult to safely perform tasks like driving a car, and make it challenging to focus at work and be present with friends and family.

Other symptoms of oversleeping include headaches, lightheadedness, and low blood pressure. After waking up from oversleeping, people may also find themselves groggy or confused due to a condition that researchers call “sleep drunkenness.”

Causes of Oversleeping

There are many reasons why a person may oversleep. Most of the time, oversleeping is a temporary issue and people return to their normal sleeping habits within a few days.

In some cases though, chronic oversleeping can be a sign of a sleep disorder or an underlying health condition. Learning about the various causes of oversleeping may be helpful in knowing when to have a conversation with a doctor or sleep specialist.

Sleep Disorders

Oversleeping is a symptom of several sleep disorders, which are health conditions that affect how long people sleep, when they sleep, and their overall sleep quality. Sleep disorders that involve regular oversleeping include:

  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea involves brief, repeated episodes of disrupted breathing while asleep. A person with sleep apnea may be unaware of breathing issues, but find themselves with urges to oversleep or nap during the day as their body tries to compensate for the lack of restorative sleep at night.
  • Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy affects a person’s sleep-wake cycle, causing interrupted nighttime sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Some people with narcolepsy have sudden and overwhelming urges to sleep when they’re awake. These “sleep attacks” can lead to oversleeping during the day.
  • Idiopathic hypersomnia: Idiopathic hypersomnia is excessive daytime sleepiness that cannot be attributed to other sleep disorders like sleep apnea or narcolepsy. People with idiopathic hypersomnia may regularly take long naps during the day but continue to feel sleepy.

Underlying Health Conditions

Oversleeping is associated with a variety of medical conditions. While it’s clear that excessive sleep is linked to many health issues, the relationship between oversleeping and underlying conditions is not always clear. Researchers are still untangling when oversleeping contributes to health problems versus when health problems cause a person to oversleep.

Health conditions associated with oversleeping include:

  • Heart disease: Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, is a leading cause of death in the United States. Oversleeping is associated with all types of heart disease, as well as an increased risk of stroke.
  • Depression: Sleep issues are a common experience for people diagnosed with depression. Although insomnia is the most common sleep-related symptom, between 10% and 40% of people with depression regularly oversleep.
  • Obesity: Obesity is a common health condition, affecting around 42% of people in the United States. Regularly sleeping more than eight hours each night is linked to higher body weight and weight gain.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a condition in which the body can't maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Research suggests that both not enough sleep and too much sleep increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, the most common form of this disease.

Other Causes

In addition to sleep disorders and underlying health conditions, oversleeping can be related to factors like lifestyle, income, and daytime activities. Other causes of oversleeping include:

  • Sleep debt: It’s common to sleep less on weekdays to keep up with the work demands or social obligations. After skipping sleep, the body builds up a sleep debt that many people compensate for by oversleeping on the weekend.
  • Eating late: Research suggests that eating or drinking within one hour of bedtime can cause people to wake up during the night and oversleep the following morning.
  • Prescription medications: A variety of medications are associated with oversleeping, including antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
  • Socioeconomic status: Several studies have found that a person’s ​​social standing or class is linked to their risk of oversleeping. Potential reasons for this connection include social isolation, lack of employment, and reduced access to medical care.

Is Too Much Sleep Bad for Your Health?

Although oversleeping on a regular basis is linked to a variety of health conditions, researchers are still trying to understand the relationship between long sleep and disease.

People who chronically oversleep are also more likely to have coexisting sleep disorders, mental health problems, or medical conditions like depression, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Further research is needed to understand if oversleeping increases the risk of these health issues, or if excessive sleep is a symptom of these conditions rather than a cause.

Tips for Getting a Healthy Amount of Sleep

If you are concerned that oversleeping is affecting your health or daily routine, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist about your symptoms and guidance for better sleep hygiene. Improving your sleep hygiene can help you get the right amount of sleep for your health.

Track your sleep habits and improve your sleep hygiene with the following tips:

  • Start a sleep diary: A sleep diary is a way of tracking bedtime routines and learning how they affect your sleep. Keeping a sleep diary can help you and your doctor find what may be contributing to oversleeping.
  • Keep a consistent bedtime routine: Allow time at the end of the day to relax before going to bed. Routinely dimming lights, taking a bath, or engaging in quiet activities like reading can help your body prepare for sleep.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, planning your bedtime based on how many hours you want to sleep.
  • Exercise: Regular daily exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. However, avoid exercises that increase your heart rate for two hours before bedtime, as this can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Avoid eating and drinking before bed: Other than having a light snack, avoid food or beverages before bedtime. Eating and drinking too close to sleeping can impair your sleep and may make you oversleep or feel tired the next day.
  • Prepare your bedroom: Most people sleep better in cooler temperatures and dark spaces. It may also be helpful to avoid any electronic devices that emit bright light or loud noises and select a comfortable mattress and pillow that fit your body’s needs.

Related Resources

  • Hypersomnia Foundation: The Hypersomnia Foundation provides information and support to improve the lives of people with idiopathic hypersomnia and related sleep disorders.
  • Depression: The National Institute of Mental Health offers information on depression detection and management.
  • Heart Disease: This page from MedlinePlus includes an overview of heart disease, including resources on prevention, testing, and treatment.
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