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Do you ever wake up in the morning and wish that you could press snooze and go back to bed for about a week? Do you feel like even after eight, or even nine, hours of sleep that you still want another hour or two of slumber?
Scientists are still figuring out all the roles that sleep plays in our health, but they do know that sleeping is vital for brain function, memory, and physical health. It’s a time when our brains process all of the information and stimuli from the day, and it’s when our bodies repair, grow and heal.
So, wouldn’t it make sense that the more we sleep, the better health we’ll experience?
You’ve heard the phrase, “too much of a good thing,” and this principle applies to your bedtime, too. If you are someone who “needs” more than nine hours of sleep per night, you may be doing more harm than good. The effects of oversleeping include an increased risk of a variety of health challenges, including obesity, diabetes, depression, heart disease, mood disorders, and even death.
Scary, right? Before you panic and down a liter of Red Bull, let’s first define what oversleeping is. Then we’ll explore the causes and share some tips on how to get back on a healthier schedule.
What is Oversleeping?
Most experts agree that eight hours is the ideal amount of shuteye for adults. There’s an acceptable range of seven to nine hours for optimal performance, and new studies are pointing to around seven hours as the ideal number of hours.
Keep in mind that everyone is different. Depending on your age, daily energy expenditure and lifestyle, you may need more or less shuteye than what’s recommended (here are recommendations for every age). A visit to your doctor can help you determine your ideal range, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll stick to averages and expert-recommended best practices.
So, to answer the question of what constitutes oversleeping or excessive sleeping, it’s any regular sleeping habits that are longer than nine hours.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that simply willing yourself to stick to an eight-hour sleeping schedule may not be the best solution. The reason you’re sleeping too much could be a sign of an underlying condition. For example, if you’ve got a hormonal imbalance or are battling an illness, you may feel the legitimate need for excessive sleeping.
Later in this article, we’ll cover helpful tips to maintain a more normal schedule. If you find that you’re still exhausted after a few weeks of trying these tips, a consultation with your doctor may be in order.
To sum up, according to Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, “Oversleeping usually isn’t about needing more sleep – it’s usually about being exhausted because of some other physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual deficit.”
Causes of Excessive Sleeping
This is the opposite of insomnia. With a condition like insomnia, the person has trouble falling or staying asleep. However, in cases of hypersomnia, they have difficulty staying awake. Instead, all they really want to do is curl up and take a nap. And, even after a nap, they still feel tired. It’s an endless cycle of needing to rest, yet never feeling rested.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This condition, also abbreviated as OSA, is characterized by dozens to hundreds of episodes of waking up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe. What happens is that when the person falls asleep the throat muscles that keep the airways open to relax, causing the tissues to collapse and block the airway. Some people may experience the same effect by their tongue rolling back and blocking the airway.
The result of this condition is interrupted and fragmented sleep that could cause the person to want to continue sleeping even though they’ve been in bed for an adequate number of hours.
Worried you might have this condition? See the 5 signs of sleep apnea
Alcohol has a sedative effect, and though it may cause someone to become drowsy and fall asleep, the sleep tends to be poor quality. As a result, the person may feel that need even more shuteye than normal in order to feel rested.
Some medications have side effects that induce drowsiness. Another possibility is the reliance on sleeping pills, which often cause people to feel tired beyond eight hours. If you’re on any prescription medications, check the package insert to see if any of the listed side effects could be causing the need for excessive sleeping.
Feelings of depression can cause both insomnia and sleeping too much. In about 15% of the population with depression, there will be reports of oversleeping.
It could be that people are depressed are using sleep as an escape, or it may be that a hormonal imbalance is affecting the body’s internal clock. Likely, it’s a combination of these two factors.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Also known as SAD, this disorder commonly afflicts people during the winter months when there is less sunshine. Lack of sunlight exposure throws off the body’s 24-hour clock, and it also results in less absorption of Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body perform a variety of functions, including healing, metabolism, and mood management.
The results of Seasonal Affective Disorder on sleep are magnified when you combine fewer daylight hours with an increase in depressive symptoms.
Physical Side Effects
Interestingly enough, the physical side effects of sleeping too little mirror what happens when people are sleeping too much. One often-noted side effect is diabetes. By not balancing the sleep cycle, the body’s ability to process glucose is negatively affected, and this is closely linked to instances of diabetes.
One would logically think that if someone is sleeping too much, they’re not getting enough exercise. However, even taking physical activity into account, those who sleep too much are more prone to obesity. Again, referencing Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, there could be another underlying cause that’s responsible for an over sleeper’s weight gain.
Have you ever woken up from a 12-hour sleep with a headache or brain fog? A likely culprit is caffeine withdrawal, as your body is probably used to getting its daily dose hours earlier If you’re not a caffeine consumer, another possible cause is dehydration, since you have gone several extra hours without any liquid.
Gone are the days when bed rest was prescribed for pain-based symptoms. Now, doctors realize that movement and circulation are important for healing and maintaining range of motion. If you’re sleeping too much, you’re more likely to wake up sore. Part of the reason is lack of movement, and another potential reason is that you’re sleeping on an old or unsupportive mattress.
This not-so-silent killer is linked to all sorts of lifestyle habits, including sleeping too much. Again, you may be oversleeping due to a symptom of heart disease, or your habit of excessive sleep could be worsening the situation. If heart disease runs in your family or you have concerns about your susceptibility, consult with a medical professional.
What we can tell you is that a study of 72,000 women who slept more than nine hours per night showed that they were 38% more likely to have coronary heart disease than so-called normal sleepers.
Both sleep deprivation and oversleeping have been linked to an increased risk of stroke. The theory is that sleeping regulates metabolic and endocrine functions. When we stay asleep for too much time, as well as too little, it has a tendency to throw the entire system off track.
Everything in the body is related, and a common source of many ailments is inflammation in the body. Inflammation is tied to a variety of causes, including obesity, chronic infections, and even too much or too little rest. When these factors occur, the body’s cytokine levels increase. Cytokines are a type of protein that signal cells to perform a variety of functions, including the immune system.
When the immune system is compromised, one of the first signs is an inflammatory response. Therefore, it goes to reason that throwing off sleep, affects cytokine activity, which affects the immune system, and then cause wreak havoc on the rest of the body.
We already know that too much or too little sleep affects hormone levels. And common sense tells us that fertility and hormones are closely linked. So, we can logically draw a connection between not sleeping the right amount and having potentially impaired fertility.
There’s even a study that supports this theory. “Moderate” sleepers who got seven to eight hours per night of rest were slightly more likely to get pregnant via IVF than the short or long sleepers.
Though it sounds extreme, it shouldn’t be entirely ignored. Long sleep duration is closely correlated with increased mortality. The actual cause hasn’t been determined. One theory is that people with chronic or undiagnosed illnesses are sleeping more and weren’t healthy, to begin with. This statistic is also linked to people who are of lower socioeconomic status who may not be under regular medical care.
Either way, if you find that you’re regularly sleeping more than eight to nine hours per night and still feel exhausted, it’s something to address.
Mental Side Effects
People who sleep excessively are more likely to report worse mental health than those who sleep an average of eight hours. Depression is often seen among over sleepers. Again, this observation presents a chicken and egg-type dilemma. Are people oversleeping because they’re depressed or are they feeling depressed because they’re sleeping too much? By improving sleep hygiene, one could potentially see if it had an effect on depressive symptoms.
People with anxiety tend to either sleep too much or too little. For some, the feelings of anxiety make it harder for them to fall asleep. For others, they may use being unconscious as an escape. Either way, they tend to feel even more anxious when they wake up, making oversleeping counterproductive to the condition.
Have you ever overslept and felt more tired than when you went to bed? That’s called a sleep hangover, and it’s awful! The problem is that those experiencing this type of hangover may be so tired that they end up going to back to bed and creating a perpetual cycle of oversleeping.
The best thing to do to get over this temporary condition is power through it until it’s time for bed that night and set the alarm for a normal wake-up time the next day
Sleep is a powerful aid to learn, process information and increase memory. However, too much of it can have the opposite effect. The Lumosity brain-training platform is an objective (and fun) way to measure cognitive abilities. Researchers found that those who slept seven hours performed the best on their tests.
This finding makes one wonder if seven hours could be even better than eight when it comes to the perfect amount of sleep!
How to Prevent Excessive Sleeping
If you find that you’re exhausted even after the right number of resting hours, you may be eating an unhealthy diet that’s either deficient in vital nutrients or overly abundant in junk food and empty calories. Drinking plenty of water could also help as dehydration often leads to fatigue.
Avoid Alcohol Intake
Because alcohol affects the sleep cycle, you may need to cut back or avoid it altogether to see if it helps improve the quality of your rest and your daily energy levels.
Movement and exercise are helpful in increasing energy. As long as you get your work out in the morning or afternoon and avoid strenuous activity within about three to four hours of bedtime, you should feel the rejuvenating effects of the increased endorphin levels.
If you’re always in the dark, you’re more prone to feel drowsy. Light and darkness are two powerful signals for our body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm. It tells us to be active and alert during daylight hours and to wind down when darkness comes.
In the morning, make sure you get plenty of sunshine as soon as the alarm goes off. Grab your coffee or tea and head outside to bask in the morning rays from your front door or patio. Even better, take a walk around the block!
Regular Bedtime and Wake Time
Erratic schedules make feeling caught up on rest seem impossible. Though it might be difficult for some people’s routines to set a consistent bedtime and wake up time, do your best to fluctuate by no more than an hour each day.
By resetting your circadian rhythm to work on its natural 24-hour cycle, you’re more likely to feel well-rested after the recommended seven to nine-hour allotment of shuteye.
You may need to kick your caffeine habit entirely if it’s throwing you wildly off track. However, we suggest starting by limiting caffeine intake to before lunchtime only. Then, if you feel the urge for an afternoon cup of joe, opt for decaf or an herbal tea. You’ll still get to enjoy the ritual without the jitters.
If you have a habit of oversleeping, an alarm clock is a must. Our recommendation is to put it across the room, so you have to physically get out of bed to turn it off. If you have a partner, ask them to support you in your new waking regime. Request that they don’t allow you to return to bed and snuggle.
If you don’t have a partner, or they’re not willing to cooperate, set up your own reward system for complying with a healthy schedule. Maybe schedule a manicure or massage if you get up every day during the week without pressing snooze. Having something to look forward to or an upcoming reward could help motivate you to start your day.
Set Your Bedroom Right
Scrolling through your social media newsfeed is likely to keep you up at night and then cause you to oversleep in the morning. Instead, we suggest banning all electronic devices from the bedroom.
Also, make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. If it’s more than eight years old, consider replacing it (you might check our top overall picks here). A worn-out or unsupportive bed makes it harder to fall asleep, resulting in you feeling more tired in the morning and tempted to snooze the morning away.
Another tip to try is to keep your room at an ideal temperature for sleeping. Experts recommend 60 to 68 degrees. And if your room is noisy due to neighbors, roommates or street sounds, try a white noise machine or earbuds ergonomically designed for sleeping. Then play a soothing soundtrack like nature sounds, binaural beats or ASMR.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is too much sleep bad for you?
Yes, just like not getting enough sleep is harmful to your health, sleeping too much has a similar effect. Research has shown that people who sleep more than nine hours per night are at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity, and other ailments.
Is 10 hours of sleep too much?
While every person has individual needs, the general consensus among sleep experts is that 10 hours is too much. There are, of course, exceptions. Elite athletes like basketball great, Lebron James, and tennis champion, Roger Federer, have gone on record saying they need 12 hours of sleep per night.
However, these athletes are expending tremendous amounts of energy on a daily basis, and their bodies and brains need time to recover, repair, and process information.
Unless you’re an extreme athlete, it’s probably wise to stick to the recommended seven to nine hours of rest each night.
What are the symptoms of oversleeping?
The most visible symptoms include irritability, depression, weight gain, increased pain levels, cognitive impairment, and fatigue. Other serious symptoms are inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, and decreased fertility.
To know if you’re suffering from this condition, keep a log of how much you sleep each night and how you feel in the morning and throughout the day. If you find that you’re sleeping more than the recommended amount and still feel groggy, you may be oversleeping.
Is there a cure for this problem?
Fortunately, yes! And the good news is that you’re in total control. The best way to cure oversleeping is to put yourself on a sleep schedule. Pick a set time to go to bed and wake up each day. It might not be easy at first, so make sure you follow our previous tips about living a healthy style. This includes eating a balanced diet, exercising, avoiding excess alcohol and caffeine, and having a bedroom that’s conducive to sleep.
It might take a couple of weeks to find your new rhythm, but once you do, you should feel a lot better! If you’re still feeling exhausted despite being on a “normal” schedule, check with your doctor to see if you could have an underlying condition that’s affecting your health.
Oversleeping isn’t just bad for your health. It can also affect your career, relationships, and family. If you’re having a hard time getting up in the morning because you feel sluggish and fatigued, it could make you late for work or cause you to miss out on fun, social events and family time.
You owe it to yourself to live to your true potential, and that includes a sleep schedule that makes you feel well-rested and rejuvenated each morning.