What Happens When You Sleep Too Much?
Adequate sleep is essential for maintaining good health, but is there a danger in getting too much sleep? While we might be tempted to sleep long hours on the weekend, experts suggest oversleeping may be a sign of more serious health conditions, such as thyroid disorders and heart disease. Moreover, the desire to oversleep is now linked to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Throughout this article, we discuss how much sleep is too much. We also take a closer look at the causes and effects of oversleeping.
How Much Sleep Is Too Much?
Your age typically determines the amount of sleep you need per night. However, your overall health, lifestyle habits, and certain disorders may also affect your sleep needs. For example, if you’ve been particularly active or are going through an illness or stressful life situation, you may require more rest than usual.
These changes aside, most adults should get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Below, we outline the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) sleep recommendations based on age.
- Newborn (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours (including naps)
- Infant (4 to 12 months): 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
- Toddler (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
- Preschool (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- School age (6 to 12 years): 9 to 12 hours
- Teenagers (13 to 18 years): 8 to 10 hours
- Adults (18 to 65 years): 7 to 8 hours
Causes of Oversleeping
As we mentioned above, several factors may cause excess tiredness. The following sleep disorders and medical conditions can cause oversleeping.
- Idiopathic hypersomnia: Also called excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), hypersomnia causes the extreme need to sleep during the day. The desire to sleep is not satisfied by daytime napping and often results in longer sleep periods at night. Hypersomnia is often accompanied by low energy levels, trouble focusing, poor memory retention, and anxiety symptoms. Those with hypersomnia often need 10 to 12 hours of sleep.
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This sleep disorder causes breathing to start and stop during sleep. Therefore, those with sleep apnea often experience nighttime disruptions that affect their normal sleep cycle, causing them to extend their sleep time.
- Depression: Chronic fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD). Furthermore, antidepressant medications can also cause extreme sleepiness.
- Certain medications: Some medications may cause drowsiness that increases our need for more sleep at night. Certain prescriptions can also make it difficult to relax and fall asleep at night—disrupting the natural circadian rhythm and causing the desire to oversleep.
- Narcolepsy: The inconsistency of REM sleep and excessive sleepiness often causes those with narcolepsy to oversleep.
- Heart disease: Constant fatigue may be a sign of heart disease. The heart’s inability to pump efficiently can lead to poor circulation, low energy levels, and chronic fatigue.
- Thyroid issues: Thyroid disorders can have a negative impact on energy levels, sleep patterns, and mood. Hypothyroidism causes sluggishness, depression, and fatigue, while hyperthyroidism causes restlessness, irritability, difficulty falling asleep, and anxiety.
Effects of Oversleeping
Below, we outline the health effects associated with oversleeping.
- Obesity: Research indicates those who regularly sleep 9 to 10 hours a night are more likely to experience excess weight gain and obesity.
- Diabetes: Although research is inconclusive, some studies show a moderate association with diabetes and increased sleep times among middle-aged and older women. One National Library of Medicine study followed 276 individuals over 6 years and found that those with both short and long sleep durations were more likely to experience a glucose intolerance, which leads to diabetes.
- Back Pain: Long sleepers are more likely to experience pain and joint inflammation, specifically in the lumbar region. This is often due to muscle fatigue which occurs when resting on your back for an extended time. Oversleeping on an unsupportive mattress or in an awkward position can also lead to chronic back pain.
- Headaches: Sleeping longer than average often causes a hormonal imbalance which can lead to headaches.
- Anxiety and depression: A consistent sleep schedule helps maintain hormone levels. When we stay in bed longer than necessary, our cortisol, adrenalin, and serotonin levels can become imbalanced, making it difficult for us to manage stress and anxiety. Over time, this imbalance may lead to depression.
- Heart disease: Studies suggest both men and women who experience insufficient or excessive amounts of sleep have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a higher mortality rate due to heart complications.
- Stroke: A 6-year study involving 31,750 adults with an average age of 63 found that those who slept more than 8 hours a night were 23 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who slept between 7 and 8 hours a night.
- Poor immune function: A longer sleep duration can influence the production of cytokines, the group of proteins, peptides, or glycoproteins that aid the immune system. As a result, longer than normal sleep times can result in poor immune function.
Tips to Avoid Oversleeping
The following tips can help you get a good night’s sleep and avoid the dangerous complications of oversleeping.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Maintaining a set bedtime and wake-up time ensures you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep. Plus, a consistent sleep schedule can prevent a hormonal imbalance which may lead to oversleeping. Over time, your body becomes conditioned to expect rest during these times, making it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up each morning.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 p.m: Beverages with caffeine, such as soda and coffee, can stimulate the nervous system and make it difficult for you to get peaceful shuteye. Additionally, coffee can make you feel sleepy rather than alert, leading to daytime drowsiness. Caffeine is known to reduce the amount of deep sleep you experience, making it more likely you will oversleep.
- Create the perfect sleep space: It is essential to make your bedroom as comfortable, quiet, and dark as possible to promote deep, restful sleep. Install blackout curtains to block light, use ear plugs if outside noises keep you awake, and keep electronics out of the bedroom. These changes can help you find better quality rest and ensure you do not oversleep.
- Avoid blue light exposure: Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is triggered by darkness. During the day, when we are exposed to sunlight, melatonin production is low to keep us alert. However, as the sun sets, and we are exposed to less light, melatonin increases, and we become tired. The blue light from electronic devices can mimic the effects of sunlight and prevent melatonin production, making it harder for us to fall asleep.
- Keep a sleep diary: A sleep diary can help you keep track of your sleep habits and how they affect your mood, behavior, and overall health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I feel sleepy even after sleeping for 8 hours?
If you feel sleepy even after a full 8 hours of sleep, you may not have experienced adequate time in deep sleep or REM sleep. These sleep stages are known to be the most restorative stages because they are responsible for several vital functions, such as repairing muscle tissue, cleaning the brain, and consolidating memory. Without enough time in these stages of sleep, you may feel groggy even after a full night of rest.
Is it unhealthy to sleep during the day and be awake at night?
Sleeping during the day and staying awake at night can disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle and cause a hormone imbalance. When the production of melatonin, cortisol, and other hormones becomes irregular, normal bodily functions, such as appetite, immune function, and digestion, are also disrupted. Additionally, an erratic sleep-wake schedule can also make it difficult for us to remain alert during the day and sleep naturally at night.
Do I have hypersomnia?
If you experience periods of extreme daytime sleepiness or prolonged nighttime sleeping, you may have hypersomnia. Those with hypersomnia also experience anxiety, low energy, loss of appetite, and poor memory. Hypersomnia is often a side effect of another sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea.
Do you burn calories when sleeping?
As the body carries out essential functions during sleep, we naturally burn calories. The amount of calories you burn while sleeping depends on your body weight and metabolism. Typically, a person who weighs 125 pounds burns 38 calories per hour when sleeping. Someone who weighs 185 pounds burns around 56 calories per hour.
What is somniphobia?
Somniphobia, also known as sleep anxiety or sleep dread, is the intense fear of sleep or bedtime. This condition often results in insomnia and anxiety because individuals are worried about sleep throughout the day. Those with somniphobia typically have sleep paralysis and night terrors.
There is a fine line between adequate sleep and too much sleep. However, if you listen to your body, maintain a consistent sleep schedule, and practice good sleep hygiene, you can reap the benefits of a full 8 hours and reduce the risk of oversleeping. If you believe your tendency to oversleep is connected to a more severe health problem, be sure to discuss these symptoms with your doctor. They may be able to help you create a comprehensive plan for better quality sleep.
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