Does Sleeping Too Much Affect You?

Risks include heart disease, weight gain, and depression

While it is true that a good night’s sleep is essential to good health, excessive sleep has been linked to a host of medical problems. It is important that while you make sure you're getting enough sleep every day, that you also make sure you are not getting too much of a good thing.

Learning about how much sleep you need each night can provide you with a benchmark to make sure you don't put yourself at risk for the negative effects of too much sleep.

Medical Reasons for Sleeping Too Much
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

How Much Sleep Is Too Much? 

The amount of sleep a person needs is different for each individual. It is dependent on a variety of factors.

Genetics

Our genes play a part in our internal sleep and circadian rhythms, the two primary biological sleep systems. Research has found that some people have a gene mutation that allows them to feel rested with as little as four hours of sleep. This gene is rare and inherited. However, most people need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night to feel rested and refreshed.

Age

Children need more sleep than adults. Older adults, on the other hand, need more sleep than young adults. 

Activity Level

The more active person is, the more sleep they will need. Sleep allows time for the body to recover from physical exertion. 

Health

When a person is coping with health issues, they will need more sleep. This applies to short-term illnesses such as the flu and long-term chronic conditions, such as diabetes. 

Life Changes

Stress and life changes can either increase a person’s need for sleep or make it harder to sleep. No matter whether the stress and life changes are positive or negative, it will impact a person's sleep.

Generally speaking, an adult who is consistently sleeping ten or more hours per night is probably sleeping too much and should talk to their doctor. 

Causes

There are several reasons why a person might be sleeping too much. 

Hypersomnia

This is the medical term for sleeping too much and for excessive daytime sleepiness. Much like insomnia (sleeplessness), sleeping too much is a sign of disordered sleep. Hypersomnia is diagnosed when excessive sleep has no known explanation. 

Sleepiness with hypersomnia cannot be resolved by napping. Further, hypersomnia causes a person to sleep for unusually long periods at night. Hypersomnia also causes low energy, memory problems, and anxiety. 

Narcolepsy

This is a neurological sleep disorder where the brain is unable to control the sleep and wake cycles. People with narcolepsy have excessive daytime sleepiness and may fall asleep during the day and during normal activities such as driving. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This sleep disorder causes people to stop breathing for brief periods. It can also cause an increased need for sleep because it disrupts the natural sleep cycle.

Depression

Depression is one of the most common reasons a person may sleep too much. Being depressed causes a person to be tired all the time and have no energy. Thus, depressed people need to sleep more.

Medications

Certain medications to treat health conditions may make a person feel tired and drowsy often. Therefore, they will want to sleep more—often times to what is considered excessive.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, regardless of how much, can promote sleep disorders. This includes sleep apnea and snoring. It is also known for causing sleep disturbances, especially with sleep patterns and daytime sleepiness.

Most causes of sleeping too much are temporary. They can be resolved with simple lifestyle changes, including eating healthy, being active, keeping a regular schedule, and putting a stop to unhealthy habits.

Related Medical Problems

Sleeping too much can be just as damaging as sleeping too little. Sleeping too much can put a person at risk for a number of health conditions.

Heart Disease

Sleeping too much can increase a person’s risk of heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This risk is higher for women because they sleep more than men.  

Being Overweight 

Research has shown that people who sleep too much tend to weigh more. It is possible that heavier weight is due to sleeping more and being less active—the more a person sleeps, the less they are moving and the fewer calories they are burning. 

Diabetes 

Sleeping too much can raise blood sugar and increase the risk for type 2 diabetes. However, this risk may be more so related to being sedentary and overweight rather than related to any specific connection between diabetes and excessive sleep.  

Concentration Troubles 

Oversleeping can cause the brain to age faster and make it difficult to perform the simplest daily tasks, according to research reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. This may have to do with how often a person wakes up during the night, which means they may not be getting enough restorative sleep necessary for refreshing and restoring the brain. 

Depression 

Depression and sleep tend to be intertwined. Depression can make a person sleep longer. In turn, sleeping longer can perpetuate a person's depressed state.

Pain 

When people who are prone to headaches sleep too much, they will experience more head pain. Researchers think this happens because excessive sleep triggers certain neurotransmitters in the brain. 

Spending too much time in bed can lead to feeling achy, especially for people with back problems. The lack of movement, lying down in one position for too long, or even a bad mattress can all lead to more pain. People who have pain also suffer from poor sleep, which makes them want to sleep longer.  

When to Seek Help

Anyone who finds themselves consistently sleeping 10 or more hours per night should see a doctor to determine why they are oversleeping. If oversleeping is the result of drinking too much alcohol or certain medications, cutting back or the elimination of these substances may help.

 Of course, if oversleeping is due to the effects of prescription medication, the medication should not be stopped without the approval of a doctor. If oversleeping is caused by a health condition, managing that condition and practicing better sleep habits may help reduce the need to oversleep. 

A Word From Verywell 

Regardless of the reason for a person’s oversleeping, practicing good sleeping habits can help you to get the seven to eight hours of quality sleep you need. It is also a good idea to go to bed at the same time every night and have the same wake-up time. Avoid caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime. Regular exercise can improve sleep quality, too. Lastly, make sure your bedroom is comfortable and free of distractions.

 

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