Is It Bad To Sleep Too Much?
written by sleep expert Lauren Hall
Oversleeping: The Effects and Health Risks of Sleeping Too Much:
In today’s day and age, sleep has become a rare commodity. We usually sleep too much or less each day. But is it bad to sleep too much?
Between our coffee-fueled mornings, long work days, and hectic social schedules, we often sacrifice sleep in the name of productivity and try to repay our debt by resting in on the weekends.
There are rare days when your rest cycle is pretty consistent, and you fall asleep like a baby. Falling asleep as early as 11 pm and waking up at 10 am the following day, isn’t it such a nice feeling?
But have you ever considered that even though you’re sleeping soundly, you might be resting too much? We’ve all had days when we sleep in far too long or take longer naps than we should.
Resting too much is actually a sign that something might be wrong with your body and, as we discuss in this article, can be terribly bad for your overall health.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
I’m here to factor in all the confusing features as to what a healthy sleep cycle looks like and the signs that you may need to consult your doctor. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Are You Sleeping Too Much?
Firstly, we will discuss whether or not you’re sleeping too much by discussing the healthy hours of sleep you should be aiming for per night. The gold standard of normal has been considered eight hours per night, but there is actually a healthy range to aim for.
Healthy adults between ages 18 to 64 will fit between the range of seven to nine hours of sleep per night; this is normal and healthy for most adults and will make sure you wake up feeling refreshed and energized for the day.
The majority stay closer to the seven-hour mark, which can actually be better for your health as research has linked seven hours rest with things like longevity and better brain health as you age.
The “right amount of sleep” isn’t as easy as black and white; it all depends on the individual. Some may agree that 7 hours is enough sleep for them, whereas others may argue they need more to feel well-rested, and that’s fine.
If you find yourself sleeping in on weekends, there’s no need to worry as it is just your body recovering from the week. If you find yourself getting more than 9 hours of sleep every single night and don’t feel well-rested, then that’s when you should look more closely.
If your sleep quality is poor, you may find yourself getting too much sleep as your body isn’t receiving deep, restorative sleep that it needs to feel well-rested when you wake up. If that isn’t happening within the recommended 8 hours, your body will prolong sleep.
Factors that can cause detriment to the quality of sleep:
There are many factors that can contribute too much sleep and poor sleep quality; if you have any cause for concern, I would recommend going to speak to a sleep specialist where they can review your sleep environment and medical history to see what may be playing a role in too much sleep.
Here are two common factors:
Environmental factors such as noise, lights, or an uncomfortable bed can massively affect your sleep as it can affect your body falling asleep. If you fall asleep with a light on or with light within the room, it will affect your circadian rhythm and affect when your body gets naturally asleep and ready to fall asleep.
This is because the light is an exogenous zeitgeber; it explains why we feel alert during the day and drowsy at night time. Light also reduces the production of melatonin, which induces sleep.
Medications and sleeping disorders:
Medications, sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, bruxism, PLMD, etc., and comorbid conditions such as depression, chronic pain, etc. It can also affect sleep quality as it affects environmental triggers that help us to go to sleep.
I would recommend consulting your doctor or a specialist if you have any causes for concern.
Health Impacts of Oversleeping or Too Much Sleep
Sleep is a fascinating and relatively new and emerging field of study, and research has shown that quality rest is linked to mental and physical wellbeing. Some of the health detriments of too much sleep that can actually affect your health:
There are several trends that have linked oversleeping with higher rates of mortalility, disease, and even depression. Here are the key links:
- Cognitive impairment
- Degenerative diseases
- Chronic inflammation
- Increased pain
- Impaired fertility
- Increased weight gain
- Lower glucose tolerance/ diabetes
- Risk of heart disease and stroke
- Higher mortality
Let’s break it all down and see if too much sleep is actually affecting your health.
Impaired cognitive function
Sleeping too much can cause your brain to feel foggy afterward, leading to difficulty concentrating. You’ll find it harder to do cognitive tasks, and might even experience memory impairment as your inability to focus makes it difficult to retain information.
Sleep plays a crucial role in the brain, it allows for connections to align, and allows you to make rational decisions. If you have ever heard of the saying ‘sleep on it’ when asked to make a decision, this has been scientifically proven to work as your brain makes the connections while you rest.
Rest also has an important effect on mood and your mental health, this is because your brain clears waste by-products and balances out neurotransmitters, and processes memories at rest.
Researchers have actually found that cognitive performance peaks in people that sleep around 7 hours of sleep per night and was worse in those that had less than that. Those who had longer than 9 hours of sleep per night also had decreased cognitive function and memory impairments.
This suggests that too much sleep may actually be as detrimental to your cognitive function as much as not having enough.
This is because your brain starts to functioning more poorly when sleeping too much and over time it affects your brain cells.
The same research says that being consistent is key as “if the amount of time a woman slept changed by two or more hours per day as she progressed from mid-life to later on in life,” she experienced a decline in cognitive functions.
Depression and poor mental health
Oversleeping is a possible symptom of depression. Increased stress might be compelling you to rest more as a coping mechanism, and the resulting feeling of lethargy can make your depression worse.
One study shows that those who rest for long durations are more likely to have depression or anxiety compared to normal sleepers. 15% of those who suffer from insomnia also tend to oversleep as they struggle to get the quality of sleep they need.
Another one shows that irregularities in the body’s internal sleep clock may cause depressive symptoms and maintain a proper rest schedule is a treatment for depression.
People with longer sleep durations also are known to have persistent depression or anxiety symptoms in comparison to normal sleepers. Also sleeping too little can also lead to an increase in genetic heritability of depressive symptoms compared to normal sleepers.
Inflammation in the body is a measure of the level of cytokines (also known as C-reactive proteins or CRPs). A study compared the CRP levels and rest durations of large groups, observing that long sleepers had elevated levels.
Chronic inflammations make your body more susceptible to a range of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease. Certain lifestyle factors like smoking, obesity and prolonged infections can also contribute to inflammation, sleeping too little or too much can also play a role.
Elevated CRPs were found in:
- Whites that sleep less than five hours or more than nine hours per night.
- Hispanics/Latinos that sleep for more than 9 hours per night.
- African-Americans that sleep less than five hours or more than eight hours.
- Asians sleeping for more than 9 hours. Studies found that interestingly Asians that had 5-6 hours of sleep per night had the lowest level of CRPs.
While you might want to sleep more when you’re sick or in pain, research has shown that much rest can actually exacerbate pain symptoms. Being inactive and lying in bed too long can cause back, neck, and joint pain.
Back pain can actually worsen from too little activity or spending too much time in bed. Factors such as sleeping in an un-ergonomic position or on an unsupportive mattress can also worsen back pain as well as the quality of sleep as this pain may keep you up at night.
I would recommend getting a mattress suitable for back pain or even a mattress topper that will promote healthy spinal alignment and mitigate discomfort.
Oversleeping on the weekend can also cause a “weekend headache,” which triggers migraines and tension headaches. The cause isn’t necessarily the sleep but may be due to caffeine withdrawal and increased stress due to perceived lack of productivity.
The exact cause of this remains unclear, but it might be due to the lack of stress and the body is given more time to recuperate during sleeping hours, as another study showed that shift work often caused miscarriages, menstrual problems, and trouble conceiving.
Lower glucose tolerance
Glucose tolerance refers to the body’s ability to process sugars which supplies you with energy. Impaired glucose tolerance is linked to insulin resistance which becomes a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Increased weight gain
While getting the right amount of sleep can promote weight loss, sleeping too much can increase weight gain. A six-year Canadian study found that people who slept over nine hours were 21% more likely than normal sleepers to become obese over the course of the study.
This is likely caused by the effects of getting too much sleep such as low glucose tolerance and risk of diabetes. Staying inactive in bed for longer periods of time also doesn’t help you burn calories.
Risk of heart disease and stroke
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NAHNES), both short and long sleep is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
People who slept more than eight hours per night were twice as likely to experience angina or chest palpitations caused by reduced blood flow and 10% were more likely to have coronary heart disease.
Another study from the University of Cambridge showed that people who slept over eight hours were 46% more likely to have had a stroke during the study.
Higher mortality risk
As a result of all the health issues and risks we’ve mentioned so far, those who sleep longer than recommended have a higher risk of death.
A literature review by Dr. Michael Grandner posits that this might be caused by sleep fragmentation, fatigue, decreased immune functions, lack of exercise, and underlying diseases.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Odds are, you are (like everyone) trying your best to get as much sleep as you can not be sleep deprived. Your good intentions might be making it difficult to see when you are resting too much.
Even trying to catch up on sleep during the weekends or “binge sleeping” counts as sleeping too much, as you’re sleeping for too long in one go. While resting too much might feel good at first, you must note how it’s making you feel in the long run.
So how much sleep do you actually need? It’s hard to get a clear answer to this question.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of rest needed varies for each person, but the optimal range is between 7 to 9 hours for adults between 18 and 64 years of age.
Other research has suggested that the golden number might be closer to seven hours. Shawn Youngstedt of Arizona State University has said that the mortality and morbidity rates were found in people who slept seven hours.
Over nine hours is considered to be an excessive amount of time for sleep in adults.
Is It Bad To Sleep Too Much
There are exceptions as an estimated 2% of the population are naturally long sleepers (usually from childhood) and experience no ill effects from catching those extra Zs, feeling negative effects when they don’t sleep as long as they need.
If you’re getting too much sleep and sleeping over nine hours regularly and are feeling unwell and unrested afterward, it could be a sign that you are resting too much, and the habit is starting to take a toll on your body.
Extra tips to prevent too much sleep:
The key to developing good sleeping habits also lies in inconsistency. Here’s a short guide to developing better sleep habits.
Start by finding out how many hours you need: The amount of sleep is different for different people, start by figuring out your magical sleeping number. Maybe you get by fine with 7 hours, or maybe you need to get the full nine. Whatever it is, set your resting times accordingly to fit your schedule and make sure you get just the right number of hours.
Don’t “binge sleep”: Sleeping in on the weekends, even if you miss a few hours of rest, resist the urge to catch up on sleep by sleeping in on certain days. This throws off your circadian rhythms and makes it even more difficult to fall asleep the next day, causing a perpetual cycle of irregular sleep.
Remember, consistency is key! Try to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day so you get roughly the same amount of sleep.
Let the light in: The amount of sleep can be affected by the exposure of light. This is because light affects how melatonin (the sleep hormone) is produced in your body. When it gets dark, your body produces more melatonin to signal it’s time to go to sleep.
Help wake your body up by exposing it to light in the morning. Keeping the drapes or blinds open to let sunlight filter in ensures your body will wake up more easily. Waking up to a dark room makes it more likely you’ll want to stay in bed longer, which can cause oversleeping.
Avoid naps after 4 pm: While naps are a good way to recharge throughout the day, there’s a wrong way to nap. Napping excessively for long periods of time has the same effects as oversleeping.
If you nap past 4 pm, it’s more likely that you’ll have difficulty falling asleep when you’re supposed to later in the night, which can cause oversleeping the next day. This also means no caffeine and less exposure to blue light devices like your cell phone or computer.
Like most things in life, it needs to be done in moderation for sleep to be good for you. Is it bad to sleep too much?
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, too much sleep can be just as damaging to your body as getting too little sleep. Developing and maintaining a regular and healthy sleeping habit is no easy feat.
It might take a lot of work at first, but with some effort and a lot of discipline, you’ll find yourself falling asleep and waking up with such ease, you’ll wonder why you ever had problems resting in the first place.
Life can sometimes get in the way, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a bad night. Keep trying, and eventually, you’ll get the proper rest you so rightly deserve 一 and be much happier for it!
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