Is It Bad To Sleep Too Much?
In today’s day and age, sleep has become a rare commodity. 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 sleeping in on the weekends. There are the rare days when your sleep cycle is pretty consistent, and you fall asleep like a baby.
But have you ever considered that even though you’re sleeping soundly, you might be sleeping too much? We’ve all had days when we sleep in far too long, or take longer naps when we should. Sleeping 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.
Is Sleeping Too Much Bad For You?
Sleep is a fascinating and relatively new and emerging field of study, and research has shown that quality sleep is linked to mental and physical wellbeing. Some of the health detriments of sleeping too long include:
Impaired cognitive function
Sleeping too much can cause your brain to feel foggy afterwards, 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.
Much like what happens when you get too little sleep, sleeping too much increases your risk of contracting degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This is because your brain starts to functioning more poorly the more you oversleep and overtime it affects your brain cells.
The same research says that being consistent is key as “if the amount of time a women 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 sleep more as a coping mechanism, and the resulting feeling of lethargy can make your depression worse.
One study shows that those who sleep for long durations are more likely to have depression or anxiety compared to normal sleepers. Another one shows that irregularities in the body’s internal sleep clock may cause depressive symptoms and maintaining a proper sleep schedule is a treatment for depression.
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 sleep 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.
While you might want to sleep more when you’re sick or in pain, research has shown that much sleep can actually exacerbate pain symptoms. Being inactive and lying in bed too long can cause back, neck and joint pain. It 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.
A study of Korean women showed that those undergoing in vitro fertilization therapy had the best chances of conceiving a child when they had slept 7 to 8 hours.
The exact cause of this remains unclear, but it might be due to the lack of stress and the body being 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 sleeping too much such as low glucose tolerance and risk of diabetes. Staying inactive in bed for longer periods of times 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 diseases 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 Is Enough Sleep?
Odds are, you are (like everyone) trying your best to get as much sleep as you can so as to not be sleep deprived. Your good intentions might be making it difficult to see when you are sleeping 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 sleeping too much might feel good at first, it’s important that you take note of 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. The amount of sleep needed varies from each person, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, 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. 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, in fact feeling negative effects when don’t sleep as long as they need. If you’re sleeping over nine hours on a regular basis and are feeling unwell and unrested afterwards, it could be a sign that you are sleeping too much and the habit is starting to take a toll on your body.
Like with most things in life, in order for sleep to be good for you, it needs to be done in moderation.
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, too much sleep can be just as damaging to your body as getting too little sleep. The key to developing good sleeping habits also lies in consistency. Here’s a short guide to developing better sleep habits.
- Start by finding out how many hours you need 一 because 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 a full 9. Whatever it is, set your sleeping times accordingly to fit your schedule and make sure you get just the right number of hours.
- Don’t “binge sleep” by sleeping in on the weekends 一 even if you miss a few hours of sleep, resist the urge to catch up on sleep by sleeping in on certain days. This throws off your circadian rhythms and make is 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.
- Let the light in 一 exposure to light affects the way 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, ensure 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 一 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, and 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 cellphone or computer.
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 sleeping 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!