Most of us know that feeling of wanting to stay in bed all day long, especially on those cold winter mornings. But is it healthy for you to snuggle down and sleep in?
According to experts, there is such a thing as sleeping too much, and oversleeping has been linked to a number of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and depression. So how much sleep is too much?
Most experts agree that seven to eight hours is the ideal amount and that sleeping for more than nine hours a night can be detrimental to your health.
Uh-oh. My sleep chronotype is the dolphin, which means that I’m an insomniac – dolphins remain half awake, enabling them to stay alert and aware of predators, and they have a hard time waking up in the morning.
So, if I have trouble falling asleep, I ask you, dear reader: Is it really oversleeping if I sleep a little later due to the fact that I was up until 4 am TRYING to sleep?
I say no, but let’s see what the experts say about it.
What the Research Says
According to a new study, people who sleep in on weekends are more likely to die young. The study, which was published in the journal Sleep, followed a group of Finnish adults over a period of 20 years. The researchers found that those who slept for more than eight hours on weekends were 33% more likely to die during the study period than those who slept for less than eight hours.
Well, that’s alarming!
But it’s not just oversleeping that affects your health – under-sleeping can also lead to medical conditions.
“Both short sleep durations (less than five hours per night) and long sleep durations (nine or more hours per night) have been shown to have a negative impact on heart health, according to an analysis published in the European Heart Journal,” says Healthline. “In particular, your chances of developing coronary heart disease or having a stroke are greatly increased with less sleep.”
What Causes Oversleeping?
Restless leg syndrome
Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
Depression or anxiety
A study published in December 2018 in the European Heart Journal found that sleeping more than six to eight hours per day (including naps) was linked to a higher risk of death from heart disease, according to survey data from more than 116,632 adults from 21 countries.
“The most common causes we look at when someone says they’re sleeping more than nine hours a night is if it’s a medication effect or a medical, psychiatric, or neurological disorder,” says Ulysses Magalang, MD, the director of the sleep disorders program at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “If those aren’t the reason, it could be a sleep disorder.”
“According to research published in Annals of Neurology, 8.4 percent of the nearly 20,000 participants reported oversleeping (sleeping for nine or more hours per day).”
What’s Making You So Tired?
If you oversleep a lot, you should ask yourself why you’re doing it. Take a look at your sleep and sleep habits and keep a sleep diary, noting your hours and what you are doing in the hours before you go to bed.
“If you are on tech devices or watching TV, it’s time to set your smartphone down an hour before bed and TURN OFF TECHNOLOGY. Your busy mind and body need to gear down in preparation for bedtime, not to mention the negative impact of blue light from the devices on your natural sleep/wake cycle. Find relaxing and calming things to do, such as reading a book or magazine, but NOT on a tech device! Drinking caffeine in the hours before bed can also impact your sleep quality,” says Nancy H. Rothstein, MBA, The Sleep Ambassador and Director of CIRCADIAN Corporate Sleep Programs.
When to See Your Doctor About Too Much Sleep
The Cleveland Clinic suggests trying to get your sleep back on track yourself by:
Avoiding the snooze button
Waking up at the same time every day — weekends included
Embracing natural light when you wake up and avoiding it close to bedtime
If you still find yourself oversleeping regularly after making these changes, schedule a visit with your primary care physician who can use the process of elimination to rule out conditions in order to determine if there is an underlying issue.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam, review any medications that may affect sleep, and likely discuss further testing, including blood work.
Signs You’re Sleeping Too Much
While frequently sleeping more than nine hours a night is one warning sign, it’s not the only one to look out for. And snoozing for more than nine hours per night isn’t always a red flag. Some people just require more sleep than others.
“About 2 percent of the population are ‘long sleepers’ who require between 10 to 12 hours of sleep nightly on a regular basis,” says Shanon Makekau, MD, the chief of pulmonology and sleep medicine director at Kaiser Permanente in Honolulu.
For these people, oversleeping is standard. “Trying to impose a typical seven- to nine-hour sleep schedule on such people can be detrimental and effectively results in a sleep debt,” Dr. Makekau says. “If you regularly sleep longer than nine hours per night but wake up feeling refreshed and rested, you’re likely a long sleeper.”
If you don’t feel perky when you wake up after sleeping for abundant hours, there could be a problem. Khan says “Oversleeping is generally accompanied by symptoms of tiredness during the day, including grogginess, headache, decreased energy, and mood changes.”
Medical Problems Linked to Oversleeping
“People sleeping over nine hours were 21% more likely than normal sleepers to become obese during the study,” says Early Bird.
“While consistently getting less than the recommended amount of sleep has been associated with multiple adverse health outcomes, sleeping more than nine hours per night regularly may also be detrimental,” says Makekau.
She says oversleeping can lead to:
Increased fatigue and low energy
Decrease in immune function
Changes in stress response
Increased risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity
Increased risk of death
One study showed that female long sleepers had 44% higher CRP levels compared to women sleeping seven hours.
Having a Sleep Study
A sleep study can help rule out sleep disorders, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“Many people find themselves sleeping more as they get older, and assume it’s a normal part of aging, says Vsevolod Polotsky, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. But aging shouldn’t change your sleep needs drastically.
If you’ve ruled out those conditions and are still hitting the snooze button after nine hours under the covers, it might be a clue that you have an underlying medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes or depression.
If you’re an oversleeper, Polotsky recommends checking in with your doctor. They might recommend a sleep study to rule out sleep disorders. “You should seek professional help from a sleep center,” he says.
So, What’s the Verdict?
If you’re exercising a decent regimen and you find you still need an extreme amount of rest, or if your sleep need has shifted without an evident cause, talk to your doctor. Growing sleep needs can be a symptom of conditions like hypothyroidism, heart problems, depression, and sleep apnea. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and figure out the best path to improving sleep.
As with other health-related issues, moderation tends to be vital when it comes to sleeping habits. A lot is said about the dangers of not getting enough sleep, but it seems it is possible to have too many enjoyable lie-ins.
Consistently sleeping over nine hours per night is tied to lower mental and physical health — making it crucial to aim for a “normal” amount of sleep and to be attentive to changes in your body’s sleep needs that may point to other health concerns.
Are you aware that sleeping late can be bad for you? We’re kind of upset about this discovery. Tell us if you’ll change your snooze schedule in the comments!
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