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Causes of Oversleeping (+ Dangers of Sleeping Too Much)

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Oversleeping/sleeping too much - Dr. Axe

If you’ve been feeling fatigued and can’t quite seem to drag yourself out of bed lately, you may be wondering, “Why am I sleeping too much?” Given how common insomnia and sleep deprivation are, we don’t always hear about the potential harmful effects of oversleeping. However, sleeping too much can be a real concern if it’s brought about my underlying health issue — such as depression or certain chronic diseases.

How much is too much sleep? What can you do to avoid excessive sleeping?

Below we look at warning signs that indicate you’re not sleeping a “normal” amount, plus tips for lifting your energy and getting more restful sleep. Read on for more about sleeping too much.

How Much Is Too Much Sleep?

Is it OK to sleep 12 hours a day? Not exactly.

While we need to sleep a certain amount each night to help restore our energy and support many other bodily functions (such as cognitive abilities, detoxification and so on), too much sleep can be problematic.

What’s a normal amount of sleep? For example, how much did our ancestors sleep?

As sleep research continues to evolve, experts like the researchers at the National Sleep Foundation now believe that getting between seven to nine hours of sleep per night is normal and healthy for most adults. This is the average amount that adults between the ages of about 18 and 64 years old need to feel energized and operate at their best.

Around seven to nine hours of sleep per night is associated with health perks, including:

  • a better mood
  • improved concentration
  • lower risk for obesity and many diseases
  • and even longevity

Researchers believe that our ancestors probably slept for about 6.5 to seven hours most nights, although napping may have been common too.

They also have found that getting more than nine hours of sleep per night seems to be too much.

Consistently oversleeping (also called hypersomnia) for more than nine hours nightly can indicate that something is wrong, whether mentally or physically. This is especially true if someone sleeps this much most of the time and still don’t feel totally rested or otherwise healthy.

While most people sometimes sleep for longer than nine hours now and then, it shouldn’t happen on a consistent basis.

Possible Causes of Oversleeping

What is oversleeping a symptom of? Excessive sleeping may be a symptom of certain medical conditions, such as:

Low socioeconomic status has also been found to be a risk factor.

Another issue is not getting good sleep despite being in bed for a long period of time each night.

This might be caused by factors that have to do with your “sleep environment” (your bedroom), like:

  • Too much lights and noise in your bedroom
  • An uncomfortable temperature
  • An uncomfortable bed, pillow, blankets, etc.
  • Too little exercise during the day or too many stimulants, which leaves you restless at night

Warning Signs of Sleeping Too Much

If you’re wondering if you’re sleeping too much, look out for some of these warning signs:

  • You’re always tired, even if you get a good amount of sleep or spend lots of time in bed. This can take the form of daytime drowsiness and lethargy.
  • You feel moody and irritable.
  • Pain you’ve been experiencing is getting worse. For example, back pain can worsen from spending too much time laying down and being inactive.
  • You’re dealing with headaches, migraines and/or brain fog.
  • You have slower reaction times, poorer problem-solving skills and generally worse mental performance.
  • Inflammation is worsening. Excessive sleep can raise levels of cytokines (C-reactive proteins).
  • You might be gaining weight and feeling sluggish due to inactivity.

Complications/Physical Effects

What happens when you sleep too much? Studies have found that excessive sleeping is linked with higher rates of inflammation, weight gain, mortality and certain diseases.

It’s also known that oversleeping negatively affects hormones and circadian cycles. This can cause changes in reproductive hormones and fertility issues.

Potential complications and side effects that can result from too much sleep include:

  • Cognitive impairment, such as higher risk for memory problems, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Increased risk for depression — not only can depression cause people to oversleep, but too much sleep can worsen depression
  • Increased inflammation, swelling and pain, since lots of time being inactive in bed worsens blood flow and can strain certain muscles
  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Higher risk of heart disease — one study found that adults who slept more than eight hours a night had double the risk of developing angina chest pains caused by reduced blood flow, and another found that women who slept nine to 11 hours nightly had a 38 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease
  • Impaired glucose tolerance, which can lead to insulin resistance and potentially type 2 diabetes
  • Impaired fertility
  • Higher risk of stroke and all-cause mortality (death)

Tips for Better Sleep

The goal is to make the most of the time you spend laying down in bed each night. This ensures that you get enough restful sleep, without oversleeping and triggering side effects.

Here are some tips for improving sleep quality to avoid sleeping too much:

  • Aim to consistently set enough sleep but not too much or too little. You should sleep between seven to nine hours a night.
  • Support your circadian rhythm (your “internal clock”), which works best when your sleep schedule is consistent. Try to go to sleep and wake up at around the same time each day.
  • Do not oversleep too much on weekends or stay up too late on your days off.
  • Invest in a high-quality mattress, especially if you have back pain. Look for one that supports healthy spinal alignment to reduce discomfort.
  • Get some sunlight exposure during the daytime by spending time outside, especially early in the day or upon awakening. Some people also have automatic blinds that open in their homes in the morning or use a sunlight-emitting alarm clock to help wake them up.
  • Try not to nap too much during the day, especially after 4 p.m.
  • Exercise during the day to help you sleep more deeply. However, skip workouts too close to bedtime because they can impair your ability to doze off.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine, alcohol and stimulants during the day.
  • Avoid too much blue light exposure close to bedtime. Blue light is emitted from electronic devices like your phone, tablet, computer and TV. Try putting these away about two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Create a relaxing and calming “nighttime routine” that helps you stick to a schedule. Do things like taking a walk, showering, stretching, reading a book, journaling and meditating.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications that may be contributing to your lethargy.

Conclusion

  • Most adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. This supports a healthy weight, brain, mood, heart, metabolism and more.
  • Why is it bad to oversleep? Sleeping too much, which is considered more than about nine hours per night most nights, is linked with many of the same health problems as sleeping too little.
  • If you’re oversleeping, you have a higher risk for issues like depression, obesity, heart disease, cognitive impairment, pain and diabetes.
  • Some tips for reducing excessive sleep and getting better rest at night include sticking to a regular schedule, getting sun exposure and exercise during the daytime, creating a restful sleep environment, and establishing a nighttime routine that helps you make the most of the time you spend in bed.
Josh Axe

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