When it comes to sleep
can you have too much of a good thing? It's true a good night's
sleep is essential for health. But oversleeping has been linked
to a host of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease,
and increased risk of death.
Researchers are careful to note, however, that two other factors
- depression and low socioeconomic status - are strongly associated
with oversleeping. Those two factors may be the reason for the
observed negative health effects. For example, people of lower
socioeconomic status may have less access to health care and
therefore more undiagnosed illnesses, such as heart disease,
which, in turn, may cause oversleeping.
Oversleeping: How Much Sleep Is Too Much?
The amount of sleep you need varies significantly over the course
of your lifetime. It depends on your age and activity level
as well as your general health and lifestyle habits. For instance,
during periods of stress or illness, you may feel an increased
need for sleep. But although sleep needs differ over time and
from person to person, experts typically recommend that adults
should sleep between seven and nine hours each night.
Why Do People Sleep Too Much?
For people who suffer from hypersomnia, oversleeping is actually
a medical disorder. The condition causes people to suffer from
extreme sleepiness throughout the day, which is not usually
relieved by napping. It also causes them to sleep for unusually
long periods of time at night. Many people with hypersomnia
experience symptoms of anxiety , low energy, and memory problems
as a result of their almost constant need for sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes people to stop
breathing momentarily during sleep, can also lead to an increased
need for sleep. That's because it disrupts the normal sleep
Of course, not everyone who oversleeps has a sleep disorder.
Other possible causes of oversleeping include the use of certain
substances, such as alcohol and some prescription medications.
Other medical conditions, including depression, can cause people
to oversleep. And then there are people who simply enjoy sleeping
for long periods of time.
Medical Problems Linked to Oversleeping
: In a study of almost 9,000 Americans, researchers
found a relationship between sleep and the risk of diabetes.
People who slept more than nine hours each night had a 50% greater
risk of diabetes than people who slept seven hours per night.
This increased risk was also seen in people who slept less than
five hours per night. The researchers did not draw conclusions
about the physiological link between long sleep and diabetes.
But they did suggest that oversleeping could be indicative of
underlying medical problems that increase the likelihood of
: Sleeping too much could make you weigh too much,
as well. One recent study showed that people who slept for nine
or 10 hours every night were 21% more likely to become obese
over a six-year period than were people who slept between seven
and eight hours. This association between sleep and obesity
remained the same even when food intake and exercise were taken
: For some people prone to headaches, sleeping
longer than usual on a weekend or vacation can cause head pain.
Researchers believe this is due to the effect oversleeping has
on certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin.
People who sleep too much during the day and disrupt their nighttime
sleep may also find themselves suffering from headaches in the
: There was a time when doctors told people
suffering from back pain to head straight to bed. But those
days are long gone. You do need to curtail your regular exercise
program when you are experiencing back pain. But doctors now
realize the health benefits of maintaining a certain level of
activity. And they recommend against sleeping more than usual,
: Although insomnia is more commonly linked
to depression than oversleeping, roughly 15% of people with
depression sleep too much. This may in turn make their depression
worse. Tha's because regular sleep habits are important to the
recovery process. Need another reason not to overdo the ZZZs
when you're blue? In certain instances, sleep deprivation can
be an effective treatment for depression.
: The Nurses' Health Study involved nearly
72,000 women. A careful analysis of the data from that study
showed that women who slept nine to 11 hours per night were
38% more likely to have coronary heart disease than women who
slept eight hours. Researchers have not yet identified a reason
for the connection between oversleeping and heart disease.
: Multiple studies have found that people who sleep
nine or more hours a night have significantly higher death rates
than people sleeping seven to eight hours a night. No specific
reason for this correlation has been determined. But researchers
found that depression and low socioeconomic status are also
associated with longer sleep. They speculate these factors could
be related to the observed increase in mortality for people
who sleep too much.
Get the Benefits of Sleep Without Oversleeping
If you average more than seven or eight hours of sleep per night,
see a doctor for a checkup. The doctor can help you determine
why you oversleep.
If your oversleeping is caused by alcohol or certain prescription
medications, cutting back on or eliminating the use of these
substances may help. Similarly, if your oversleeping is caused
by an underlying medical condition, treating this disorder may
allow you to return to normal sleep habits.
Regardless of the cause of your oversleeping, practicing good
sleep hygiene will help you reap the benefits of a healthy seven
to eight hours of sleep each night. Experts recommend keeping
the same bedtimes and wake times every day. They also recommend
avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. Exercising regularly
and making your bedroom a comfortable environment that's conducive
to sleep will help you get the amount of sleep you need.