Too much sleep is bad for you. Here's why
Is there such a thing as too much sleep? You may not want to believe this, but sleep experts actually say ‘yes’.
But how much is too much? Do naps count? And if you are oversleeping, how do stop or prevent it? We’ll try to answer these questions for you in this blog.
What is oversleeping?
Everyone has different sleep needs. Babies sleep for up to 17 hours a day; teenagers up to 10. In general, sleep experts recommend that adults get an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. (1)
This number can change if you’re ill or recovering from an illness, jet lagged or experiencing a lot of stress. Don’t worry about the numbers too much if you wake up feeling rested and alert. This just means your body is getting the amount of sleep it needs.
If you find yourself consistently sleeping more than the recommended amount and still wake up feeling tired, however, it might be a sign that you’re oversleeping.
Oversleeping can be defined as sleeping for more than nine hours in a 24-hour period, for adults. Other tell-tale symptoms of oversleeping include headaches, daytime sleepiness, low energy, a loss of productivity and a foggy memory.
Causes of oversleeping
While it’s tempting to attribute oversleeping to mere laziness, this isn’t the case all the time. Several health conditions and lifestyle habits can also make you want to sleep a lot. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- A disrupted sleep cycle: Poor quality sleep can make you want to sleep more. If your sleep is disturbed by loud noises, bright lights, body pain or too much screen time, you’re likely to end up sleeping more as your body does not feel rested.
- Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is neurological disorder that impacts your brain’s ability to control its sleep-wake cycles. As a result, you feel sleepy all the time. It doesn’t matter if you nap often or sleep through the night, you’ll still fall asleep often through the day.
- Hypothyroidism: This is a medical condition where thyroid glands do not produce enough hormones to meet your body’s requirements. The thyroid hormone plays a vital role in regulating your weight, body temperature, energy levels, as well as skin, hair and nail growth. With an underactive thyroid gland, you’re likely to end up sleeping more due to constant exhaustion.
- Depression: Depression is a mood disorder that is accompanied by feelings of sadness, loneliness, or anger. About 40% of youngsters and 10% of older individuals with depression experience hypersomnia, which can lead to oversleeping. (2)
- Medications: Some medicines like antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines, and pain medication can make you drowsy, and in doing so be a reason for oversleeping.
Impacts of oversleeping
Chronic oversleeping, if left unchecked, can cause a range of health complications:
- Obesity: Studies have shown that habitual oversleeping is a risk factor for obesity (3). When you oversleep, you’re burning fewer calories and gaining weight quicker.
- Headaches: Oversleeping can lead to headaches for several reasons. In addition to depriving your body of food and water for extended periods of time, oversleeping also disrupts serotonin levels and other neurotransmitters in the brain, causing headaches.
- Diabetes: Research has found that sleeping too little or oversleeping can increase your risk of developing diabetes.
- Heart disease: A study by researchers at the University of Keele in England found that people who sleep more than 10 hours a day had a 56% increased risk of dying from a stroke and a 49% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. (4)
Tips for avoiding oversleeping
Oversleeping can become a habit that’s hard to break. If you find yourself sleeping too much for more than just a couple of days, try to put an end to the practice immediately. Here’s how you can do this.
- Set a regular alarm: Don’t rely on your body clock alone. Set an alarm so that you wake up at a fixed time every day, and try to stick to a routine in the morning so that you don’t fall back asleep.
- Improve your night time sleep quality: You can do this by following a healthy sleep routine. Keep daytime napping to a minimum, reduce gadget use before bedtime, and keep your room cool, dark and quiet. You can also try listening to pink noise or even sleeping naked!
- Keep active: Apart from keeping you fit, regular exercise also helps you enjoy a healthy sleep cycle. Aerobic exercises can stabilize your mood, allow you to enjoy longer durations of slow-wave sleep, and also help you fall asleep faster. However, avoid exercising too close to bedtime as that could interfere with your sleep.
- Sleep supplements: Non-addictive sleep aids can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deep sleep. Setu Sleep: Restore contains melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle in your brain. These mint-flavoured strips also aid in relaxation, reduce daytime sleepiness and fight jetlag.
1) Do I need to see a doctor about sleeping too much?
If you’re unable to get rid of the habit and it begins to interfere with your daily life, you must see a doctor about oversleeping. They will be able to give you some insight into the underlying causes of the habit.
2) How does a doctor diagnose sleeping disorders?
You will be asked about your sleeping habits and may even be advised to maintain a sleep dairy. Doctors may also ask you to do blood tests to check your thyroid level, MRI scans to check for brain functioning, and more tests.
3) Does yawning mean I’m tired?
Not always. While we do tend to yawn when we’re tired, we also yawn when we’re bored or if we’re about to start a new activity. Research suggests that yawning is also a brain-cooling mechanism, but excessive yawning could be a symptom of an underlying health condition—get it checked out if you’re yawning all the time.