“As a nation, we are not getting enough sleep,” said Wayne Giles, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Population Health (2016). This is a common problem — roughly 1 in 3 Americans get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep… but what if you’re on the other end of those recommended hours? What if you’re sleeping too much? While it might seem counterintuitive, you definitely can get too much sleep — there are a handful of issues that are caused by getting more than 9 hours of sleep each night or even sleeping all day and oversleeping may also be symptomatic of more serious issues. “Why do I sleep so much?” you ask? Let’s find out!
How much sleep is too much? If you’re between 18-65 years old, the suggested amount of sleep by the CDC is 7-9 hours. Within that range, your specific needs depend on activity level, daytime light exposure, genetic predispositions, and other environmental factors. Despite these, the narrow window of time where everybody should try and land is backed by the National Sleep Foundation in cahoots with about a dozen other independent sleep-researching agencies. While your lifestyle may determine that 2-hour wiggle room, if you’re oversleeping it might be time to get out of bed a little sooner.
Too Much Sleep —> Feeling Bad
When you’re sleeping too much you can find yourself not just tired in the morning, but zombie-ing about your entire day, even after that second cup of coffee. What’s happening is that you’re offsetting your circadian clock — the biochemical rhythm that keeps you in time with the rising and setting of the sun. Fighting your circadian rhythm is difficult, but setting a strict sleep schedule might help you get back on track.
If you get a headache from sleeping too much this is what’s happening; oversleeping promotes irregularity in your brain’s neurotransmitters, which can reduce your serotonin levels (a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness). If headaches are holding you back from day-to-day life while you’re trying to get a handle on your sleep, ease the discomfort with lavender or eucalyptus essential oils and a diffuser.
Even when accounting for the loss of active time during the day, studies have found that people who get too much sleep tend to gain weight more than those who fall into that 7-9 hour sweet spot. The reasons aren’t 100% understood, but it’s likely that oversleeping messes up your appetite-controlling hormones and leads to overeating. Have you put on a few unexpected pounds? Sleeping it off isn’t gonna work!
What Causes Oversleeping — 5 Common Issues
“I know how I feel, but why do I sleep so much?” you cry out! If you’re dealing with any of the above situations, you might be affected by something more than just weight gain or headaches.
Oversleeping can be symptomatic of a handful of underlying issues. Here are some of the big ones (of course, always talk to a doctor rather than self-diagnose sleeping disorders):
If you suffer from hypersomnia, oversleeping itself is the medical disorder. This condition causes not only oversleeping but extreme sleepiness throughout the day — napping doesn’t even seem to help relieve those low energy blues. More commonly called “Excessive Daytime Sleepiness” (EDS), it is exacerbated by not getting enough sleep at night OR getting too much sleep. If you think you might have hypersomnia, talk to a sleep doctor, as you may require medication such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) or modafinil (Provigil) to help reset your circadian rhythm and get you back to a regular sleep schedule.
If you suffer from depression, you’re more likely to oversleep than those who don’t. In fact, sleeping too much (or sleeping all day) is one of the symptoms that help doctors diagnose depression. And it’s more common than you might think — depression will affect 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men at some point during their lives… and furthermore, a 2008 study showed that 75 percent of depression patients ALSO suffer from insomnia… if it isn’t one thing, it’s another, huh? This is likely a correlation between insomnia’s ability to throw off your circadian rhythm and your tired brain’s attempt to get back to sleeping enough.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Comically referred to as SAD, this disorder is a type of depression that’s specifically related to the changes in seasons and usually follows the cycle of light exposure — less sun during the fall and winter makes you more… well, sad! Symptoms include fatigue, hopelessness, social withdrawal, and — yep, you guessed it — oversleeping. One of the common ways to combat SAD is with light therapy. With specialized lamps, you can control the exposure to specific, daylight-emulating wavelengths of light that help your body feel less restricted by the sun’s winter withdrawal.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This type of sleep apnea occurs when your throat muscles overly relax and block your airway during sleep — airflow becomes restricted and can cause snoring and sudden abrupt awakening with gasping or choking (in bad cases). The reason you end up sleeping too much, in this case, is because your frequently-interrupted quality of sleep is poor, and your body yearns for full and complete sleep cycles. Consequently, you can end up sleeping all day or taking frequent naps. Bad cases of OSA can lead to cardiovascular problems and other complications, but the biggest immediate effects are poor sleep, too much sleep, and excessive daytime drowsiness.
Overuse of Alcohol
If you’re a moderate to heavy drinker, it’s worth noting that alcohol has a direct effect on your circadian rhythms and diminishes the ability of your biological clock to respond to light cues that keep it functioning properly. Cutting down on drinking in the three hours before bedtime (and lowering the amount that you drink in general) can help tremendously. Other downers like marijuana and opioids can have similar negative effects on your sleep patterns.
Oversleeping may initially sound nice — who doesn’t want to hit the snooze button and stay under the covers for an extra hour? — but the underlying reasons for why you sleep so much might be more problematic than you’d think. If you frequently find yourself needing to “catch up on sleep” you may actually be suffering from a related issue, from obstructive sleep apnea to depression. Seeking out treatment is important, and taking the preliminary steps to allow yourself better sleep hygiene is a must. Take control of your sleeping before it takes control of you!