We’re living in weird times where some people are suffering from sleep deprivation while others are sleeping upwards of 16 hours a day. None of these cases are natural or good for the body, and each one has its own causes.
Since sleep has been significantly growing as a field of research in the last years, many scientists took it upon themselves to learn about the benefits of sleep and how it affects both the body and the mind. That led to a common misunderstanding, as some people started to think that the more you sleep, the better your day goes.
While the idea may seem appealing, it isn’t realistic. When it comes to oversleeping, it can be a cause of concern. It has been linked to a variety of medical problems like heart disease, diabetes, as well as an increased risk of death.
The reasons behind oversleeping can differ from person to person. However, research has shown that there are two other factors that can lead to this condition. The first is socioeconomic status, and the second is depression.
Those two factors can be linked to the observed adverse health effects. For instance, depression causes a continuous feeling of exhaustion, loss of motivation, as well as energy which may lead to an increased tendency to sleep.
So, what causes oversleeping? And can it have serious consequences?
Table of Contents
- 1 Oversleeping: How Much Is Too Much?
- 2 The Main Reasons behind Oversleeping
- 3 The Repercussions of Oversleeping
- 4 Getting the Benefits of Sleep without Oversleeping
Oversleeping: How Much Is Too Much?
You’ve undoubtedly been told that you need 8 hours of sleep every night to start your days the right way. That’s not actually the case for everyone as the amount of sleep one needs can vary from person to person depending on a lot of factors, including age, general health conditions, as well as one’s lifestyle.
Those aspects of one’s life can have an effect on the amount of sleep one needs for better or for worse.
When it comes to the standard for 18-64-year old adults, specialists, including The National Sleep Foundation, recommend that they get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. Teenagers, on the hand, need around 8.5-9.5 hours. Other age categories’ needs differ, and they’re basically the following (according to the National Sleep Foundation):
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours.
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours.
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours.
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours.
- School-age children (6-13): 9-11 hours.
The Main Reasons behind Oversleeping
Oversleeping from time to time shouldn’t call for concern. If you’ve been through a really tough period and you haven’t slept for more than a day, your body will eventually succumb to fatigue and require more sleep than usual because of it.
However, if you oversleep on a regular basis, then it most certainly is cause for concern as it might signal or lead to a more serious condition.
Some of the reasons behind oversleeping include:
Oversleeping might be your body’s reaction to sickness. Researchers found that this natural reaction can be beneficial with solid evidence to support that claim.
A study done on fruit flies found that those slept more after being infected with bacteria had better odds at survival than those who didn’t get as much sleep. The flies that slept more also seemed to combat the bacteria more efficiently, clearing it faster and more effectively than the flies that got less sleep.
This study further supports the point that sleep boosts the immune response. It also explains why it’s a natural response to sleep when feeling sick.
Depression is a pretty complicated condition. Its impact on slumber differs from person to person. Some people with depression might experience insomnia, while others might sleep more than the recommended amount, which is, as mentioned above, from seven to nine hours.
This might be explained by the fact that depressed people suffer from a lot of sleep disturbances which lead to non-restorative sleep. This causes the person to require even more rest.
Other symptoms of depression include:
- Weight loss/gain
- Slower thinking
- Loss of confidence, feeling of anxiety
- Loss of concentration
If you suspect that you’re falling into a state of depression, make sure to consult your doctor to get a proper diagnosis, as this is a severe condition that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Also known as Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA for short). It’s the most common type of sleep apnea and can be a major factor when it comes to oversleeping. There are approximately 25 million U.S adults who have OSA.
OSA causes the afflicted person to stop breathing while they’re sleeping. These pauses usually last between 10 and 20 seconds, and they result in mini sleep interruptions that can ruin one’s sleep and dramatically degrade its quality. As a result, this causes those with OSA to feel sleepy and tired even during the day, hence requiring more rest.
Other symptoms of OSA are usually related to getting bad-quality sleep. They include:
If you think you might be suffering from OSA, make sure to consult your doctor.
The Repercussions of Oversleeping
Several studies have shown that oversleeping each night lead to increased risks of diabetes. Why? Because too much sleep can lead to weight gain and Impaired Glucose Tolerance, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Getting too much or too little sleep can interfere with your metabolism and cause you to gain a lot of weight. A study that was done recently found that people who slept for nine or ten hours every night were 21% more likely to become overweight or obese over a six-year period than those who slept 7-8 hours. The link between obesity and sleep remained unaffected by the diet and exercise.
For those who are exposed to headaches, oversleeping is known to cause cephalalgia. Studies found that this is a consequence of the effect that too much sleep has on some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, in the brain.
Those who tend to sleep midst the day can disrupt their nighttime slumber and end up suffering from headaches when they wake up.
While some people might advise you to go to bed if you’re experiencing back pain, recent studies have shown that sleeping is not the optimal solution for back pain. Doctors now recommend following a certain level of activity, they also warn against oversleeping, if possible.
Even though depression has been listed as a cause of oversleeping, it can also be considered as a consequence of the condition. With that said, it’s easy to see how it can be regarded as a vicious cycle. An estimated 15% of people suffering from depression sleep too much which can worsen their condition.
A study that was done by The Nurses’ Health involved 72,000 women was conducted aiming at finding a link between oversleeping and heart disease.
A meticulous data analysis from the study found that women that slept from nine to eleven hours every night were 38% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease compared to women who slept for 8 hours.
It is worth noting that researchers have not yet adequately understood the link between heart disease and oversleeping.
Several studies have shown that individuals who sleep more than 9 hours a night have significantly higher death rates compared to those who sleep 7 to 8 hours a night.
Researchers have yet to establish a link between death and oversleeping properly. However, they’ve linked low socioeconomic status and depression to oversleeping. These might very well be why people who sleep more tend to have higher death rates.
Having said all of the above, it’s important to see how critical it is to determine the cause behind oversleeping in order to uncover any underlying issues and treat them before they become more dangerous.
Getting the Benefits of Sleep without Oversleeping
If you sleep more than eight hours on average, you should see a doctor in order to get a proper diagnosis and figure out the root of the problem.
If you’re oversleeping because of the medication your taking or because of alcohol consumption, then it’s best to try reducing the use of said substances. In the case of prescribed medicine, we strongly advise against stopping. However, we recommend that you check with your doctor and see if they can prescribe another medication that won’t interfere with your sleep.
Another essential thing to keep in mind is your sleep hygiene. Regardless of the cause of oversleeping, maintaining healthy sleep hygiene is vital to your health and can even be the root of the problem. An example of good sleep hygiene is a regular sleep schedule. Regularity and consistency are crucial to good sleep hygiene. Another example is avoiding caffeine and alcohol consumption before going to bed. Regular exercise can also help improve the quality of sleep.
In a Nutshell
The benefits of sleep cannot be overstated. However, just because something is good in moderate doses doesn’t mean it’s better in high doses. Oversleeping can be dangerous and should be a waking call (pun intended) to everyone who might be experiencing it.
If you’re sleeping more than the recommended amount, then the best course of action would be to consult your doctor in order to figure out what the problem is and cure it before it becomes a grave issue.