Sleep is one of the most important factors of good health. You’ve heard it a million times before – not getting enough sleep makes you cranky, irritable, have poor focus, and negatively affects nearly every part of your life.
But what about getting too much sleep? Sleeping can be enjoyable and many people look forward to afternoon naps and crawling into bed at the end of the day, so it’s easy to see how excessive sleeping could be something to write off as a hobby of sorts.
If you’re constantly oversleeping though, it could be a sign of an underlying condition.
How much sleep is too much?
The average adult needs around 7-9 hours of sleep a night to function at their best. If you’re sleeping more than that on a regular basis, then you may need to be concerned.
First note that the most common reasons for needing more sleep include:
- Being sick – when you’re unwell, your body needs more rest to make up the energy that it needs to fight off the infection.
- Being tired – usually from physical, mental, or emotional exertion, your body again needs more rest to recuperate from being expanded in some capacity.
- Not having enough sleep – stressed individuals, new parents, those who struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, those who have insomnia, and anyone that has trouble getting enough sleep can find that sometimes their body simply cannot stay awake anymore and will sleep for incredibly long hours at a time.
These are all not serious causes for concern. They are your body responding to conditions and requiring that extended period of sleep.
If you suddenly need to sleep or find yourself sleeping for more than 9 hours a night without any obvious underlying issue, then that is too much sleep.
Why is too much sleep bad for me?
Oversleeping can negatively impact your health just like sleeping too little can. Early research shows that oversleeping can:
- Lead to chronic diseases
- Worsen inflammation in the body
- Decrease immune function.
Some of the health concerns that oversleeping is linked to are:
- Frequent mental distress
- Coronary heart disease
Other signs that you’re sleeping excessively
You might be thinking, but my body does this by itself, so how can it be a bad thing? It’s likely that your body is actually letting you know that it needs your sleep habits to change. Additionally, if you’ve always been someone that’s needed a bit more sleep, then sleeping a lot isn’t cause for worry. Instead, you should worry if there are sudden changes in your sleep habits that have left you regularly sleeping more than usual.
Here are some things to look out for, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
1. Productivity and memory issues
With a sudden onset of oversleeping comes productivity issues. Look out for feeling unable to focus, having sluggish thoughts, being unable to understand what’s going on, having memory issues, and a general feeling of confusion and irritation.
2. Low energy throughout the day
Often hand-in hand with productivity issues, you may be feeling like you just don’t have it in you to do anything. Having low energy doesn’t just impact your productivity, but it can impact your social and physical wellbeing too.
If you feel like you don’t have enough energy to do anything, then you might think you need a nap; however, this will likely not take care of the problem.
3. Extreme fatigue and sleepiness that no amount of sleep seems to fix
That brings us the third symptom of excessive sleep – extreme fatigue that, ironically, no amount of sleep seems to be fixing.
Adequate sleep should leave you feeling refreshed and energized, so if you’re waking up feeling exhausted after 9+ hours of sleep, then you’re very likely overdoing it. Similar to jet-lag or even a hangover, your body is working harder than normal to readjust to its preferred and natural circadian rhythm.
4. Symptoms of anxiety and/or depression
You may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety such as racing thoughts, an accelerated heartbeat, anxiety over things you don’t normally worry about, and a general feeling of unease.
Instead of or alongside these symptoms, you may be experiencing symptoms of depression such as sleeping extra hours or feeling so lethargic that you can’t bring yourself to do anything, even things like showering, much less going out of the house.
It’s unknown whether oversleeping is a symptom of depression or if depression is a symptom of oversleeping, but either way both sets of symptoms are causes for worry and extra care.
5. Fighting off an infection
When your body isn’t performing at its best, it’s likely that you’re more susceptible to an infection. If you were oversleeping before you were experiencing symptoms of an illness, then it’s likely that the infection is due to you being immunocompromised from oversleeping.
What’s causing my oversleeping and what can I do about it?
There are many things that could be the cause for your symptoms. These include:
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic pain
This is why it’s imperative that you speak to your doctor or primary healthcare giver to look deeper into your oversleeping.
Other than that, you can take some steps by yourself to increase your sleep hygiene, such as:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends – this will help your body to fall into a healthier sleep pattern.
- Don’t look at screens for an hour before bedtime – as they can affect your body’s circadian rhythm. Instead, try meditating, reading a book, or listening to a podcast.
- Try herbal remedies and aromatherapy – drinking caffeine-free herbal teas such as lavender or chamomile can relax you, as well as diffusing scents such as lavender, sandalwood, clary sage, and bergamot.
Don’t sleep on your health
Indulging in some extra Zs occasionally isn’t a bad thing, but if you find that the contents of this article resonate with you then it’s time to see your doctor. Looking into these things early is your best chance at prevention and effective care.