Every one of us is aware of the detrimental consequences that result from not getting enough sleep. However, what happens when we sleep for too long? If you are still experiencing fatigue after sleeping for an excessive amount of time, this could be an indication of a medical problem. Try to figure out what causes this to occur and what you can do to stop it.
Sleeping more than nine hours in 24 hours is generally considered oversleeping.
Reasons for oversleeping include stress, sleep disorders, mental health issues, medications, and substance use disorders.
Oversleeping can lead to side effects such as inflammation, a higher risk of mortality, headaches, depression, and the development of chronic diseases.
Managing oversleeping involves identifying and treating the underlying cause of the condition. Sleep hygiene measures can also help.
Oversleeping: why does it happen?
Sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being. If you don't get enough sleep, you might develop health conditions like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. This widespread idea that sleep is good and protective often makes us believe that the more we sleep, the better. But that’s not always true.
It's okay to stay in bed a little longer when you're sick or recovering from surgery. Or sometimes you had a stressful week and need more rest than usual. But if you’re regularly sleeping more than nine hours a night and still waking up tired, it could mean that something’s wrong.
Causes of oversleeping
Too much sleep can be caused by many things. Like when you work on a project late at night for several nights and then try to get enough sleep to make up for it.
When oversleeping is too frequent, it’s a sign of a medical condition known as hypersomnia. People dealing with hypersomnia sleep nine or more hours a night. But here’s the issue – this sleep is not refreshing enough, and the individual still feels sleepy during the day.
Some common conditions that can cause people to sleep too much are:
- Sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is when you suddenly stop breathing during sleep. When this happens, sleep is interrupted, which makes you feel tired, and what better way of compensating for poor sleep than oversleeping?
- Depression. Individuals with depression often report sleep problems that can range from difficulty sleeping to oversleeping. The relationship between the two works both ways; depression leads to oversleeping, while oversleeping can make depression worse.
- Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is when your brain can’t control your sleep-wake cycles. People living with this condition tend to wake up many times during the night. They also feel very sleepy and may even fall asleep during the day.
- Hypothyroidism. You have hypothyroidism when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. People with this condition often experience poor-quality sleep and end up oversleeping to compensate.
- Chronic pain. It can be challenging for those dealing with chronic pain conditions to get restorative sleep at night. As a result, these people often feel fatigued during the day.
- Substance use disorder. Substance abuse involving alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs has been linked with oversleeping.
- Medications. Certain medications or withdrawal from a medication can cause oversleeping. Examples of medications that can cause fatigue include allergy medications, antidepressants, anxiety medications, blood pressure pills, muscle relaxants, and cancer treatments.
Possible side effects on health due to oversleeping
We all know that not getting enough sleep is bad for our health, but what about sleeping too much? It turns out that oversleeping has been linked to many negative outcomes, including:
- Inflammation. Sleeping more than nine hours has been linked to a rise in inflammatory substances like interleukin 6 (IL-6) in the body.
- Mortality. Studies have found that people who sleep more than nine hours a night have significantly higher death rates than people who sleep seven to eight hours a night.
- Vitamin D deficiency. Studies suggest that people who oversleep don’t go out in the sun as much and may develop vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is essential in regulating immune function, and its deficiency is linked to infections, autoimmune diseases, and allergies.
- Chronic diseases. Sleeping more than nine hours has been linked to an increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.
- Mental health conditions. Although we often link a lack of sleep with depression and anxiety, excess sleep can also have harmful effects on one’s mental health.
- Headaches. Not getting enough sleep and oversleeping can lead to headaches or make them worse.
Most of the time, it can be hard to tell which one is the cause and which one is the effect because the connection often works both ways. For example, being depressed can make you oversleep, but oversleeping can also make you want to stay in bed all day.
Tips on how to manage and prevent oversleeping
Oversleeping happens for many reasons, so the first step to treating it is identifying its underlying cause. Your doctor will assess your medical history and symptoms; they may also order a sleep study to evaluate your sleep patterns. Keeping a sleep diary can help your doctor understand why you’re oversleeping.
Once the diagnosis is made, your doctor can suggest the most suitable treatment for each case. For example, if you’re oversleeping due to sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy. This involves using a machine to deliver air into the airways, preventing them from closing. Depression, on the other hand, can be managed with cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants.
Here are some additional tips to stop oversleeping:
- Establish a regular sleep and wake-up schedule. And stick to it, creating this routine is important so your brain understands when it is time to sleep and wake up, avoiding sleep loss and fatigue.
- Create a relaxing sleep environment. Make sure your sleep space is cozy and quiet to ensure a restful night's sleep. Avoid light from electronic devices before bedtime, as it can delay sleep onset.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine before going to bed. Those drinks can mess with your sleep at night, making you tired during the day.
- Place the alarm clock away from your bed. This will motivate you to get up.
- Keep yourself motivated. By listing reasons to get up, such as a meeting with a friend or a doctor’s appointment.
- Once you’re up, wash your face with cold water and brush your teeth. Make your bed as soon as you get up.
- Practice regular physical activity. If possible, schedule your exercise for as soon as you wake up to help wake you up and keep you energized throughout the day. Engaging in outdoor activities may also be beneficial. Sunlight exposure helps synchronize our biological rhythms and sleep better at night.
- Take early naps. Afternoon naps can make it harder for you to fall asleep at your usual time.
It is okay to sleep too much sometimes. If, on the other hand, sleeping too much is making it hard for you to live a normal life, you should see a doctor. It is possible to control the condition, which means treating the underlying cause and changing the way you sleep.
Can oversleeping make you tired?
Yes. People who oversleep often experience non-refreshing sleep and feel extremely tired during the day.
How do I stop oversleeping so much?
To stop oversleeping, you need to identify the underlying cause of the condition. Once this is done, a doctor can recommend the most suitable treatment for each case.
How many hours is oversleeping?
Most experts recommend that adults get at least seven hours of sleep to stay healthy. Sleeping more than nine hours in 24 hours is generally considered oversleeping.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health [Internet].
- Sleep. The causal associations of altered inflammatory proteins with sleep duration, insomnia, and daytime sleepiness.
- Journal of Preventive Medicine & Public Health. Sleep Duration, Comorbidities, and Mortality in Korean Health Examinees: A Prospective Cohort Study.
- Ver Assoc Med Bras. Sleep and immunity in times of COVID-19.
- Int Urol Nephrol. Short or long sleep duration was associated with chronic kidney disease in a Chinese nationwide cohort study.
- BMC Res Notes. Trigger factors in primary headaches subtypes: a cross-sectional study from a tertiary centre in Greece.