By Brian Acton
When it comes to medical conversations about sleep, much of the focus is on making sure you’re sleeping enough - after all, as many as one-third of American adults aren’t getting sufficient sleep on a regular basis. But on the other end of the spectrum, oversleeping can also be a cause for concern.
Though it isn’t as common as a sleep deficiency, consistent oversleeping can cause daytime issues and may even be a symptom of underlying health problems.
How Much Sleep is Too Much?
The amount of sleep you require is very individualized - some people can operate just fine on less sleep, while others may require more hours than are typically recommended. The amount of sleep you need also changes as you get older, as children and teenagers generally require more sleep to function than adults.
For the average adult, seven to nine hours of sleep every night is the general recommendation. The key here is consistency - if you were feeling sick and needed extra rest, or you’re catching up on sleep after pulling an all-nighter, a few extra hours of sleep here and there aren’t a cause for alarm.
But if you consistently sleep more than nine hours a night or if you don’t feel rested on seven to nine hours, you may want to take a closer look at why you need more than the recommended amount of sleep.
The Health Effects of Too Much Sleep
Contrary to what you might think, sleeping longer won’t always leave you feeling more energized. In fact, sleeping in can leave you feeling unrested and unmotivated, because an inconsistent waking time can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm (which can also leave you more vulnerable to illness).
Too much sleep could contribute to certain health conditions or be a symptom of an underlying problem that already exists. Oversleeping can increase your risk for obesity, back pain, diabetes, and even headaches. It could also be a symptom of depression, sleep apnea, heart disease, and other health conditions.
What to Do If You’re Oversleeping
If you’re consistently sleeping more than seven to nine hours every night, you may want to visit your doctor for a checkup. A doctor can help you determine if there’s an underlying medical condition that is causing your longer sleeping habits, and recommend treatment if necessary.
If your oversleeping is caused by an external factor, such as alcohol or certain prescription drugs, reducing or eliminating your intake may help you get a normal night’s sleep - check with your doctor before you stop taking a prescribed medicine.
Regardless of the cause, practicing good sleep habits can help you improve the quality of your sleep. These include going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, avoiding the light emitted by electronics before bed, buying a better pillow, and getting regular exercise.