In this fast-paced world, sleep often falls to the bottom of our list of priorities. As a result, it’s become something of an indulgence. However, rest should not be a luxury. Sleep is as crucial to your physical and mental well-being as food and water. Sleep helps maintain critical body functions, repair muscle tissue, restore energy, and gives the brain time to process new information. Therefore, sleep deprivation can result in a variety of mental and physical problems. It can impair your ability to think clearly, focus, react, and control your emotions. Furthermore, chronic sleep deprivation can result in severe health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, depression, and cardiovascular disease.
While not getting enough sleep is detrimental to one’s health, getting too much sleep is also bad for you. Ironic, isn’t it?
Oversleeping is linked to a number of the same medical problems as not getting enough sleep, including heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, depression, and a heightened risk of death.
This is because sleeping too much results in you staying in one place for a number of hours which is bad for your heart. Additionally, according to researchers, oversleeping causes your body to become lethargic and unable to perform regular activities, which is also bad for your health.
In clinical terms, oversleeping is called hypersomnia. It has five core symptoms:
- Regularly sleeping excessively (well beyond the 7 to 8-hour norm).
- Trouble waking up in the morning.
- Difficulty getting out of bed and starting the day.
- Feeling groggy consistently or on and off during the day.
- Problems concentrating.
So not getting enough sleep is bad for you and getting too much sleep is also bad. Are you confused yet? Well don’t worry, we’re going to explain everything.
How much Sleep is Too much
The amount of sleep you need fluctuates over the course of your life. For example, you may feel a greater need for sleep when you experience stress or an illness.
Determining the amount of sleep you need depends on several factors:
- Your personal genetics: Your genes affect two primary biological sleep systems; your internal sleep drive and your circadian rhythms.
- Your activity level: Sleep gives your body and mind and energy and also permits your body to recover from exertion. Consequently, the more active you are, the more sleep you’ll require.
Your age: In general, people in their 20s usually need 7 to 8 hours of sleep, while people in their 50s and 60s need about 6.5.
- Circumstances in your life: You may require more sleep during periods of stress, change or upheaval. Even positive changes in your life can require more sleep.
- Your Health: Sleep helps restore the body, so when you’re coping with health issues, you often need extra sleep. This is true of both short-term illnesses such as colds and the flu and chronic or long-term conditions such as arthritis or cancer.
Although sleep needs vary over time and from person to person, experts generally recommend that adults get an average of seven and nine hours a night. Some people can function on 6 or 6.5 hours of sleep, but very few people can function or feel their best on 5 hours of sleep or less. Conversely, some people require nine hours of sleep a night. However, suppose you’re regularly sleeping more than nine hours and still feeling weary and tired. In that case, this is an indication that you’re oversleeping, and you need to take a look at what’s causing your hypersomnia.
Oversleeping and Depression
Oversleeping is often a symptom of depression, especially in younger adults and teenagers. However, teenagers typically have different sleep patterns than adults do, so it isn’t easy to gauge their sleep. That being said, excessive sleepiness and excessive sleeping in teenagers and young adults usually indicate the presence of depression. In fact, studies estimate that over 40% of adults under 30 who suffer from depression also experience hypersomnia.
However, oversleeping is not just an issue for young people with depression. Many older adults also experience hypersomnia in relation to depression. In particular, women can be more likely to oversleep and feel extremely tired during the day when they’re depressed.
Sleep and depression have an intricate relationship. In general, people who suffer from depression experience regularly disturbed sleep. This is because poor sleep is both a contributing factor of depression and a symptom of depression. Furthermore, sleep problems can make depression more severe and harder to treat.
In people with depression, sleep problems can also take shifting and variable forms. For instance, people with depression can experience both insomnia and hypersomnia. According to a 2014 U.S. study regarding how often insomnia and hypersomnia happen together in adults with depression, researchers discovered that more than 27% of people experience both at once. They also found that people with depression who had both insomnia and hypersomnia also had:
- More intense depression,
- Higher rates of planning to commit suicide and suicide attempts,
- Higher rates of impulse control disorder,
- Greater chances of abusing drugs.
Furthermore, these people were more likely to be getting mental health treatment and more likely to take antidepressants.
Additionally, a study published in 2018 discovered that among people who were diagnosed with major depression, a little less than a third experienced both insomnia and hypersomnia. These people were also 2 to 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Due to the intimate and complex ties between sleep, circadian rhythms, and depression, it makes sense that the more severe a person’s depression is, the more likely it is that a person will experience variable and wide-ranging sleep problems. However, it’s not clear whether sleep problems such as hypersomnia leads to depression, or are a result of depression, or a bit of both. That being said, we do know that these conditions often go hand in hand.
When Oversleeping is a symptom of a sleep disorder
A common misconception around sleep disorders is that they make it hard to get enough sleep. Sleep disorders can also interfere with your sleep quality and can sometimes cause oversleeping and excessive sleepiness. Whenever a sleep disorder or sleep issues creates sleep deprivation, this can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and a tendency to oversleep to make up for that sleep deficit.
There are several sleep disorders related to hypersomnia:
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): RLS causes people to experience tingling, twitching, and a “creepy-crawly” feeling in their legs. These sensations are uncomfortable and create the urgent need to move one’s legs. People generally experience RLS symptoms most acutely when they’re lying still for a period of time and are frequently more intense at night. As a result of the uncomfortable feelings in their legs, people with RLS often experience insomnia because they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. Consequently, these people will have to deal with excessive daytime sleepiness and may oversleep because they haven’t gotten the high-quality rest they needed.
Idiopathic hypersomnia: In some cases, people sleep excessively, and there is no clear reason why. This sleep disorder is called idiopathic hypersomnia. Idiopathic means without a known cause. People who suffer from this disorder will sleep for long periods of time at night and still be extremely tired during the day.
Narcolepsy: A neurologically-based sleep disorder, narcolepsy occurs when your brain doesn’t have the ability to control your sleep-wake cycles. As a result, people who suffer from this sleep disorder will be excessively tired during the day and have strong, uncontrollable urges to sleep during the day. Ironically, they often experience insomnia at night. Since their sleep gets disrupted and they have trouble sleeping at night, people with narcolepsy don’t experience excessive amounts of sleep. However, their constant sleepiness and drive to sleep during the day is a specific form of hypersomnia.
Obstructive sleep apnea: This sleep disorder causes people to experience compromised breathing while they sleep. While they’re sleeping, their airway becomes either completely or partially blocked for a short amount of time. This occurs over and over again throughout the night, causing the person to wake up frequently. As a result, there are serious conditions associated with sleep apnea, including stroke, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, since sleep quality is negatively affected, people with this sleep disorder often sleep excessively during the day. They may also spend more time in bed and require more sleep because of their sleep quality at night.
Parasomnia: Parasomnia is a disorder where a person experiences abnormal or unusual events while they’re sleeping, just before they fall asleep or as they’re waking up. Types of parasomnias include nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, confusional arousals, rhythmic movement disorder, sleep talking, nocturnal leg cramps, sleep paralysis, impaired sleep-related erections, sleep-related painful erections, irregular heart rhythms, REM sleep behavior disorder, sleep bruxism (teeth grinding), sleep enuresis (bedwetting), exploding head syndrome, nocturnal paroxysmal dystonia, and sleep-related eating disorder.
Other causes of Oversleeping
Other reasons that a person may experience hypersomnia include:
Medical conditions: A number of health conditions can cause hypersomnia and excessive sleepiness during the day. These are:
- Being overweight or obese
- Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and brain injuries.
Substance Abuse: The abuse of drugs or alcohol can result in disrupted circadian sleep-wake rhythms, a decline in sleep quality, and can result in a pattern of oversleeping and excessive tiredness during the daytime.
Medications: The following medicines may cause hypersomnia:
- Anti-anxiety medication
A healthy lifestyle requires a good night’s sleep. However, while getting enough sleep is crucial, too much sleep can be dangerous to your health. In fact, oversleeping has been connected to diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, if you’re sleeping excessively or feel extremely tired during the day, regardless of how much sleep you get, you may be suffering from hypersomnia. The moment you notice a change in your sleep needs, sleep patterns, an increase in your level of tiredness, or how much you’re sleeping, you should see a physician. This is because hypersomnia is usually a symptom of another health condition. These health conditions include depression, Restless Leg Syndrome, idiopathic hypersomnia, narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, and parasomnia. Additionally, some medical conditions and medications can cause hypersomnia as well as substance abuse.