Effects of Oversleeping
There is perhaps nothing greater than hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock in the morning and getting nine more precious minutes of sleep, right? Maybe better than that are those few days off when you get to sleep in past your regular getting-out-of-bed time. However, sleeping in and oversleeping might not be doing you any favors.
You’re likely aware of the negative effects associated with not getting enough sleep, but could there be negative effects of oversleeping? It turns out that, yes, getting too much of a good thing could be harming you in more ways than you’d expect. So, what are the effects of oversleeping? Keep reading!
Table of Contents
- Bipolar Disorder
- Sleep Hangover
- Too Much Sleep: Short Term
- Too Much Sleep: Long Term
It seems crazy to think that oversleeping could be bad for you, but the dangers of getting too much sleep can manifest in a myriad of ways. Too much sleep has been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, back pain, heart disease, a higher mortality rate, and at the very least, grumpiness.
With that said, oversleeping isn’t necessarily the cause for any of those issues, diseases, or conditions, but scientific studies have pointed to a correlation. Just as insomnia is a thing – not being able to sleep enough – so is hypersomnia, where one gets too much sleep. While those are real conditions, some people simply sleep too much for other reasons that are unrelated. Like when you stay out super late Friday night and then reward yourself by sleeping until 2 p.m. the next day.
The effects can be life-altering. At the very least, you may be late to appointments or work. At worst, you’re putting yourself at risk of disease and conditions that could be life-threatening. Plus, have you ever noticed that you feel less rested the more sleep you get? You’re throwing off your circadian rhythm. It’s the little part of your brain that lets you know when you’re hungry, thirsty, or tired. It’s also responsible for helping you regulate your energy so you can get through the day. If you interrupt that natural flow, then your body reacts by sort of resetting your cycle without your consent. This is why you feel sluggish after a 12-hour nap. This is also how jet lag is explained. And it sucks.
Now that you know that circadian rhythm is also basically your internal clock, you should know how it works. Essentially, it determines the best time for you to eat and sleep based on your stored energy, and it’s that way for all animals and human beings.
That internal clock is linked to cell regeneration, which is important for your immune system and overall health. It also keeps your hormone production in check, which is necessary for so many of your body’s organs to keep functioning properly. No, it isn’t just controlling testosterone and estrogen. Your brain sends signals to your body to create a variety of hormones to help with your metabolism (thyroid gland), blood pressure, adrenaline when you need it, prolactin for the babies, and much more.
So, when you knock this whole system out of whack, your brain, your cells, and your body are all trying to play catch up. One of the big interrupters of sleep is light. We’re conditioned to respond naturally to the sun rising. When the sun rises, so do we – or, we’re supposed to, anyway. Light is actually the trigger to help reset our internal clocks. So, if you’re suffering from an out-of-whack circadian rhythm, you could try exposing yourself to light to wake you up in the morning, and make sure your room is as dark as night to get to sleep.
The ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, but there’s an easy way to determine how much sleep you need each night. All it really comes down to is age.
Infants require less sleep, but generally, babies from 4 to 11 months old need about 12 to 15 hours of sleep every day.
Toddlers need even less sleep as they grow. So your tots should be getting about 11 to 14 hours of sleep.
Once your 1- to 2-year-old gets to preschooler age, you can reduce the amount of sleep they get by one hour. About 10 to 13 hours should be plenty.
Teens seem to sleep their summers away, but really 14- to 17-year-olds should only be getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Consider setting several alarms to wake them up on time for those part-time jobs.
Once you hit your adult years, you need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. This is for the bulk of your life, from about 18 to 64 years old.
Beyond 65 years old
Beyond 65 years old, you require a little less sleep, but only by about an hour. You should still aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
Sleeping too much doesn’t make you fat – too many calories and not enough activity do. However, a recent study showed that those who slept 9 to 10 hours per night were more than 20% more likely to become obese over six years than those who got the recommended amount of sleep, which is closer to 7 or 8 hours.
“But obesity is about calories and inactivity – you just said so!” you may protest. And you’re right. The study took food and exercise into account, though, and the results were the same. Too much sleep could make you heftier.
Getting a few extra hours of sleep here and there shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but those who regularly slept more than 9 hours per night have a 50% increased risk of developing diabetes. The study featured nearly 9,000 Americans. Too little sleep was also harmful, so don’t cut your night of snoozing short to 5 hours.
So, scientists didn’t come to the conclusion that correlation is causation. They determined that those who slept more had a greater risk of diabetes, but only because there may have been some other medical problems that were causing the people to sleep more, and also could lead to diabetes.
When you’re injured, the last thing you want to do is exercise. In fact, docs used to prescribe bed rest as a treatment for all sorts of pain. Cramps? Lay down. Joint pain? Kick up your feet; take a nap. Back pain was also met with a suggestion of heading to bed. However, what with advances in science and medicine and stuff, doctors realize that a body in motion stays in motion (didn’t we learn that a long time ago?).
Now physicians are suggesting you get the normal amount of sleep and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Of course, if you’re experiencing back pain, you may want to forgo running 5Ks and climbing Mt. Everest every weekend. But it’s important to keep things moving to stay moving.
Ever wake up late one morning with a throbbing in the side of your head? Yeah, that headache may be self-induced. You indulged a bit too much in sleeping in, and now you’re paying for it with some serious head pain. If you’re susceptible to headaches, sleeping in is only going to make it worse.
Scientists and researchers think this is because of neurotransmitters in the brain and that lovely one that helps us go to sleep and stay asleep: serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are linked to other issues, such as depression and anxiety. It’s better that you not mess with that neurotransmitter – or really, anything that has a prefix of neuro- in it, unless you’re a brain surgeon.
Your heart is your best organ. I mean, you have some really good ones in there, but the best, by far, is your heart. It takes care of you, so you should take care of it. One of the ways to keep it going is to avoid oversleeping. A study of almost 72,000 women showed that sleeping 9 to 11 hours per night led to a 38% increase in chance of developing coronary heart disease than those who kept it to 8 hours per night.
The tricky part of all this is that researchers have no clue why heart disease and oversleeping are linked. It’s possible that oversleeping is simply your body’s way of screaming at you, “HEY! Something’s wrong here!” So, it’s entirely possible that heart disease was just the result of something else wrong, and the oversleeping was one of the symptoms rather than causes.
It still may be hard to believe that getting some extra sleep could be so harmful, but we’ve only scratched the surface here. There are plenty more dangers to drawing your curtains tight and not letting light in.
Sleep is an important part of the whole brain-body thing. When you’re at rest, your brain does all sorts of things, like telling your glands to release hormones, directing cells to regenerate, and processes your memories. Your 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night lets your body sort of reset and repair. However, when you get too much sleep, your brain kind of freaks out. Oversleeping can lead to all sorts of mental side effects, in addition to the physical ones.
Remember that whole bit on serotonin? Well, here’s the thing: You need this chemical for your brain to effectively communicate with your cells. It does a ton of other things, too. When you have an imbalance of serotonin, though, you might then start to develop depression or other disorders.
So, how is that related to sleep? Well, imbalanced levels of serotonin are also linked to sleep disorders. If a pathway fails, a cell might not receive the serotonin, and thus message, which prevents regular behavior. It’s a bit like telling a messenger an important piece of info, but that messenger can’t get to the recipient, so they end up doing whatever they want, or nothing at all. It’s a problem.
It would make more sense that those who experience anxiety are likely not sleeping much at all. As much as insomnia is a marked trait among those who suffer from anxiety disorders, so is hypersomnia. The reason why is more complicated than researchers would prefer. It’d be nice to have a pat answer, but the brain is a complex thing.
If you’re already wrestling with anxiety, it can seem as though a great escape would be more sleep. However, many sufferers report greater anxiety after extra sleep, which seems a bit counterproductive.
It makes sense that those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder would report needing less sleep after a manic episode. It also stands to reason that someone who is suffering from bipolar depression would sleep more. In fact, 23 to 78% of patients sleep more, rather than less.
By far, this is the least serious side effect of getting too many hours of sleep, but it’s still bothersome. That feeling of sluggishness and fogginess is aptly dubbed a “sleep hangover.” You don’t really feel all there, and you may move slowly as you try to get on with your day. Turns out, you’re also reacting and thinking slower, as well. Feeling sluggish isn’t so bad, but it could be.
“Sleep drunkenness” makes it harder for you to respond to your reality – it lowers your cognitive function. In fact, it’s led to death in some cases, and injuries in others. When you awake confused because your whole sleep-wake cycle is off, there’s no telling what you might do.
One common thread in these disorders and effects is too much sleep. Interrupting your sleep patterns by sleeping more than usual means your cells are getting mixed signals or no signals from your brain and regular functionality, activity, or behavior is altered or nixed altogether.
So, what happens to your body when you sleep too much after just one night of overindulging? Not much. You may experience some of that sluggishness mentioned earlier that’s related to a sleep hangover. You’ll likely have trouble getting through your day because you’ll be even sleepier than you were the previous day.
Chances are, you’re going to have trouble concentrating. So, that meeting you just had with a client at 11 a.m.? Good luck retaining the information there unless someone else took notes. Your cognitive function is underperforming, so you’re probably going to ask people to repeat themselves a lot.
And you’ll probably notice – or at least others around you will notice – that you’re grumpy, maybe sad, or just kind of out of it. A weekend of naps and sleeping in isn’t likely to cause any permanent damage, but if you’re already suffering from depression, it could make things worse for you.
Regularly sleeping too much can lead to all the nasty things mentioned above, and worse. If we’re talking long term, let’s move all the way to the end. As in game over. That is, death. Yup. Sleeping too much can wreak havoc on, well, your life.
Oversleep for six years and you could experience brain impairment that’s the equivalent to aging two years extra years. That’s like losing two years of your life for every six years of oversleeping you do. Ugh. Life is short enough already!
While you’re damaging your brain, you may also notice in those six years of sleeping in every day that you’ve put on a few pounds. Sleeping just one to two more hours per night means you’re putting yourself at a 25% more likely chance of packing on an extra 11 pounds in six years. That may not sound like much, but if you overslept for 18 years, that’s, like, 33 pounds. And that’s without changing your food intake or exercise!
And then there’s death. There’s an increased risk of dying from pretty much any cause if you regularly oversleep. Granted, it’s low at just 1.3 times greater risk, but still!
There are plenty of reasons why you might sleep too much. Occasionally, it’s all right if you do. For example, when we’re sick, our bodies respond by demanding we sleep more so all of our cells can get to repairing and healing and ousting whatever is causing us to be sick – but that’s in the short term.
Hypersomnia is a disorder that can affect how much a person sleeps, just as insomnia affects how little a person sleeps. If you feel extremely sleepy during the day, you take a short nap and that usually refreshes you. Power naps are awesome, right? Well, a person suffering from hypersomnia doesn’t get that same sense of restoration. They also may feel anxious, but have little to no energy, and memories become a bit of a blur.
Sometimes the abuse of alcohol or other drugs can affect one’s sleep. Some prescription medications especially can make you feel extra drowsy and have you sleeping all kinds of hours. The biggest issue with this is a reliance on the medication, which leads to even more sleep, which then leads to other diseases, disorders, or other negative effects.
You already know that depression is linked to oversleeping, and while it’s not clear if one causes the other, it is true that many with depression also tend to oversleep. In fact, 15% of those who suffer from depression say they sleep more than the recommended hours per day.
No, this isn’t just reserved for those who are feeling sad – it’s an actual disorder. Ever heard of it? Seasonal Affective Disorder, or appropriately named SAD, is a type of temporary depression, for lack of a better phrase. It usually comes and goes with the seasons. When winter hits, those who have SAD start feeling down in the dumps. It can even come as early as autumn. By the time the sun is shining again, people feel better.
It’s also referred to as winter depression, and it affects about 4 to 6 percent of people. Although many people suffering from SAD experience insomnia, many also tend to oversleep.
And then there are those who just really like to sleep. Getting your 40 winks – or 60 or 80 – feels good. It’s also a form of escapism when life is just too difficult to deal with at the time. It’s important to keep in mind, though, what all that sleep could lead to and limit your indulgences in naps, extra hours in the morning, or going to bed too early to shut the world out.
Pregnancy is one of those conditions that many, if not most, women deal with one, two, or more times in their lives. What comes with each pregnancy is a huge change to your body and your brain. Especially so, pregnant women are experiencing a dramatic fluctuation in hormone levels. Moms-to-be are going to have more progesterone, which could lead to fatigue during the day.
Although the most common sleep disorder associated with pregnancy is insomnia, or lack of sleep, many women find they’re snoozing during the day, as well. This is generally OK, as pregnant women are sort of “sleeping for two.” According to most docs, you can safely get a few more hours of sleep per night during your pregnancy and everything will shake out (pardon the pun) just fine.
Generally, soon-to-be moms are sleeping a lot more during the first trimester and third trimester. The first trimester is exhausting because of all the changes your body is going through and all the nutrients your body is rerouting from you to your growing baby. By the third trimester, you’ve gained weight, and a whole baby, so you’re carrying around more than you used to – no wonder pregnant moms are always tired!
One big issue with oversleeping while pregnant is that your body may crave more sleep. That could be a huge problem when the baby finally arrives. You’re going to be stuck in a different cycle than your baby, and you’ll be dealing with a whole new set of sleep disruptions. Get a bunch of rest, but don’t take it too far.
You already know the risks associated with getting too much sleep, but do you know why you’re oversleeping? It’s possible that your brain is trying to make up for a restless night of sleep. If you’re being awakened in the middle of the night and you have no idea why, it can be frustrating. You try to get the 7 to 9 hours suggested, but when you wake up, you’re not at your best. So, on the weekends, you sleep a little longer – 10 to 12 hours – and you feel better. So, what’s the deal? There are all sorts of possibilities.
Many people who suffer from this sleep disorder may not even realize they have it. The biggest issue with it isn’t even the potential extra sleep you get to make up for lost sleep. Sleep apnea is when your breathing is interrupted, or stops, while you’re asleep. This is incredibly dangerous because your brain and body aren’t getting enough oxygen while you sleep.
You may be at risk of sleep apnea, regardless of age, gender, or genetics. However, you’re at greater risk if you’re male, older than 40, overweight, have sinus problems, suffer from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), have a large neck, tongue, or tonsils – or if you have a small jaw bone.
If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you should contact your doctor, as this could be a serious problem for you. You can treat it by losing weight, kicking your smoking habit, avoiding alcohol and other drugs, and not sleeping on your back. You may be prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which is a mask you wear while asleep that keeps your breathing regular. And, you know, keeps you alive.
If you’re grinding your teeth at night, you may not even be aware of it. This is also known as sleep bruxism, or nocturnal teeth grinding. One survey reported that 8% of adults clench their jaws and saw back and forth at night. An obvious problem with this is the damage you could do to your pearly whites, but it could also result in pain in your face, and disruptive sleep.
When sleep is interrupted by something like bruxism, you may find yourself sleepier during the day. Your eyes feel heavy, and you crave naps. You may end up oversleeping as your body tries to compensate for lost sleep, or poor sleep.
OK, so you know what insomnia and hypersomnia are, but what about parasomnia? No, this is not like, sleeping with ghosts or something. Parasomnia is when a sleeping individual performs abnormal actions during sleep. Sleepwalking is one example. Again, you’re probably unaware of whether you’re doing this at night.
Sleep aggression is another example of parasomnia, which can result in injuries to a bed mate or anyone else who’s near the person who has a violent outburst while asleep. Another odd example of parasomnia is sexsomnia. Yup, it’s a thing. Also called “sleepsex,” it’s exactly what it sounds like. You might perform sexual acts while completely unconscious, asleep, and dreaming away.
The problem with all of these – including sleep paralysis and even nightmares – is that they’re disrupting your sleep. This could lead to you oversleeping, or at the very least you might feel extra tired during the day. It can absolutely affect your quality of life. Plus, it could be disconcerting to have sexsomnia and a roommate who’s not that into you.
Just as pregnant women have to deal with evolving hormones, so do women when they hit perimenopause and full-on menopause. When a woman starts to transition to menopause, the production of the estrogen hormone goes down. So does progesterone. If you recall the way progesterone increases make a woman much sleepier when she’s pregnant, it works the opposite way when a woman’s ovaries start producing lower levels of hormones. So, you might feel like you aren’t getting enough sleep – this might result in insomnia.
However, not being tired enough to sleep well at night could lead to sleeping extra during the day. When you add that to your sleep at night, you might be getting too much. You could also develop sleep apnea. Also, women who are experiencing hot flashes may not even realize when they’re happening at night. They might go on sleeping, but the quality of sleep may decrease, which could lead to oversleeping.
Think back to when we were chatting about that whole circadian rhythm thing. Your body is naturally timed with the earth’s rhythm. So, when the sun goes down, you automatically get sleepy, and then go to bed. When the sun rises, so do you. It’s all a carefully laid out plan to keep you healthy and getting you the sleep you need each night.
If you sleep with a TV on or scroll through social media at night, you might be doing yourself a disservice. The light could be keeping you awake at night, or at the very least disturbing some good shut-eye. If so, then you might find yourself tired during the day and making up for it with naps, which could mean you’re oversleeping.
Similarly, if your bedroom is black as night at all hours of the day, your body may not realize it’s time to get up already! This alone could lead to you getting way too much sleep, and you may find you’re foggy and sluggish throughout the day and you feel like you need more sleep. But that’ll just lead to more of the same, and then to the more long-term effects of sleeping more than you need.
Clearly, this is where Rip Van Winkle gets a big shout out. I mean, the little dude managed to sleep 20 years! Of course, this is a fictional story told by Washington Irving. And really it’s about avoiding a nagging wife. It could be an allegory for the effects of oversleeping, though! Seriously. Sleep too long and you’ll end up aging prematurely, miss out on life, and end up with a beard that grows a foot long. OK, maybe not that last part, but all the other stuff – yes.
There’s technically no world record for the longest sleep, although there are plenty of people who’ve gone into a coma for many, many years, only to awaken to a world they don’t know. A coma is more of a medical condition than sleeping willfully. However, one of the most startling cases belongs to that of Terry Wallis.
In 1984, Wallis fell into a coma when he was in a car accident in Arkansas. He was a young married father of one at the young age of 20 when it occurred. He awoke 19 years later in a brand-new world, and his infant daughter was now an adult. When Wallis woke up, his first word was “Mom,” followed by “Pepsi,” and then “milk.”
Perhaps the closest example to a world record of actual sleeping belongs to a farmer in 1863, which was covered by the American Journal of the Medical Sciences. The man would fall into deep sleep for prolonged periods of time – up to five days and five nights total. On average, he would sleep two days at a time, and he didn’t suffer from any other ailments. Even his bladder and bowels hold on until he wakes up. The farmer also claimed he never dreamed, and the only symptom from his oversleeping is that he “sometimes feels stupid.”
All this negativity can be draining, right? Perhaps you’re feeling a bit spent and need a nap. “What about positive,” you pause to yawn. “… consequences of getting too much sleep?” you ask. Well, maybe. If you’re using up a lot of energy during your waking hours, you may require more sleep than the average human. So, what’s an above average human? How about Lebron James?
James claims to get at least 12 hours of sleep each night and day. To be fair, James is an NBA champion who trains rigorously for his work. The extra sleep he gets from his three-hour naps helps his speed and reaction time – and he gets a 9% increase in shooting accuracy. That’s an important percentage for a man who makes his living making shots.
Tennis great Roger Federer also swears by his 12 hours of sleep. It’s a necessary process for his body to recover from the extra beating it gets from all of that sprinting, hitting, lobbing, and volleying.
You may have heard that models and actresses get 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night to keep themselves looking refreshed and ready for a long day of work. Heidi Klum told People it’s 10 hours per night, while Penelope Cruz claimed that 12 hours per day help her keep her figure slim. There’s something to be said for the extra sleep when it combats stress. Stress levels can raise cortisol, which has been linked to sleep – and indirectly to weight gain. Cortisol levels should be low when you go to sleep at night, and they should rise to wake you up in the morning. If your cortisol levels are high because of stress, it can lead to sleepless nights, which then leads to less sleep, and then to weight gain. And it works the opposite way, too.
Bottom line when it comes to the positive effects of extra sleep is that you may need it if you’re pushing your body harder than usual. You’ll reap the benefits of oversleeping only if your body and brain need those extra hours to repair, rejuvenate, and refresh you.
Now back to the problem at hand: You’re oversleeping, feeling sluggish, and this article is worrying you a bit. “How can I stop oversleeping?!” you yell. Alright, here’s the solution, but it’s not just one thing you can do to change your sleeping habits. You need to try all these or a combination of them to find the right formula for you.
Your internal clock is anal. It’s like that person who loves lists, makes lists, and makes a to-do list for their to-do lists. Your circadian rhythm just loves a good routine. So, set yourself up for success by ensuring you go to bed at the same time every night, and you’re more likely to wake up at the same time every morning.
You should also make sure you eat meals at the same time every day, and expose yourself to light and darkness at the same times each day. All of these steps will work toward creating a schedule for your brain and body, and you may find you don’t need an alarm clock at all anymore!
There are those of us who cannot wake without an alarm, though. If you tend to hit the snooze button 18 times before you finally roll out of bed, you can trick your body into waking up by moving your alarm clock across the room. If you have to stand up, walk over to the clock, and then shut it off, you’re more likely to stay upright.
Make sure you’re falling asleep in a dark room so that your body adapts naturally to a sleep cycle. This means turning off your TV, putting your phone away, and avoiding bright lights in the middle of the night. You may want to invest in a nightlight for your bathroom if your bladder wakes you up unexpectedly (I’m talking to you, mom-to-be) because it’ll be easier for you to fall back asleep afterward.
If keeping your room swathed in darkness means you won’t see natural light when the sun comes up, try a light alarm. These alarms rely on light, rather than sound, to wake you from your slumber. Just set the alarm and go to sleep. Once it’s time to get up, the alarm gently rouses you from sleep with a soft light that gradually gets brighter as time passes. The simulated sunrise works with most people, but if you’re not awake with the fake sun in your room, a traditional sonic alarm will sound.
All in all, the effects of oversleeping can sometimes be just as serious as the effects of under sleeping. It’s not something to be taken lightly. If you think this is an issue you’re facing, consult a doctor or specialist right away. Hopefully this collection of great tips and information has helped you out! If you have any questions just comment and share below!