We talk a lot about insufficient sleep and the risks that it poses for physical health, mood, relationships, and performance. While it’s true that a good night’s sleep is essential for health, oversleeping isn’t something to ignore.
Like insufficient sleep, oversleeping is a sign of disordered sleep. It may be connected to a mental health issue such as depression. It’s often a signal that a person is experiencing poor sleep quality and it can be a sign of a clinical sleep disorder, including obstructive sleep apnea or narcolepsy.
Hypersomnia is the clinical term for oversleeping. Like its counterpart insomnia, it has several core symptoms:
- Sleeping for extended hours at night (typically well beyond the 7-8-hour general norm)
- Difficulty waking up in the morning (including sleeping through an alarm)
- Trouble rising from bed and starting the day
- Grogginess on and off or consistently throughout the day
- Trouble concentrating
Oversleeping has also been linked to the same host of medical problems as sleeping too little, including heart disease, metabolic problems such as diabetes and obesity, and cognitive issues including difficulty with memory, and increased risk of death.
Studies have shown that sleeping too long or not enough each night can increase the risk for diabetes.
Sleeping too much or too little could make you weigh too much, as well. One recent study showed that people who slept for nine or 10 hours every night were 21% more likely to become obese over a six-year period than were people who slept between seven and eight hours. This association between sleep and obesity remained the same even when food intake and exercise were taken into account.
For some people prone to a headache, sleeping longer than usual on a weekend or vacation can cause head pain. Researchers believe this is due to the effect oversleeping has on certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin. People who sleep too much during the day and disrupt their nighttime sleep may also find themselves suffering from headaches in the morning.
There was a time when doctors told people suffering from back pain to head straight to bed. But those days are long gone. You may not even need to curtail your regular exercise program when you are experiencing back pain. Check with your doctor. Doctors now realize the health benefits of maintaining a certain level of activity. And they recommend against sleeping more than usual, when possible.
Although insomnia is more commonly linked to depression than oversleeping is, roughly 15% of people with depression sleep too much. This may, in turn, make their depression worse. That’s because regular sleep habits are important to the recovery process.
The Nurses’ Health Study involved nearly 72,000 women. A careful analysis of the data from that study showed that women who slept nine to 11 hours per night were 38% more likely to have coronary heart disease than women who slept eight hours. Researchers have not yet identified a reason for the connection between oversleeping and heart disease.