I Sleep Too Much: Is There Anything Wrong?

I sleep too much – often more than 9 hours. Though I seem to be otherwise healthy, does this indicate that there is something wrong with my health”?  This is one of the most common concerns of someone who is fighting a problem with long sleeping hours.

Before we understand why someone should oversleep, we need to get one fact clear. Everyone oversleeps from time to time. It could happen after a night-shift, coping with a jet lag or any other phase that has caused sleep deprivation.  However, people who regularly sleep more than 8 hours are called long sleepers (people suffering from hypersomnia are given this name – which means ‘too much sleep’). Interestingly, if long sleeping hours does not adversely affect one’s daily life, it is really not a problem.

Be that as it may, when someone complains “I sleep too much” – it usually signifies that the individual is repaying a sleep debt.

Repaying a sleep dept: is this why I sleep too much?  

According to National Institutes of Health, most healthy adults need between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep per night in order to function optimally during the day. But individual needs vary. A sleep debt is created when an average adult falls short of this value plus or minus one hour. The lost sleep accumulates progressively and the debt amount increases with time. The only way to reduce the debt is to obtain extra amounts of sleep over and above the daily need.

What happens at the brain level when I sleep too much? 

Sleep homeostat is a powerful brain mechanism that regulates the quantum of daily sleep. With the increase of sleep indebtedness, the brain ensures that the body gets the amount of sleep it deserves or close to it. The increased tendency to sleep together with the associated drowsiness prevents the person to become sleep deprived as they would normally go to bed early or get up late.

The fact of the matter is that more often than not, most of us ignore the nature’s signal that tells us that we need more sleep. When we stretch this beyond a point, we cannot help but oversleep. The important fact behind sleep is to know that nothing can change a person’s intrinsic daily sleep need. Sleep debt does not vanish with time – the brain ensures that you get the amount of sleep the body needs.

What are the health issues that could be linked when I sleep too much? 

Some highlights of research findings on oversleeping:

–          Researchers have found that long sleeping hours (9 or more) are associated with increased morbidity (illness, accidents) and mortality (death).

–          One might sleep too much or too little if he or she is suffering from depression.

–          Prolonged nighttime sleep along with problems in waking in the morning, called sleep inertia is a common symptom of hypersomnia.

–          Oversleeping could also have links with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes repeated pauses in breathing and hence causes serious sleep deprivation as well as disruption of normal sleep cycle.

–          Those who sleep for more than 9 hours have a 50% greater risk of diabetes.

–         Oversleeping also results in weight gain. Sleeping more than 9 or 10 hours increases the risk of obesity by 21% in a period of 6 years.

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