We all know that a good night’s sleep is essential for good health. The human body needs to rest and rejuvenate. Essential body functions of growth and repair take place during sleep. Without enough rest, energy levels drop, immunity decreases, and mental functions slow. However, although sleep is vital, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Too much sleep may be a sign of underlying health conditions. Likewise, excessive sleep can contribute to an increased risk of several disorders. Read on to explore possible links between excessive sleep and poor health.
Different individuals need varying amounts of sleep. Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Excessive sleep doesn’t refer to those individuals who function well on nine hours of sleep each night. It also does not refer to occasionally sleeping in until noon on the weekend or when catching up from travel or a string of late nights. Instead, excessive sleep refers to those who chronically require more than 10 hours of sleep each night. Additionally, these individuals may find that they are groggy, fatigued, and lacking in energy even after such a long night of sleep.
Just like sleeping too little, sleeping too much can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. A study in the European Heart Journal suggests that sleeping six to eight hours each night is optimal for heart health. In this study, either more or less sleep increased the risk of heart disease and death. Furthermore, a British study in Neurology suggests that excessive sleep increases the risk of stroke. In both studies, the risk of disease follows a J-shaped curve. This means that the risk of disease first falls, then steeply rises with increased amounts of sleep.
Sleeping too much can contribute to the risk of obesity. This may be related to less time spent engaging in exercise and more time spent in bed. On the other hand, increased time spent sleeping may in fact be a byproduct of obesity, as well as a contributor to the condition. A study by the Sleep Research Society noted that both low levels and high levels of sleep contributed to the risk of obesity. Obesity can contribute to fatigue by placing a strain on joints and muscles and requiring extra effort to carry added weight.
The relationship between sleep and diabetes risk may have the same J-shaped curve seen with the risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports on a study that links sleep with diabetes. In this study, participants who slept more or less than seven to eight hours each night were 2.5 times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. Furthermore, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that patients with type 2 diabetes be tested for sleep apnea due to the strong link between the conditions.
Sleeping too much can cause you to wake up with an aching head. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people with sleep disorders are two to eight times as likely to suffer from headaches. While the reason too much sleep can cause headaches is not fully understood, there are several possibilities for this occurrence. First, sleep apnea, in which breathing is disrupted throughout the night, contributes to snoring and headaches. Individuals who grind their teeth at night may also awaken with an aching head. Finally, tension headaches can be aggravated by sleeping in the wrong position or on an unsuitable pillow.
You may expect that the more sleep you get, the more energy you will have. While this may be true up to a point, excessive sleep may have the opposite effect. The more a person becomes accustomed to sleeping, sitting, or napping, the more overwhelming getting up and getting out to exercise can seem. One way to combat the decreased energy that results from a sedentary lifestyle is to get outside for fresh air and move your muscles. A walk around the block can stimulate your mind and body, rather than wear you out. This may also contribute to a deeper, more refreshing night of sleep.
While some patients suffering from depression may struggle with insomnia, other patients find themselves sleeping for longer periods of time. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of atypical depression include feelings of sadness that occasionally lift with good news, eating too much, and sleeping too much. In addition, experiencing a heavy feeling in the arms or legs and displaying an oversensitivity to the opinions or judgment of others are signs of atypical depression. In this case, sleeping may be a coping mechanism or a way to escape from the feelings of depression.
The groggy, foggy feeling that can accompany extended periods of sleep may be just one indication of how too much sleep can affect your brain. One study of middle-aged and elderly women showed that those who slept for prolonged periods of time were more likely to have deficits in learning and understanding. Furthermore, the Alzheimer’s Association reports on another study of older women. The women who slept more or less than six to eight hours each night had an increased risk of decreased mental functioning and dementia than those who slept seven hours each night.
Circadian rhythm refers to the internal clock that signals your body when to be wakeful and when to relax into slumber. Disruptions to your internal clock through travel or changes in work and sleep schedules can interfere with your normal patterns of waking and sleeping. Consistent amounts of excessive sleep can throw off this cycle. Keep your sleep/wake cycle consistent by going to bed at the same time each evening and waking at the same time each morning. Avoid staying up late or sleeping in on weekends in order to allow your body to keep to a regular pattern and prevent insomnia, daytime drowsiness, and irritability.
Spending too much time in bed can leave you with aching joints and sore muscles. Lying too long in one position or sleeping in an uncomfortable position can contribute to daytime soreness and pain. If you suffer from back pain or aching joints, you may think sleep is the best way to alleviate this pain. However, proper exercise can provide relief from back and joint pain. Check with your physician for suggestions on exercises that can improve joint or muscle pain. When you are sleeping, use strategically placed pillows to reduce strain on your joints.
Excessive sleep may be a sign that you suffer from a sleep disorder that prevents your sleep from being restful and restorative. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax so much during sleep that they partially block your airway. This causes snoring, disrupted sleep, and a decreased oxygen supply. Central sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when the brain does not send the proper signals to the breathing muscles. This results in periods where a person stops breathing at night. A sleep study could alert your physician to these reasons for excessive sleep.
There are other underlying medical conditions that could cause a person to sleep for excessive periods of time. Heart disease, obesity, depression, and diabetes are four such conditions. Additionally, anemia is a condition in which your body does not produce enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout your body. This can cause excessive fatigue and sleepiness. Thyroid conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, can also cause fatigue. Parkinson’s disease is another condition that can contribute to sleep disturbances and drowsiness.