Many people oversleep every now and then, but those that oversleep on a regular basis could be exposing themselves to a whole host of health problems. Here, you’ll discover the negative effects of oversleeping, which will hopefully encourage you to return to a more healthy sleep pattern.
Why Do People Oversleep?
There are a number of reasons why people oversleep, most of which can be linked to various health issues:
- People with a condition called hypersomnia oversleep quite a bit. Hypersomnia is a condition characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, and excessive nighttime sleeping. People with hypersomnia feel the need to nap repeatedly throughout the day, although the naps do nothing to relieve the sleepiness. Napping can also come at inappropriate times, such as during work or meals. These people may routinely experience sleep inertia as well.
- Another very serious condition that can cause oversleeping is obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops and starts again repeatedly throughout the night. This significantly disturbs the pattern of healthy sleep, which leads to oversleeping and daytime sleepiness. There are many types of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea is the most common, and is caused when the muscles in the throat relax and block the airway. When the brain senses the drop in oxygen in the body, it will cause the person to wake briefly to restore breathing.
- Depression is also a major cause of oversleeping. Any depressive condition can cause people to oversleep, though some are more likely to cause oversleeping than others. People who oversleep because of depression can also suffer from sleep inertia when they try to wake.
- Those who use alcohol or other drugs can have problems with oversleeping. Drowsiness is a common side effect of many medications.
Sometimes there is no medical cause for oversleeping. Some people just like to sleep a lot, but in doing so they place themselves at increased risk for several serious medical problems.
The Downward Spiral
Many people observe that when oversleeping, they often experience more problems with being sleepy during the day. This leads to the feeling of a downward spiral; the more a person tries to sleep, the sleepier they become.
There could be a number of causes for this, but all are related to something called problem sleep. Problem sleep is the term used to characterize sleeping difficulties including insomnia, shift work sleep disorder, and sleeping problems resulting from problems with the body’s circadian rhythms, which regulate sleep. If someone experiences problems falling asleep, staying asleep or they repeatedly wake up feeling as if they haven’t slept, they should contact a sleep specialist.
Health Conditions Linked to Oversleeping
Several health conditions have been scientifically linked to oversleeping:
- Diabetes: A study of about 9,000 Americans found that those who overslept had a 50 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than people who slept the recommended amount each night. A similar risk has also been found in those who sleep less than five hours per night.
- Obesity: Oversleeping can lead to excessive weight gain. One study found that those who overslept had a 21 percent higher risk of obesity than those who didn’t. This was the case even when diet and exercise remained the same between those who overslept and those who didn’t.
- Heart Disease: Findings from The Nurses’ Health Study involving nearly 72,000 women found that those who overslept had a 38 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who didn’t. The reason of this is not yet known and further research is needed.
- Death: Multiple studies have shown a correlation between oversleeping and higher death rates, though the exact reason for this is unknown.
Other health problems associated with oversleeping include depression, headaches and back pain.
How to Stop
Experts recommend sleeping 7 to 9 hours per night, depending on your age. Anything over that is considered oversleeping. There are some simple things that people can do to help them wake easier, and avoid oversleeping.
- Keeping the same schedule every day will help the body sleep and wake when it is supposed to. Often people over sleep on weekends when they don’t have to get up for work or school, but this can lead to other problems, such as oversleeping and sleep inertia. Keep an alarm set each day until and get up when it goes off. If hitting the snooze button is too tempting, place the alarm across the room, so that it’s necessary to physically get up to turn it off.
- Avoid napping during the day. This can upset the circadian rhythms of the body, making it difficult to fall asleep at night and result in oversleeping.
- More severe problems will require the help of a sleep specialist. Some sleep problems will require specialized treatment or medications. Certain medications can be quite helpful in treating chronic oversleeping.
Maintaining good sleep patterns is essential to good health, but people need to remember that like most things overdoing it is just as bad as not sleeping at all. Even with sleep it is possible to have too much of a good thing.