7 Signs You're Sleeping Too Much
Experts recommend adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, a difficult feat for working folks, particularly when there's so much good stuff to watch on Netflix and your radiator clangs intermittently in the night. But for the lucky few that are able to sneak in that much shuteye, there's a hidden menace: sleeping too much. While undersleeping can mess with your moods, memory, hand-eye coordination and heart, the dangers of oversleeping potentially include depression, diabetes, heart disease, an increased risk of stroke, more pain and inflammation, and impaired brain function.
"It is important to remember that most of human history before light bulbs, the average night sleep was eight to ten hours a night," Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, tells Bustle. "So oversleeping is more than ten hours a night on average. Oversleeping is usually caused by either illnesses that require more sleep, or poor sleep quality so that sleep that doesn’t recharge your batteries."
Like undersleeping, oversleeping disrupts our natural circadian rhythm, forcing our bodies to work harder to compensate for what feels like a time change. It can be a symptom of a more significant health problem, like sleep apnea, narcolepsy or hypersomnia. It's also a sign of anxiety and/or depression, and if you find yourself feeling particularly down and lethargic while regularly sleeping for upwards of eight hours, it could be a cause for concern.
So how do you know if you're sleeping too much, or just getting a few extra winks? Here are a few things to watch out for, according to experts.
1. You Wake Up Feeling Tired
There is something super tempting about giving yourself ten hours to snooze — especially on the weekend. But take note if you are putting in many hours of shuteye, but still feel exhausted the following day. An adequate night's sleep should have you feeling refreshed in the morning, but if you're regularly waking up exhausted after eight-plus hours of sleep, you're probably overdoing it. WIRED likens oversleeping to a hangover or jet-lag, likely because when you sleep to much your has to work extra hard to readjust to its natural 24-hour clock. In the end, all that overworking ends up knocking you out.
If this is an ongoing issue for you, speak to your doctor and they can help you get to the bottom of why this may be an issue.
2. You Feel Sluggish All Day
If you're sleeping too much, you won't just feel tired in the morning. In fact, you'll likely find yourself walking around like a zombie on Nyquil all day, thanks, again, to that pesky circadian clock that's trying so hard to keep up with your opulent sleep schedule. If you're still craving naps after sleeping upwards of eight hours each night, you may want to cut down on the snooze button.
According to Dr. Teitlebaum, feeling sluggish the day after getting more than ten hours of sleep could point to an underlying illness, like restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea. Restless leg syndrome can leave you tossing and turning throughout the night, while sleep apnea may wake you up intermittently, even if you don't realize it. Both are things you should check in with your doctor about, so you can start getting more quality sleep.
3. You're Getting Headaches
But that's not the only reason. Have you ever woken up from a long night of rest with a stiff neck, or muscle pain? Dr. Teitlebaum also notes that headaches can result from the sheer fact that you are laying down so long. "If the neck muscles get tight from sleeping too long, it can cause headaches across the forehead and at the base of the skull," he says.
If you're regularly experiencing head pain and getting more than the recommended amount of sleep, you should try to limit the dozing, though in the meantime you can ease the ache with some lavender oil, ginger, or an ice pack. If the pain persists, though, definitely speak to your doctor about why you are having difficulties getting quality sleep.
4. Your Memory Is Starting To Go
A major sign that you're oversleeping is when you start to get the brain fuzzies. Researchers have found that sleeping too much can actually age your brain's cognitive abilities by as much as two years, and it gets worse the older you get.
Dr. Teitelbaum says that a poor night's rest, no matter how many hours you were in bed can leave you feeling "not especially sharp" the following day. Once again, this can be due to underlying health conditions that are preventing you from getting the restful sleep that you need to function at 100% the following day.
It's normal to experience some brain fog when you haven't had enough sleep — I can't begin to tell you how many times I've left my wallet in my apartment when I've left before I've had coffee — but if you're sleeping long hours and can't seem to recall where you've parked the car, that's a problem. Your doctor can definitely help you get to the bottom of it.
5. You're In Pain
Some studies have found a correlation between oversleep and pain and inflammation. As mentioned before, in some cases, sleeping too much can cause pain, especially in your back or neck, if just because spending all that time curled in a fetal position isn't so good for you in the long run.
And some researchers have found that people who sleep more than nine hours a night have elevated levels of cytokine, cells produced primarily by the immune system that help regulate your body's inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation can make you sick, and even cause some cancers, asthma, and arthritis.
Dr. Teitelbaum says that oversleeping could be a clue that you are having issues with chronic inflammation, and should be checked by a doctor. "Oversleeping can be [indicative] of numerous illnesses, including an autoimmune disorder or other types of inflammatory pain," he says. "The pain can also disrupt sleep quality requiring more sleep." And this can be a vicious cycle. The best way to break it is to explore options with your doctor.
6. You're Depressed
It's not totally clear whether oversleep is a symptom of depression, or depression is a symptom of oversleep. When depression becomes particularly disruptive to your everyday life, it can be hard to get up and face the day. But if you're sleeping extra long hours and feeling so lethargic you've lost interest in your hobbies, relationships, job, etc., it's possible you're mistaking a depressive episode for exhaustion.
According to Psychology Today, over 40% of adults under the age of 30 who have depression experience hypersomnia, or oversleeping. It also notes that it is more common for women to feel overly tired as a result of depression. If you find that you have additional symptoms, including feelings of sadness, anxiety, or brain fog, it may be time to speak with a mental health professional to get the help you need.
7. Your Immune System Is Fighting Something
When you're not feeling well, it can seem like you could sleep all day and all night and still feel tired. That's because your body is trying to fight something off, so you need the extra rest to help your immune system attack the virus or infection. If you go to bed feeling fine, but notice you seem more tired, and have a slight tickle in your throat, it may be your body's way of telling you that you're getting sick, and it's time to relax.
"Sleep is a vital process to maintain human health," Kim Dupree Jones, PhD, RN, FNP, FAAN, professor and dean at Linfield College, School of Nursing, tells Bustle. "During sleep, the mind and body undergo multiple repair functions."
That's why the body requires sleep — to repair itself. While this is something we do each night, if your body requires more sleep, it's often because it's trying to overcome an illness.
"When we are sick our bodies go into repair mode," Dr. Rebecca Robbins, PhD, of NYU Langone Health, tells Bustle. "We need more sleep than we do normally. Thus, sleeping longer than usual might be a sign that you’re getting sick but also to recover from a cold or flu you will likely need more sleep."
If you also notice fever, chills, or congestion, talk to your doctor. Sleep can definitely help, but sometimes medical intervention for an infection is necessary.
Oversleeping may sound like a dream (pun intended), but it could also clue you in to certain health issues. If you are struggling to get a full, uninterrupted eight hours, it may be time to ask your doctor what's up.
This post was originally published on December 15, 2017. It was updated on June 6, 2019.