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; a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease; an increased risk of stroke, more pain and inflammation, impaired brain function, and lessened fertility.
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 real 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.
1You wake up feeling tired.
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.
2You 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.
3You're getting headaches.
Some experts say oversleeping can screw with your brain's neurotransmitters, which could reduce your serotonin levels and cause headaches (or, worse, MIGRAINES). 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.
4You're gaining weight.
There's nothing wrong with a little weight fluctuation, but if you've mysteriously packed on a few pounds, oversleeping could be the culprit. Studies have found that people who slept more than nine hours a night tended to gain more weight than people who got seven or so hours of shuteye. Though researchers aren't exactly sure why there's a correlation, it's possible that oversleeping messes with the hormones that control your appetite, plus since sleeping too much can make you more tired, you may end up getting less physical activity than your more "normal" snoozing peers.
On the flip side, research has shown that sleeping less than 5 hours a night can also cause weight gain, so it's important to get the right amount of sleep if you're concerned about the scale.
5Your 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.
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.
6You're in pain.
This is a weird one, but some studies have found a correlation between oversleep and pain and inflammation. In some cases, sleeping too much can cause back pain, 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.
It's not totally clear whether oversleep is a symptom of depression, or depression is a symptom of oversleep, and when you've got a particularly bad case of the blues, 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.