Is Too Much Sleep Bad for You?

woman lying on bed

Too much sleep, also known as “hypersomnia” can be just as bad as the other more widely known sleep disorder, insomnia.

The United States National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke (NINDS) describes hypersomnia as “recurrent episodes of excessive daytime sleepiness or prolonged nighttime sleep.”

Oversleeping

Humans sleep on average for around eight hours a day. Sleep addicted people however may often sleep for over 12 or more hours at one time. In extreme cases, sufferers could sleep in excess of 14 hours a day but could still feel the need to nap after waking up. Most people like the idea of a good night’s sleep, but true to the adage too much of a good thing can be bad – oversleeping could affect a person’s quality of life in a negative way.

Young people between the age groups of 15 – 30 yrs are more prone to the condition. Medical experts believe that the onset of hypersomnia is a gradual process and the sufferer may be unaware of it at the beginning.

Extreme sleepiness

Hypersomniacs could experience extreme sleepiness almost anywhere. Be it at work, school or any other place. They could even feel sleepy during meal times, while having a conversation, or behind the wheel, increasing the chance of a motor vehicle accident.

Negative effects of too much sleep can range from obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular problems and if left untreated could even be life threatening.

However, not everyone who oversleeps has a medical disorder. For example, people who do shift work could experience excessive sleepiness during the daytime because a night job could interfere with the body’s natural sleep rhythms. Other major reasons for excessive sleepiness could be the use of caffeine, alcohol and certain types of medication.

If oversleeping involves deep sleep for long periods, it could be the result of hypersomnia.

Symptoms of hypersomnia

So, when is too much sleep a bad thing? It is likely to be a problem if the following occur:

  • you have difficulty waking up in the morning on a regular basis
  • short naps during the day do not make you feel better
  • you feel overly sleepy in your waking hours
  • you often feel drowsy when awake and your mind feels foggy

Oversleeping can bring about difficulty in concentration, and loss of appetite. Other symptoms could involve irritability, anxiety, low energy, excessive tiredness and memory problems. Medical research has found that amongst other factors depression and stress disorders could be contributory causes of hypersomnia. The severity of the condition can vary from person to person.

If excessive sleepiness and related symptoms continue for longer periods or they re-occur, seeking medical help may be required.

Treatments involve behavioral as well as pharmacological options. To better, manage the condition certain life style changes such as avoiding tobacco, alcohol and caffeine are recommended. Trying out short power naps during the day can also help.

Sleep tips

Research findings of The Australasian Sleep Association reveal some effective sleep tips for a good night’s sleep. The results are expected to help people suffering from different kinds of sleep disorders such as insomnia, hypersomnia, narcolepsy and others. Some of its top sleep tips for getting a good night’s sleep include the following:

  • Ensure regular sleep patterns by going to bed at the same time each night and aiming for eight hours a night.
  • Limit alcohol, nicotine and caffeine intake.
  • Learn how to relax.
  • Improve your sleeping environment; e.g. Make it dark, quiet and comfortable and ensure appropriate room temperature is maintained.

If the problem persists, it is important to seek help through a physician or a sleep disorder clinic.

References:

United States National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke (NINDS)