Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr Katha­rina Led­erle

Ex­ces­sive sleep­ing may in­di­cate ill­ness or cause poor health

There is fre­quently a fo­cus on the ef­fects of not get­ting enough sleep but it’s also im­por­tant to look at whether reg­u­larly sleep­ing too much is harm­ful. The short an­swer is yes. It is im­por­tant to clar­ify what sleep­ing too much ac­tu­ally means.


The rec­om­mended sleep du­ra­tion for a healthy adult be­tween the ages of 18 and 64 is 7 to 9 hours. This sup­ports good phys­i­cal and men­tal health. Any­thing more is what most stud­ies call ‘long sleep’ - i.e. con­sis­tently sleep­ing for more

than 9 hours. There are ex­cep­tions with around 2% of peo­ple are ge­net­i­cally long sleep­ers and need 9 hours plus. Health prob­lems are as­so­ci­ated with too much or too lit­tle sleep. Sleep­ing too much is as­so­ci­ated with ad­verse health out­comes sim­i­lar to those in peo­ple who sleep too lit­tle. There is a U-shape re­la­tion­ship be­tween sleep du­ra­tion and health/men­tal well­be­ing.


• obe­sity

• type 2 di­a­betes

• car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease

• ob­struc­tive sleep ap­noea

• in­flam­ma­tion

• de­pres­sion.


• in­crease the risk of early death

• be worse than sleep­ing too lit­tle.

It is not clear why sleep­ing too much may in­crease the risk of early death. What un­der­ly­ing mech­a­nisms that tie long sleep du­ra­tion to ill health are un­known. Which is the cause and ef­fect is also dif­fi­cult to de­fine. It’s clas­sic chicken and egg sit­u­a­tion! But here are some things we do know.

1. Ac­tiv­ity and en­ergy lev­els.

Sleep­ing too much means you’re less ac­tive and us­ing less en­ergy. This means you can store more en­ergy, lead­ing to weight gain and obe­sity.

2. Con­se­quences of ill-health.

Re­quir­ing too much sleep can also be a

con­se­quence of ill health. For ex­am­ple, ob­struc­tive sleep ap­noea and meta­bolic and/or car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

3. In­flam­ma­tion.

Too much sleep can be caused by in­flam­ma­tion, that is in­duced by stress. While this can be ben­e­fi­cial in the short­term, the ef­fects of chronic in­flam­ma­tion on sleep and the body might dam­age your health.

4. Bore­dom & lack of in­ter­est.

Some peo­ple sleep too much be­cause they’re bored or don’t know how much sleep they need. What we do know is that healthy sleep is key to a healthy, happy life. If you reg­u­larly sleep for the du­ra­tion and at the time that’s right for you, you’ll reap

the ben­e­fits. To help, here are few sleep habits that you can im­ple­ment now. Yes, it might mean mak­ing small changes to your life­style, but your long-term health makes it worth­while!


1. Fol­low your body clock, it tells you when to sleep and when to be awake. Stick to these times even on the week­end.

2. By fol­low­ing your body clock, you’ll sleep for the du­ra­tion that’s right for you.

3. Get 30 min­utes of sun­light in the morn­ing. This helps your body clock know that the day has started.

4. If you stay in bed longer than your reg­u­lar wake-up time (af­ter a long night out), open the cur­tains and in­crease the light lev­els.

5. Do some­thing you en­joy ev­ery day, no mat­ter how small the ac­tion is.

6. Con­sider the ef­fects of caf­feine and al­co­hol. Both af­fect your sleep pat­terns. If you en­joy caf­feine, con­sume it in the morn­ing. If you like a drink, keep it to one glass in the early evening.

7. Dim the lights in the evening and avoid us­ing blue light-emit­ting screens one hour be­fore bed and while in bed!

If you prac­tice these sleep habits but you still sleep too much, you might be suf­fer­ing from an un­der­ly­ing sleep dis­or­der.

If so, go and see a doc­tor. An ex­am­ple of a sleep dis­or­der is Idio­pathic Hyper­som­nia, that is a sleep-wake dis­or­der char­ac­terised by sleep­ing for ex­ces­sively long pe­ri­ods and still be­ing ex­tremely tired dur­ing the day. Or it may be an ill­ness that is caus­ing you to sleep too much. Make sure that you get it looked at! Sleep well and feel good.

Dr Katha­rina Led­erle is a hu­man sleep and fa­tigue spe­cial­ist with an MSc in Bio­sciences and a PhD in Hu­man Cir­ca­dian Phys­i­ol­ogy & Be­hav­iour (the hu­man body clock). Her PhD looked at the ef­fects of light on hu­man sleep­ing pat­terns, specif­i­cally in the el­derly. Katha­rina is co­founder of Som­nia, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that raises aware­ness about the im­por­tance of healthy sleep. She is the au­thor of Sleep Sense.

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