SLEEPING TOO MUCH IS HARMFUL
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.
WHAT IS THE RECOMMENDED SLEEP TIME?
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.
HEALTH PROBLEMS LINKED WITH INADEQUATE SLEEP:
• type 2 diabetes
• cardiovascular disease
• obstructive sleep apnoea
SLEEPING TOO MUCH MAY:
• 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.
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!
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS THAT MAY ASSIST YOU WITH ACHIEVING QUALITY SLEEP:
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.