The Opposite Problem
In the fast-paced world that we live in, insomnia is a common complaint. We rarely hear anyone complain about sleeping too much, but it does happen. Strangely enough, hypersomnia, or over-sleeping is related to many health problems including diabetes, heart disease and increased risk of death. (1) How many times have you heard someone say, “I just can’t seem to wake up!”? While ongoing drowsiness can be a symptom of an underlying medical problem that has to be diagnosed by your doctor, it can also be because you sleep too much. Oversleeping can cause low energy whenever you are awake. Anxiety is also a common side effect, which can promote even more sleeping to escape the constant anxiety. Memory problems are also common in those who sleep more than they need.
Excessive Sleeping Interferes with Healthy Habits
I have a relative who has suffered from this disorder most of her life. When she has a job, all she does is work and sleep. She will tell you that she doesn’t have time to plan healthy meals or exercise. I guess not! She sleeps about 14 hours a day! If I manage to squeeze in the necessary 8 hours, I am pushed to accomplish everything that I need to get done in the other 16 hours. I work full-time in nursing, work on this website, work out about 14+ hours per week and care for an adult, special needs family member and 2 dogs. If I slept 14 hours a day, I would be a train wreck, obese and unhealthy. If we sleep all the time, we simply don’t have time to do anything else.
Effects and Possible Causes of Too Much Sleep
Over sleeping can cause low energy, memory and attention problems, eating disorders, anxiety, headaches, back pain and depression. If we want to feel our best, we need just the right amount of sleep. According to Harvard Health, 7-9 hours are usually recommended for most adults. (2) People who sleep too much may even have elevated levels of C-reactive protein in their blood which is a measure of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is accepted to be the beginning of many, if not most, diseases in the human body. (3) Over-sleeping increases the odds of becoming diabetic which cascades into many other health problems.
There can be serious medical causes of sleeping too much that have to be diagnosed and treated by your medical doctor. Depression, anxiety, thyroid disorders, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and even heart problems can be at the root of hypersomnia. If you can’t seem to get enough sleep although you’re logging the recommended 7-9 hours, see your doctor immediately.
Practical Tips That May Help
After you have seen your doctor, there are practical things that you can do that may help you avoid this health bomb. Getting to sleep on time and the quality of your sleep impact the length of time that you stay in the bed.
1-Don’t take your technology to bed. The blue light that these devices emit disturb the production of melatonin which allows you to fall asleep easily., If you can’t fall asleep, you’ll likely toss and turn and after you finally collapse into a fitful slumber, you will sleep too long.
2-Go to bed on time. You know what you need to get done in a day. Calculate what time you need to get up to do that and go to bed at a time that will allow you to get the 7-9 hours that you need. (adult)
3-Set an alarm. After your body adjusts to this change, you will tend to fall asleep easier and be more likely to get out of bed on time to tackle your day.
4-Have your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime and avoid overeating. Nighttime overeating can cause morning sluggishness and make you want to stay in bed to “sleep it off”. Sometimes your doctor may advise more time between your last meal and bedtime if you have problems with acid reflux. ALWAYS follow your doctor’s recommendations.
5-Avoid napping in the daytime if you’re not sleepy at night. There are exceptions to this but as a general rule, daytime napping can interfere with falling asleep at night.
6-Avoid alcohol. Although many people think that alcohol will help them get a good night’s sleep, the opposite is true. Alcohol activates dopamine in the brain which is part of the adrenalin response. When the initial buzz wers off, you will be wide awake but still lethargic. You will NOT want to get up on time!
7-Get active during the day. Do whatever exercise that you will do, and your doctor approves. In other words, wear yourself out and you will be more likely to rest at night. Finish your exercise at least 90 minutes before you want to sleep because exercise releases stimulating neurotransmitters. Personally, I like to be finished even earlier if at all possible because lifting weights is profoundly stimulating in this way.
8-Take control of your life to reduce stress. We teach people to “Make Your World Small”. In other words, remove negative, unnecessary people and activities from your life. I live my life by this mantra, and it has decreased the stress in my life by about 90%. Although I still have sleepless nights at times, this reduction in stress has enabled me to turn my mind off much easier. I don’t have nearly as much ruminating to do now!
9-MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY! We live in a world where people brag about their lack of sleep as if it’s a badge of honor. Deliberately avoiding sleep to “get stuff done” is absurd. The “stuff” you get done will not be done properly. When you prioritize sleep and set boundaries for bedtime and wake time, most people will eventually develop a natural sleep/wake cycle.
10-Keep working on it! Getting the proper amount of sleep can be a daunting challenge for most people but it is critical to your health and well-being. You may need to see a sleep specialist. When you consult your doctor about these issues, he may make that recommendation. Follow up on it and keep working until you are well-rested and have the right amount of energetic, productive awake hours to have a full, rich life.
(1) Oversleeping Side Effects: Is Too Much Sleep Harmful? (webmd.com)
(2) Ask the Doctor: The right amount of sleep – Harvard Health
(3) How To Stop Sleeping Too Much? 11 Ways to Stop Oversleeping (healthspectra.com)