Is There Such a Thing as Sleeping Too Much?

July 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Sleep

It is common knowledge that getting too little sleep can lead to, or indicate, health problems. But how much sleep is “enough” and is there such a thing as getting too much sleep?

Most doctors recommend that people get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. The amount of sleep needed can vary with age, activity level, and health conditions. For example, if you are recovering from illness, you will probably need more sleep.

Oversleeping has been linked to health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. However, research also noted that depression and low socio-economic status are also linked with oversleeping, and scientists are unsure whether oversleeping is a cause or a symptom of these health conditions or whether other underlying conditions contribute to all these factors.

Two known medical reasons for oversleeping are hypersomnia and obstructive sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, the victim stops breathing multiple times during the night, and is unable to experience a normal sleep cycle.

Two other common reasons for oversleeping include alcohol or other substance abuse, and side-effects of medication. It may be important to let your doctor know about any sleep problems, especially if you have recently changed medications.

People who sleep 9-10 hours per night are more likely to be overweight. Sleeping more than nine hours per night (or less than five) increases the likelihood of developing diabetes. And oversleeping has also been connected with an increased risk of heart disease.

Headaches and back pain are also common among people who sleep more than nine hours per night. While depression is more often linked with insomnia, some depressed individuals sleep too much.

Finally, sleeping more than nine hours per night is indicative of a higher risk of death.

Again, scientists are unsure whether this risk is due to medical or socio-economic factors.

There are several ways to improve sleep habits. Maintaining a regularly scheduled time to go to bed and waking at the same time every morning can help regulate your sleep cycle. Avoiding caffeine late in the evening is another classic tactic to improve sleep habits. Some other suggestions include making sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing oasis of calm, watching comedy or documentary programs on TV instead of exciting action shows, and using lavender aromatherapy. Other methods may include a warm bath, or a drinking a warm glass of milk. These methods might improve the quality of your sleep and enable you to wake on time in the morning.

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