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The Dangers of Oversleeping

The Dangers of Oversleeping

Annie Tucker Morgan | Divine Caroline

January 21, 2011

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love to sleep. I’m like a baby in that regard—if I don’t get enough rest, I’m a zombie of Evil Dead –esque proportions the next day. I used to pride myself on the fact that I catch more Zs than most people I know; while they chug coffee and sleep in till noon on weekends to make up for being dog-tired during the workweek, I often log a solid ten hours and wake up early and refreshed without even needing to rely on an alarm clock to rouse me.

Turns out, I shouldn’t have been so pleased with myself—instead, I should have been keeping my body vertical and my eyes open. Recent studies have indicated that oversleeping is at the root of many serious medical problems, including heart disease and diabetes, and can even lead to a shortened life span.

Too Much of a Good Thing …

The amount of sleep people need varies widely, depending on their age, overall health, work schedule, and stress and activity levels. But on average, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that seven to nine hours per night are ideal. Chronic oversleeping—not just catching up on sleep after a hard week once in a while, but regularly clocking marathon pillow time—is actually a medical condition known as hypersomnia. No matter how much people who suffer from this disorder sleep, neither napping during the day nor slumbering for many hours at night can relieve them of their exhaustion. In addition, according to WebMD, hypersomniacs are sometimes plagued by anxiety, low energy, and memory problems as a result of their fatigue.

However, scientists are quick to point out that not all individuals who sleep too much classify as hypersomniacs, since numerous unrelated factors can contribute significantly to excessive sleep habits as well. Depression, use of alcohol and certain prescription medications, and obstructive sleep apnea—a condition that disrupts breathing during sleep and thus prevents people from achieving normal sleep cycles—are all potential hindrances.

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  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    Interesting, but we can't all base our sleep patterns on only one study, especially when everyone's sleep needs may be different. Needing more sleep to make up for not getting high quality sleep is different than needing more high quality sleep as an individual. How exactly do they even measure someone's probability of dying anyhow?

  • -pix_503_max50


    almost 4 years ago


    ... Very helpful article...

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    amandahill, well said! Just because you cross the "magic 9 hours" number doesn't mean you're destined for horrible health problems. I also agree that there could be an underlying condition that is causing you to not get *restful* sleep, even if you are "sleeping" for 10+ hours a day.

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder is one such condition (which I have). Before seeking treatment, I was not getting *restful* sleep at night - meaning I totally crashed in the early afternoon - no matter how long I slept. My mind just was not capable of turning "off", even though I was technically "asleep" (a sleep study confirmed this - I had a pretty nifty looking graph!).

    Even with medication to control the GAD, I still consume a high amount of mental energy during the day (I crave stress, LOL!). But now that I've been in treatment for about 2 years, I have concluded that I am one of those individuals who "needs" around 9-10 hours of sleep a night to feel well rested during the day. If I go to bed much later than 9:30, then I have a REALLY hard time waking up, even at 7:00 (which isn't terribly early). But, once I'm up, I'm up.

    The key difference now is that I actually feel RESTED and have ENERGY to make it thru the entire day, where before treating the GAD, I always felt drained.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 5 years ago


    First you say that after sleeping ten hours, you woke up refreshed and ready to start your day without even needing an alarm clock or coffee.

    Then you say that for hypersomniacs, "neither napping during the day nor slumbering for many hours at night can relieve them of their exhaustion," and they suffer from, "anxiety, low energy, and memory problems as a result of their fatigue."

    And also, "The amount of sleep people need varies widely." So why have you concluded that you suffer from hypersomnia just because you sleep longer than average, even though you suffer no other adverse symptoms? And so forcing yourself to stay awake more will "cure" you? Even though, "if I don’t get enough rest, I’m a zombie of Evil Dead –esque proportions the next day."

    Just because people who sleep a lot also tend to have serious medical problems doesn't necessarily mean that their medical problems will get better if they force themselves to stay awake. Correlation does not equal causation. It seems a lot more likely to me that chronic fatigue would be a symptom of an underlying medical problem, rather than a cause of the medical problem itself. Yes, even if the diabetes, obesity, etc., comes later. Maybe fatigue is just the first warning sign that something is wrong. I just don't think you've provided enough evidence of a causative relationship here.

    It seems to me like if you sleep 12 hours a night, and still have trouble getting up and feel tired during the day, there's probably something wrong with you and you should see a doctor (and probably sleeping less won't help). I happen to know this from personal experience, actually.

    On the other hand, if you sleep 9 or 10 hours a night and feel great, and when you sleep less than that you feel like a zombie, then maybe 9 or 10 hours a night is the right amount of sleep for you.

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