When it comes to sleep, many people wonder if they’re getting too little. Not sleeping enough negatively impacts your sleep hygiene, so it should follow that if too little sleep is bad, getting more than enough sleep is a good thing.
Find out what happens when you sleep too much, along with some tips for creating healthy habits to keep you from oversleeping. You’ll learn everything it takes to wake up feeling refreshed, restored, and ready to take on the day.
How much sleep is too much?
According to CDC guidelines, a healthy adult needs at least seven hours of sleep every night. Anything more than the recommended amount is oversleeping.
People’s sleep requirements change based on a variety of factors, which means the definition of oversleeping does, too. The CDC states that age is the main contributor to how much sleep you need, but the quality of sleep and your general health can also affect your daily requirement.
An older adult might only rest for six hours a night, while an active teenager might need 10 hours.
Getting more than seven or eight hours of sleep isn’t always bad, especially if it doesn’t happen every night. There are lots of reasons why you might sleep in or need a nap during the day, and not all cause harm.
When catching up after a few late nights or fighting off a cold, that extra time between the sheets is restorative sleep, and it isn’t an issue.
It’s also possible that if you regularly sleep over nine hours a night but still wake up feeling refreshed, you’re one of the 2% of the population identified by experts as a long sleeper. For you, a long sleep period is perfectly normal and healthy.
But when you chronically oversleep and have trouble finding energy during the day, you might be experiencing a condition called hypersomnia. And if exhaustion continues, the problem could also fall under excessive quantity of sleep (EQS).
Keep in mind that there are lots of factors that continue to sleep issues, and if you’re worried about your patterns, speaking to a doctor will clear things up and put you on the path to better sleep.
Potential symptoms of oversleeping include:
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Napping to get through the day
Irritability and lethargy
Inability to focus on tasks and activities
7 potential causes of oversleeping
In scientific discourse, there’s a chicken and egg dilemma about oversleeping causes. Many contributing factors to the condition are also effects, which begs the question, which came first? Are adverse health impacts the result of too much sleep, or is oversleeping a side effect of poor health?
Current data seems to support both scenarios. Many sleep studies involve self-reported data, which makes the causes of oversleeping harder to discern, and it’s difficult to tell which symptom is a cause and which is an effect.
Accepted health challenges that could lead to oversleeping include:
Depression and anxiety: Mood disorders like depression make it 3–12 times more likely you’ll oversleep. Anxiety is also linked to sleep problems, making it difficult to fall asleep and potentially increasing the risk of oversleeping later.
Obesity: Evidence suggests that carrying too much body mass can affect your circadian rhythm, damaging the quality of your sleep and leaving you feeling exhausted during the day.
Diabetes: Common side effects of Type 2 Diabetes, such as restless leg syndrome or rapidly changing blood glucose levels, can result in a lack of sleep, increasing daytime tiredness and episodes of oversleeping.
Chronic pain: Discomfort and aches can make it hard to sleep, and when combined with depression — a side effect of some invisible illnesses — it can result in excessive drowsiness during waking hours.
Hypothyroidism: Decreased hormone production in the thyroid overlaps with sleep disturbances that increase daytime sleepiness.
Medication: Certain prescription medicines include drowsiness as a potential side effect, which can exacerbate poor sleep.
Remember that one or two days of oversleeping isn’t something to worry about, especially if you usually sleep a regular seven or eight hours. Sleeping in on the weekend is perfectly normal. Sleeping too much only becomes a concern if it’s constant and starts to impact your day-to-day life.
The impact of oversleeping on your health
Again, getting a few extra hours of sleep once in a while likely won’t affect your long-term health. But chronic oversleeping does have negative, and sometimes extreme, effects:
Low energy: Deviating from a regular sleep schedule can negatively impact your energy levels throughout the day, making you feel exhausted and lethargic. It could also lead to revenge bedtime procrastination to make up for your lack of energy.
How to stop oversleeping and improve sleep quality
Given the severity of the health problems linked to oversleeping, working on your sleep habits is a significant investment in your health and self-care.
Before you start, consider writing in a sleep journal or using a sleep tracker. Keep tabs on when you go to bed, how many hours you sleep, and when you wake up. If your sleep doesn’t improve over time, this information can help a healthcare professional diagnose your issues.
Even if you don’t oversleep regularly, these tips can help you get better sleep and cut back on the number of times you press the snooze button every morning:
According to one study, people who regularly eat a balanced diet tend to have better sleep patterns than those without. The same people also reported a more varied diet than those who over or under-slept. Try practicing mindful eating with nutrient-rich foods for concentration in your meals and snacks, like leafy greens, nuts, and dark chocolate.
Get active outside
Moderate exercise has the potential to relieve insomnia and improve sleep. And if you can break a sweat outside, the effects are even more significant. Sunlight supports a healthy circadian rhythm and plays a role in producing the sleep hormone melatonin. If you don’t have time to exercise or even to sit and catch a few rays, working by a window can help.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time consistently is another way to support your circadian rhythm. An irregular sleep schedule can throw off your rest/wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep and get up in the morning. You can also incorporate relaxation techniques such as gentle yoga or mindful breathing before bed to clear your mind.
Create a healthy sleep environment
Where you go to sleep is as important as when. Set yourself up for a restful sleep by:
Turning off the electronics: Mobile devices and televisions emit light, affecting your circadian rhythm. To give yourself the best chance of getting a good night’s sleep, turn off your electronics 30–60 minutes before bed.
Keeping it dark: Darkness stimulates the release of melatonin, helping you feel tired at the right time of day and sleep better. If your bedroom window is letting in light, consider investing in some blackout drapes or a sleep mask for total darkness.
Creating a calm atmosphere: Noisy distractions can keep you awake. Try blocking out the sound using noise-canceling headphones or a white noise generator.
Cooling things down: Studies show that the optimal temperature for a good night’s sleep is between 60 to 67°F (15 to 19°C). Bedding and pajamas made from breathable fabrics can also help keep you cool and comfortable all night.
If you’re still struggling with oversleeping after taking steps to improve your sleep hygiene, it’s time to consult a specialist in sleep medicine.
They might conduct tests, including a sleep study, to help you find the root of the problem and develop a routine that works for you. A sleep coach could also help you analyze your sleep patterns and create better habits over time.
Let yourself rest
Learning what happens if you sleep too much is a big step toward establishing a healthy bedtime routine. Oversleeping has negative impacts on your physical and mental health, so it’s not about being a night owl or an early bird.
It’s about meeting your sleep needs so you don’t oversleep or have to wake yourself up during the day.