Is too much sleep bad for you? Signs you're getting too much
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Is too much sleep bad for you? Signs you're getting too much

We all love a good night's sleep, but how much should we really be getting?

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Published by Tracy McBeth, Journalist

3 mins read

Key Benefits

  • Tips to build healthy sleep habits
  • How to know if you're getting the right amount of sleep
  • What oversleeping means for your health

We spend a third of our lives sleeping or at least trying to. Sleep is a vital function – right up there with breathing, eating and drinking.

The impact of sleep deprivation is well known, it’s even been used as a form of torture. But sleeping longer can also be dangerous.

We’re not talking about the occasional sleep in, but consistently oversleeping is bad news for your health and may be a sign something’s not right.

Oversleeping, also known as idiopathic hypersomnia or long sleeping, is linked to illness, increases your risk of chronic disease – even early death. It may also cause a range of symptoms like anxiety, low energy, memory problems.

Ironically, oversleeping can make you feel more tired during the day. So, if you’re feeling fatigued it’s best to avoid getting behind the wheel.

How much sleep is bad for you?

Technically, oversleeping is when you get more than 9 hours shut eye a night.

Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. It all depends on how old you are, how active you are and your health and lifestyle. Adults generally need around 7-9 hours every evening.

You can use the below as a guide:

  • Newborns (0–3 months): 14–17 hours
  • Infants (4–12 months): 12–15 hours (including naps)
  • Toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours (including naps)
  • Preschoolers (3–5 years): 10–13 hours (including naps)
  • School children (6–13 years): 9–11 hours
  • Teenagers (14–17 years): 8–10 hours
  • Adults (18–64 years): 7–9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7–8 hours

How oversleeping can affect you

Some people simply love to sleep long, but those with hypersomnia are living with a medical condition.

So, if you’re struggling to get out of bed, or feeling tired during the day despite clocking up plenty of ZZ’s overnight, it’s important to see a doctor to find the root of the problem.

Overtime, oversleeping can lead to a range of health conditions including:

Obesity: Too much or too little sleep can have a big impact on your waistline. One study found people who overslept were 21% more likely to become obese, regardless of their diet and exercise regime. Oversleeping might also be a sign of chronic sleep deprivation, which can affect the hormones responsible for regulating your appetite and metabolism. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re more likely to make poor food choices. And if you’re tired in the day, you’re less likely to exercise. 

Type 2 diabetes: Oversleeping may also increase your risk of developing diabetes. The sleep deprivation that’s often to blame for oversleeping can create insulin resistance, which may cause high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.

Headaches: If you’ve been copping regular headaches sleep might also be the culprit. There are many reasons for this, but scientists believe a big one is the impact on the neurotransmitters in the brain. The body’s feel-good hormone, serotonin, (which helps to maintain your circadian rhythm) is thrown out of whack which can cause headaches.

Depression: Sleep is so important for your mental health and unfortunately many people with depression struggle with it. For some it’s the double whammy of insomnia and hypersomnia. If you’re living with depression, oversleeping may exacerbate your symptoms. It can be a bit of a cycle affecting your mood, keeping you from doing things you enjoy and disrupting your sleep wake cycle. Oversleeping is also be a sign of depression to look out for in yourself or someone else.

Heart disease: Research suggests too much or too little sleep can increase your risk of a heart attack by 32%. While the increased risk is still being investigated, one theory is that it’s linked to underlying health issues associated with sleep problems.

Death: If there’s ever a reason to investigate the cause of your oversleeping it’s this! Too much sleep has been linked to early death. One study found the risk of premature death increased by 23% in people who regularly sleep 9 hours a night, 52% for 10 hours and 66% when you’re getting 11 hours.

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What causes oversleeping?

There’s a myriad of things that can cause oversleeping. It’s a common symptom of:

  • Thyroid issues
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Narcolepsy
  • A side effect of some medications

If you think you’re suffering from a medical condition that’s causing you to oversleep, have a chat to your doctor to get to the bottom of things.

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When it comes to sleep – quality, quantity, and consistency matter.

Sleeping in on a weekend to reconcile a sleep debt is a great idea in theory, but it’s far better to have regular sleep and wake times.

Good sleeping habits, also known as ‘sleep hygiene ’, may help you improve your sleep and avoid oversleeping. Try:

  • Limiting caffeine late in the day and evening
  • Avoiding alcohol or a large meal before bed
  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday
  • Keeping your bedroom quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature (about 18 degrees)
  • Exercising regularly
  • Embracing a wind down routine e.g. reading, having a hot shower or bath or meditating
  • Making sure your bed, mattress and pillow are comfortable and supportive 
  • Avoiding devices before bed

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