Have you ever jerked awake and then wondered “wait, when did I fall asleep”?
Well, let me tell you this: you are not alone.
‘Oversleeping’ is more common than you may think and your situation is not peculiar.
There are various reasons that may cause a person to oversleep and these can stem from physical, mental and even emotional causes. It may also just be that sleeping is simply what you love to do!
The most important factor in determining if your sleep pattern is due to the love of sleep or medical problems is the associated symptoms. In this article, we are going to discuss various reasons why you may be sleeping so much. But first, let us start from the basics.
What Is Sleep and How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Sleep is basically a naturally recurring state of rest for the mind and body where consciousness is completely or partially lost.
It is a time where your body ‘closes business’ for the day and allows your brain to sort and store information that it has received; this is why sleep is vital for you to function optimally in your day-to-day activities.
The number of hours of sleep you need daily is dependent on your age, however, the Center for Disease Control recommends at least seven hours per night for adults.
Oversleeping, in an adult (26 and older), is sleeping longer than nine hours per night while under-sleeping in the same age bracket is sleeping less than five hours a night.
What Causes Too Much Sleep?
If you do not have any other symptoms and you feel refreshed after sleeping it may be that you just like to sleep.
However, if you have other symptoms or you don’t feel refreshed after hours of sleep, then you may have a medical condition. Below are some of the causes of too much sleep, if you have symptoms, it is still advised that you see your doctor.
1. Sleep Stealers
Alcohol and caffeine fall into this category.
Research has shown that taking alcohol or caffeinated drinks a few hours before sleep causes you to oversleep. This happens because these drinks affect your sleep cycle causing you to sleep poorly and then your body lengthens the time you need to sleep so that it can refresh itself.
If you are in the habit of taking more than a few glasses of wine with your dinner or taking a few cups of coffee before bed, this might be the reason you sleep too much.
Some prescription drugs are commonly known to cause drowsiness such as anti-anxiety meds like diazepam and a lot of the older cold and allergy drugs like anti-histamines.
However, more than a few drugs can cause sleepiness such as
- narcotics like Morphine
- anti-depressants like Tryptizol
- blood pressure meds especially beta –blockers like Inderal
- anti-nausea and vomiting drugs like promethazine
- antiepileptics like Tegretol and Dilantin.
Anticancer drugs also cause fatigue and sleepiness. If you are on prescription drugs and you have been sleeping too much, check the label for the side effects of the drug. If it says ‘may cause drowsiness’ then that may be your culprit. However, do not stop a prescription drug until you have spoken with your doctor.
The first thing you should do when assessing yourself for oversleeping is if you are oversleeping just because you like to sleep.
The second is to assess if you are overworking your body. Pulling an all-nighter to turn in a project for work or study will overwork your body. Working shifts day and night and sleeping only two to three hours in between will overwork your body.
Working all week and partying all weekend will overwork your body. Doing anything that requires a lot of energy and cutting short your sleep hours is overworking your body. Your body’s natural response is to catch-up on its much-needed sleep.
If you notice you have been oversleeping and you realize that you have over-worked your body, it may be that your body is trying to regain its depleted energy.
The above are some of the non-medical causes of oversleeping, aside from the love of sleep. Although any one of them may be the sole cause of you oversleeping, it is also possible that their effects coincide with medical causes.
Now, I would like to share with you some of the medical causes of why you may be sleeping too much – all of which require further investigation by your doctor.
Hypersomnia is the medical term for sleeping too much due to an illness. It can be primary, meaning that it occurs on its own or secondary, meaning that it occurs due to the presence of another illness.
Primary hypersomnia is a sleep disorder that causes people to sleep for unusually long periods of time (more than ten hours) as well as sleepiness throughout the day which is not relieved by napping.
Other symptoms of hypersomnia include memory problems, decreased concentration, and anxiety. Primary hypersomnia is a relatively uncommon illness, occurring in less than 1% of the population.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder with symptoms of excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis, hallucinations (especially when falling asleep or waking up) and cataplexy – a sudden loss of muscle control triggered by intense emotion like laughter.
People who have narcolepsy sometimes have sleep attacks falling asleep in unlikely places and situations. Narcolepsy is a condition that has to be managed by a sleep specialist as there is currently no cure, but medications and behavioral therapy are used to help control symptoms allowing those with the condition live normal lives.
6. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
When sleeping a lot occurs with really loud snoring, daytime tiredness, headaches, restlessness during sleep, waking up feeling like you are choking and your sleep partner complaining that you hit them in the middle of the night – there may be obstructive sleep apnea.
This happens when your throat muscles relax allowing something like your tongue to block the airway preventing adequate airflow in and out of your lungs. There may be repeated episodes where you stop breathing (apnea) and then you forcefully resume breathing with a gasp or snort but you are unaware because you are asleep.
Sleeping on your side may reduce the symptoms; however, it is usually associated with obesity, so weight loss may also be beneficial. This condition is potentially serious and needs medical attention as soon as possible because the effects include decreased oxygen flow to vital organs and irregular heart rhythm.
7. Clinical Depression
Depression is one of the numerous mental health conditions that have been well studied and the treatment options available are pretty good.
In clinically depressed people, there are chemical imbalances in the brain which is what the approved medications aim to correct. The symptoms are easy to spot especially when there is a loss of interest in the things one previously enjoyed.
Other signs of depression are sleep changes (increased daytime sleep or decreased nighttime sleep), change in appetite, loss of concentration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, lack of energy, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. If you have some or most of these symptoms, please contact your doctor.
If you have suicidal thoughts please speak with your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.
The thyroid is a small but very important organ located in the front aspect of the neck. It usually cannot be felt unless it is enlarged.
The thyroid produces hormones that determine the rate at which your body system works. When these hormones are produced in lower quantities, hypothyroidism is the result. In hypothyroidism, the body is slower- making you feel more tired with decreased concentration, weight gain, sleep changes (usually increased sleep), cold intolerance and dry skin.
In women, there may be menstrual changes. Hypothyroidism is a very common and highly manageable condition; however, prompt treatment produces better results.
Most infections cause tiredness and sleepiness. This is because of the body’s natural response of shutting down other operations to focus on the fight between the invaders (the germs) and your body’s army (the white blood cells).
An infection usually comes with other symptoms like a high body temperature (fever) and pain in the affected part; unless you are suffering from the flu, then you could have pain all over. No matter the affected body part, it’s perfectly natural for you to sleep extra hours.
This is also true when you are recovering from an illness, the repair process your body goes through needs a lot of energy, so you may feel spent and extra tired. If this is the case – sleep! And then feel better.
Can Sleeping Too Much Affect Me?
Although I mentioned some situations you need to sleep for periods longer than the recommended length, it should only be for a short time after which your body should reset itself.
As with anything in this world, too much of a thing (even if it is good and natural, like sleeping) may have adverse effects.
The truth is that too much sleep can be bad for you. Multiple studies have been done on sleep habits and some adverse effects due to sleeping too much have been noted. Some of the effects include:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Heart disease especially coronary artery disease
Multiple studies have proved that people who regularly sleep more than nine hours a night have significantly higher death rates than those who sleep seven to eight hours a night.
Although no specific reason has been determined, it is important to note that just sleeping an hour more than the recommended length of 7-8 hours can increase your risk of death!
As you can see, some of the effects of oversleeping are also some of the causes of oversleeping. This cycle should be broken, or better yet, prevented by seeking appropriate medical help as soon as you realize that your body isn’t acting the way it should.
For lovers of sleep, it is advisable that you cut back the hours you spend catching ZZZ’s to the recommended length of about seven hours so that you don’t come down with any of the effects of too much sleep.
What Should I Do Next?
If it’s just a love for sleep, try to get up from the bed once you are awake. There’s a high likelihood of you falling back asleep if you remain on the bed.
You could also set an alarm to wake you up. Ensure you get the kind that wakes you up gradually and not those that jar you awake, studies have shown that gradual alarms are better for your health.
If you are being treated for an illness (or you are recovering), you may not need further investigation. Allow your body fully repair itself and in a few days to weeks your body should revert back to its usual state, depending on what illness you are recuperating from. If you feel like your recovery is taking too long or you still feel as bad as before, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.
If you have overworked yourself, your body should reset itself in 2-3 days. Try not to get to the point where you overwork yourself especially if it can be avoided. Constantly overworking yourself increases your stress levels and increased stress has been linked to developing diabetes and hypertension. You really don’t want that, so my advice is to watch your work habits.
If you are on medication that has the side effect of drowsiness, please do not stop them until you have spoken with your doctor. It is possible to request for drugs that do not cause drowsiness. Changing prescription drugs have to be done while being monitored by your physician because your doctor knows what drugs are best for your specific needs.
If you notice you are oversleeping and have other symptoms similar to those previously explained or even extremely different from some of the examples above, please see your doctor. It is always better to go to your doctor when you are not sure what is going on because you may have a serious illness.
It may also be helpful to keep a sleep diary before your appointment so your doctor has a better picture of your sleep patterns.
To cap it all, maintaining a good sleep hygiene is beneficial for everyone regardless of the cause of your oversleeping. A good sleep hygiene is the variety of habits that you do to ensure good quality nighttime sleep resulting in full daytime alertness. Some excellent tips are:
- Establishing a regular relaxing nighttime bedtime routine including going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (+/- 20 minutes).
- Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes.
- Avoiding sleep stealers like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine close to bedtime
- Avoiding heavy, fatty or spicy meals just before bedtime.
- Sleep on a comfortable bed in a dark, quiet and cool room (temperatures between 60 –67 F).
- Regular exercie, but not rigorous exercise just before bedtime as this will stimulate you and keep you from sleeping.
P.S: This article was written to help you determine the reason you seem to be sleeping too much and if you need to seek medical attention. Like I have stated numerous times before, please see a doctor if you think there is a problem.