Sleep. Like fame or riches, it seems like everyone wants more of it—or at least more than they’re getting. But is there such a thing as getting too much sleep? Sadly, yes. In 2014, NASA conducted a study to learn what happens if a person stays in bed for a long time. The study required participants to be bedridden for 70 days straight, with only 30 minutes to prop up on their elbows to eat meals. This may sound like a good time—and how we wish we could spend our weekends. However, the effects of oversleeping—back pain, headaches, and neck pain—set in as pressure shifted to the spine.
Welcome to the world of hypersomnia, folks.
How Much Sleep is Too Much?
It’s long been known that getting quality sleep is vital for our body to function well. But sleep requirements vary from one age group to another. The National Sleep Foundation conducted a two-year study to determine how much sleep we need. Based on this research, they were able to determine an age-specific sleeping time recommendation per day:
- Newborns (0 to 3 months) must sleep for 14–17 hours
- Infants (4 to 11 months) must sleep for 12–15 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years old) must sleep for 11–14 hours
- Pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years old) must sleep for 10–13 hours
- School-aged children (6 to 13 years old) must sleep for 9–11 hours
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years old) must sleep for 8–10 hours
- Young adults (18 to 25 years old) must sleep for 7–9 hours
- Adults (26 to 64 years old) must sleep for 7–9 hours
- Older adults (65+ years old) must sleep for 7–8 hours
Anything that exceeds these ranges means… you’re oversleeping, buddy.
Effects of Oversleeping
Our body repairs tissues and organs during sleep. Sleep is also the time when our brain flushes out waste products. Additionally, our lungs and heart slow down during sleep, thus getting a break from working hard during our waking hours. But what specifically can happen to the body from too much sleep?
- Due to the changes in serotonin levels, headaches can be one of the effects of oversleeping. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) during sleep can also cause cluster headaches and migraine.
- Back and neck pain are caused by poor lumbar support. When we are lying down, the pressure is transferred to our spine. Our muscles work more to keep the natural curvature of our spine. This can cause muscle fatigue and pain.
- A study has found that too much sleep can increase the risk of heart disease. American College of Cardiology research shows that those who sleep more than eight hours are twice more likely to experience angina—a chest pain caused by insufficient blood and oxygen supply.
- Increased risk of diabetes and obesity are also linked to sleep disorders. Sleep disorders impact our body’s ability to respond to levels of glucose in our system. Likewise, too much sleep deprives us of opportunities to follow a healthy lifestyle regimen, such as exercising and getting proper nutrition.
- The correlation between depression and sleep disorder is a complex one. For some, depression occurs first, causing an individual to crave too much sleep. It is also possible to develop depression as one of the effects of oversleeping.
- Duration and quality of sleep have been found to affect our hormones, metabolism and energy use. Sleep disorders—whether insomnia or hypersomnia—influence our overall well-being. Increased risk of heart diseases, stroke and diabetes lead to increased risk of premature mortality or death.
Stick to your Rhythm for Better Sleep
Everyone follows a different circadian rhythm or internal sleep pattern. This fact is the reason why some people feel more energized in the morning, while some feel more productive later in the day. The first step to regulating your sleep is to identify your personal rhythm. Knowing which time of the day when your sleep cycle falls will allow you to adjust your activities.
You also need to be watchful of disruptors—activities or factors that can alter your body’s waking and sleep cycle. If you usually feel sleepy early in the evening, you may want to skip the caffeine fix in the afternoon. Caffeine effects typically last up to six hours. Try to avoid coffee and espresso drinks, teas, chocolate, soda, and energy drinks six hours before your bedtime.
Stay away from electronics and gadgets at least two hours before bedtime. The light emitted by these gadgets can trick the brain into thinking it is still daytime.
Activities that can throw off your sleeping pattern can cause you to incur sleep debt. This, in turn, can start a pattern of oversleeping to compensate for sleep loss.
While most long for a few precious moments more of slumber, too much of a good thing is bad for you (because of course, it is). Thankfully, following these steps—and sticking to your rhythm—can help curb the harmful effects of oversleeping.