Sleeping Too Much—And What It Could Mean

Getting too much sleep might mean something more is going on.

Sleep is important: Not getting enough sleep puts you at risk for all kinds of health problems, from heart disease to obesity to diabetes. Still, that doesn't stop many of us from not getting adequate sleep.

Experts typically recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Approximately 35.3% of adults get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night per the American Sleep Association (ASA). However, it's possible to fall on the opposite side of the recommended adult sleep duration and sleep too much, which is also known as oversleeping.

Here's what you should know about sleeping too much and how it can affect your health.

What Does It Mean to Sleep Too Much?

Oversleeping, according to the Sleep Foundation, is sleeping for more than nine hours within a 24-hour timespan. Other than by the long sleep duration, it is usually characterized by the need to nap throughout the day, feeling extremely sleepy during the day, and headaches.

For some cases, oversleeping can initially be a result of sleep deficits. "In modern lifestyles, people have a tendency to intentionally restrict sleep because of working hours, caring duties for family members, hobbies, and other activities," Chun Shing Kwok, MBBS, clinical lecturer in cardiology and specialist registrar in cardiology at Keele University and Royal Stoke University Hospital in the UK, told Health.

As a result, you may sleep too much within one or more 24-hour periods to make up for any of the sleep you lost because of a hectic day, week, or month. However, oversleeping can set the stage for a myriad of health problems—including a higher risk of death from any cause. "Our evidence suggests that sleeping more than recommended may be more harmful than sleeping less," Kwok explained, referencing an August 2018 Journal of the American Heart Association for which he was a lead author.

What Health Conditions Are Associated with Oversleeping?

In the August 2018 Journal of the American Heart Association meta-analysis, the risk was shown to increase with each extra hour of sleep. Sleeping nine hours was associated with a 14% increased risk of dying, 10 hours with a 30% higher risk, and 11 hours with a 47% higher risk. The risk of dying from heart disease and stroke also increased with longer sleep times.

Habitually sleeping more than seven hours a night is also associated with an escalating risk of diabetes, according to a March 2015 Diabetes Care study. Furthermore, C-reactive protein (CRP), which is an indication of inflammation in the body, was higher in individuals who slept less than six hours or more than seven hours according to a December 2021 American Journal of Preventive Cardiology study—and high levels of CRP are related to increased heart attack risk.

However, none of these studies proves that sleeping longer actually causes health problems or death. "We only demonstrate associations," Kwok said.

Other Concerns with Oversleeping

Oversleeping is not just a risk factor for conditions, though. "Sleeping [for a] longer duration may be an indicator for underlying ill-health, like a pre-existing condition that is not detected like heart failure, anemia, hypothyroidism, or obstructive sleep apnea," Kwok said.

In other words, while sleep deprivation may actually lead to health problems, too much sleep is more likely to be an indicator that something is already wrong. "The association does not mean causality," added Robert W. Greene, MD, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "The fact that you're sleeping too much is probably not causing any problems per se but could be indicative that something else bad is going on."

What To Keep in Mind About Sleeping Too Much

Keep in mind that individual sleep needs vary; you might be getting more than nine hours and be totally fine. For example, if you're used to sleeping 10 hours and have been sleeping that long each night for years, it's probably nothing to worry about.

And don't stress about one lazy Sunday morning. "Look for relatively acute changes," Dr. Greene said. "If you used to be a seven-hour sleeper then all of a sudden you're sleeping a lot more, that might be telling."

A sleep diary, like one from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), can be helpful for logging how long you sleep and how you feel after waking up, as well as any factors that may be impacting your sleep, like medications or food. You could also use a fitness tracker with sleep tracking capabilities to monitor aspects of sleep like deep sleep or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

"Clinicians and patients should consider paying attention to how much they sleep as a symptom of ill health," Kwok added. "Doctors should consider screening for problems related to sleep in consultations…as there are clear illnesses that are associated with tiredness that may result in increased sleep duration."

If you think oversleeping could be a clue that something else is wrong with your health, the best thing you can do is head to a healthcare provider. Figuring it out—and getting it treated—could help you start logging a healthier amount of shut-eye.

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