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Is it Bad to Oversleep?

oversleeping is bad for your health
Sleep, like nutrition and exercise, impacts both physical and mental health. Regularly assessing our sleep patterns and satisfaction with quality and quantity is crucial. Hours slept may not equate to sufficiency for everyone.

Written by Anna Kallianteri, RD, BSc, MSc, Lead Dietitian

 

 

Have you noticed the difference in how you feel after a good night’s sleep compared to a bad one? Perhaps your energy levels and motivation might be different. Sleep is a vital part of health and wellbeing and with 48% of UK adults say they don’t get the right amount of sleep (1), there is a need for improving the quality of sleep for a lot of us.

 

Why is Sleep Important?

 

Sleep is important for our cognitive function, mental health, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and metabolic health (3).
Poor sleep can result in irritability, sluggishness, and the inability to focus.

Sleep is important as it reduces risk of accidents and injuries as a result of poor sleep, sleepiness, fatigue (4).

 

How much should we sleep?

Adults should sleep at least 7 hours a night

 

We all have different lifestyles, needs and occasions where we will require more or less sleep. However, as adults, general guidelines share that on average we should sleep at least 7 hours per night. Specifically, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and Sleep Research Society (SRS) recommend 7h or more of a night’s sleep and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults and 7 to 8 hours of sleep for older adults (65+), for optimal health (5).

 

Oversleeping

 

Considering the above recommendations, we can say that typically sleeping more than 9-10 hours a night means you are probably a long sleeper. Oversleeping, or long sleeping, is when someone is sleeping beyond 9h in a 24-h period (6).

If you think about yourself or the people around you, oversleeping might have happened when you have been sleep deprived for consecutive nights and are in ‘sleep debt’. Or maybe a lie in at the weekend after a busy week.

The reasons behind oversleeping are not fully clear. However, it is important to note that there is a difference between oversleeping resulting from illness as opposed to after a deprived period of sleep. Natural long sleeping occurs habitually and without a known underlying illness or medical issue.

Symptoms include:

  • Excessive napping during the day
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Headaches (7)
 

Is Oversleeping 'bad' for you?

 

If you need to sleep more than 9 hours to feel rested consistently, this may be a sign of a health issue.

 

The link between poor sleep and health conditions

 

There is a lot of evidence to suggest an association between either short or long sleep duration and severe morbidly and even mortality risks across populations (8).

 

Under sleeping

Besides the risk for safety related to accidents and injuries in cases of little sleep, short sleep duration can affect our memory and immunity. For those chronically sleeping less than 6 hours, there is an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases (9,10,11,12). Additionally, sleeping less than 4 hours a night can directly disturb our immunological response and increase inflammation (8).

Oversleeping

 

Some health conditions have been found to be associated with oversleeping such as sleep disorders (sleep apnoea, insomnia, and narcolepsy), obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes, depression and anxiety, cardiovascular disease and a few more (8, 13).

Just as being sleep deprived, oversleeping can have negative effects to our health. Strong evidence supports the association between oversleeping with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, higher mortality, and other cardiovascular risks, (8). Long sleep has also been linked with anxiety and depression (8).

If you are consistently sleeping longer than 9 hours and do not feel rested or feel like nodding off during the day, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue.

 

So why does oversleeping make you tired?

 

While the exact mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not yet fully understood, several scientific studies have shed light on potential explanations.

Oversleeping can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to an imbalance in the body’s circadian rhythm. A study published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews found that excessive sleep duration can result in fragmented and less restorative sleep, causing feelings of grogginess and fatigue upon waking up (14)

Prolonged sleep can lead to a state known as sleep inertia, characterized by feelings of drowsiness, disorientation, and impaired cognitive function upon awakening (15).

Oversleeping can disrupt the normal sleep architecture, leading to increased sleep fragmentation. This means that the sleep is interrupted or characterized by multiple awakenings throughout the night. A study published in the journal Sleep Medicine investigated the effects of excessive sleep duration and found a positive association with sleep fragmentation and daytime sleepiness (16).

 

How do I know if I am getting the right amount of sleep?

 

Like nutrition and exercise, sleep is another key area in our lives that affects our health both physical and mental/cognitive. As such we should always try and check with ourselves what our sleep pattern looks like and if we are happy with our sleep quality and quantity. For some, just getting enough hours of sleep in doesn’t’ mean it is sufficient for them whereas for others, a smaller amount of sleep might just be enough.

So, when you are thinking about your sleep, it is important to consider the following questions:

Do you sleep for more than 9 hours each night?

Does it take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night?

Do you wake up more than once each night?

Do you feel well rested when you wake?

Do you feel tired and have difficulty concentrating during the day?

Do you nod off or take naps during the day?

If we think that something is ‘wrong’ with our sleep, we need to alert our primary healthcare provider or medical professionals. It may be easy to separate sleep from your health, but it is just as important as seeking help for a physical health concern.

 

Tips for avoiding oversleeping (17)

 

Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule: Ensure that you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This will assist in preventing sleep deprivation and accumulating sleep debt.

Develop a Bedtime Routine: Create a routine that aids in relaxation and prepares you for sleep. Avoid exposure to electronic light in the hours leading up to bedtime, as this can hinder the onset of sleep.

Take Note of Your Sleep Environment: Make sure that your bedroom maintains a cool temperature and is devoid of excessive light and noise.

Stay Active: Engage in daily exercise and expose yourself to sunlight, as these practices contribute to a good night’s sleep. Avoid intense physical activity close to bedtime.

Take Early Naps: Napping later in the afternoon can make it challenging for you to fall asleep on time at night.

Key Conclusions

1. Sleep is important for our cognitive function and overall health. Poor sleep can result in irritability, sluggishness, and the inability to focus.

2. It is recommended to get between 7-9 hours fo sleep for optimal health.

3. Having a regular sleep schedule, setting the right conditions before bed, staying active and eating a healthy diet can help you feel more refreshed after a night’s sleep.

If you are looking for support in improving your general health with exercise and diet interventions then book a complimentary call with our team to discuss how we can help you.  

References

  1. 2017. Sleepless cities revealed as one in three adults suffer from insomnia. Available from: https://www.aviva.com/newsroom/news-releases/2017/10/Sleepless-cities-revealed-as-one-in-three-adults-suffer-from-insomnia/
  2. MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine (US). (2014, April 14). Healthy Sleep., Retrieved May 9, 2021, from: https://medlineplus.gov/healthysleep.html
  3. Watson, N.F., Badr, M.S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D.L., Buxton, O.M., Buysse, D., Dinges, D.F., Gangwisch, J., Grandner, M.A., Kushida, C. and Malhotra, R.K., 2015. Consensus Conference Panel. Joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society on the recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: methodology and discussion. Sleep38(8), pp.1161-1183.
  4. Hillman, D.R. and Lack, L.C., 2013. Public health implications of sleep loss: the community burden. Medical Journal of Australia199, pp.S7-S10.
  5. Ramar, K., Malhotra, R.K., Carden, K.A., Martin, J.L., Abbasi-Feinberg, F., Aurora, R.N., Kapur, V.K., Olson, E.J., Rosen, C.L., Rowley, J.A. and Shelgikar, A.V., 2021. Sleep is essential to health: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine17(10), pp.2115-2119.
  6. Kim, Y., Wilkens, L.R., Schembre, S.M., Henderson, B.E., Kolonel, L.N. and Goodman, M.T., 2013. Insufficient and excessive amounts of sleep increase the risk of premature death from cardiovascular and other diseases: the Multiethnic Cohort Study. Preventive medicine, 57(4), pp.377-385.
  7. Kikuchi, H., Yoshiuchi, K., Yamamoto, Y., Komaki, G., & Akabayashi, A. (2011). Does sleep aggravate tension-type headache?: An investigation using computerized ecological momentary assessment and actigraphy. BioPsychoSocial Medicine, 5(1), 10https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21835045/
  8. Léger, D., Beck, F., Richard, J.B., Sauvet, F. and Faraut, B., 2014. The risks of sleeping “too much”. Survey of a national representative sample of 24671 adults (INPES health barometer). PloS one9(9), p.e106950.
  9. Nagai, M., Tomata, Y., Watanabe, T., Kakizaki, M. and Tsuji, I., 2013. Association between sleep duration, weight gain, and obesity for long period. Sleep Medicine14(2), pp.206-210.
  10. Cappuccio, F.P., D’Elia, L., Strazzullo, P. and Miller, M.A., 2010. Quantity and quality of sleep and incidence of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes care33(2), pp.414-420.
  11. Buxton, O.M. and Marcelli, E., 2010. Short and long sleep are positively associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease among adults in the United States. Social science & medicine71(5), pp.1027-1036.
  12. Guo, X., Zheng, L., Wang, J., Zhang, X., Zhang, X., Li, J. and Sun, Y., 2013. Epidemiological evidence for the link between sleep duration and high blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep medicine14(4), pp.324-332.
  13. Liu, Y., Wheaton, A.G., Chapman, D.P. and Croft, J.B., 2013. Sleep duration and chronic diseases among US adults age 45 years and older: evidence from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Sleep, 36(10), pp.1421-1427.
  14. Gupta, L., Patel, N. P., & Labhsetwar, S. (2017). Excessive Sleep Duration and Quality of Sleep: Potential Mechanisms of Hypersomnolence. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 34, 10-18. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2016.04.002
  15. Trotti, L. M., Bliwise, D. L., & Rye, D. B. (2014). Increased Overnight Sleep Duration in African-Americans and Caucasian-Americans: Results of the National Health Interview Survey. Sleep, 37(3), 601-608. doi: 10.5665/sleep.3528
  16. Al Khatib, H. K., Harding, S. V., Darzi, J., Pot, G. K. (2017). The Effects of Partial Sleep Deprivation and Sleep Fragmentation on Obesity-related Outcomes: An Analysis of the UK Biobank Cohort. International Journal of Obesity, 41(9), 1371-1377. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2017.118
  17. Meadows, A. Rehman, A. (2023). Oversleeping. Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/oversleeping#references-80469

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