The more shut-eye, the better, right? Not so fast.

By Kelsey Ogletree
August 06, 2020
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You know those mornings when you wake up feeling groggy or with a headache and head straight for the coffee pot, because you simply need caffeine to get your day started? We’ve all been there. It’s obvious how detrimental it is to get too little sleep. Not only can being sleep-deprived cause your productivity to drop, it can also lead to mood swings, bad skin, and feeling drowsy during the day.

But what about the other end of the spectrum: sleeping too much? Is it possible that oversleeping can have negative health impacts too, and is it a sign of something else if you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours a night and still feeling tired? Here’s what the experts say.

Every person is different when it comes to exactly how much sleep they need to feel rested. While eight hours is the sweet spot, there can be sleepers who require only six hours to feel good, and others who need a full nine for the same effect. If you’re a longer sleeper naturally, that’s one thing, says Sarah Moe, founder of Sleep Health Specialists in Minneapolis. We all have weekends where we might sleep for what seems to be an excessive amount of time, and that’s due to sleep deprivation. “Those are the Saturday mornings when you’ve gone to bed at 9:30 p.m. and wake up at 9:30 a.m. thinking, ‘Holy cow! I never sleep this much,’” says Moe.

On the other hand, if excessive sleeping becomes a habit, that’s where it also becomes a problem. Oversleeping—just like overdoing other things like eating too much sugar or over-exercising—can be harmful, says Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, CBSM, FAASM, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, and sleep advisor for Casper.

Getting too much sleep on a regular basis can have detrimental effects, says Cassie Majestic, MD, an emergency medicine physician in Orange County, Calif. For one, it’s been shown that women who regularly sleep between nine and 11 hours per night have an increased risk for heart disease—though the cause of this is unfortunately unknown, Dr. Majestic adds. Oversleeping has also been associated with depression and weight gain, so it can cause visible changes to your body.

What’s more, sleeping too much can lead to a shortened lifespan. “There is now [more than] 50 years of data showing that people who get excessive sleep—nine to 10 or more hours per day—have a shorter lifespan, in addition to people who get insufficient sleep also having a shorter lifespan,” Grandner says. “The data on long sleep is even stronger than short sleep.” He adds that long sleepers are more likely to have chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, fatigue, and systemic inflammation.

If you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed even after nine hours of sleep, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition—such as untreated sleep apnea, which can make sleep more shallow and therefore of poor quality—says Grandner. “This can lead to a desire to sleep more because sleep isn’t restful enough,” he adds. It could also be a sign of depression, which can drain your energy and make it difficult to get out of bed.  Grandner advises anyone who feels like they need more than nine hours of sleep to feel rested should consult a doctor to determine what could be going on.

Long sleepers who never feel rested can also look into doing a sleep study to get to the root of the problem, says Moe. Some sleep disorders can exist without you even knowing—such as narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia (a chronic neurological disorder marked by an insatiable need to sleep)—and talking with your doctor or participating in a sleep study can help uncover these disorders. “There are ways we can help treat them so you can function in society with more ease,” Moe adds.

The bottom line is that whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, finding a way to get the right amount of sleep is crucial. Find that ideal sleeping time that works best for you; stick to it as much as possible; and you’re on track for a healthier lifestyle. “Good sleep typically makes our bodies healthier,” says Dr. Majestic, “and it makes us all feel and look better.”

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