When it comes to sleep, it turns out you really can have too much of a good thing. In fact, just like getting too little sleep, oversleeping can lead to a variety of health complications.
To find out more about how to recognize when you’re getting too much sleep, the negative health issues associated with oversleeping, and how to get the right amount of sleep, we tapped W. Chris Winter, MD, who runs a sleep medicine and neurology clinic in Charlottesville, Va.
The health impacts of oversleeping
Winter acknowledges that oversleeping is complicated—and there are a number of potential root causes.
“It is related to depression, to inconsistency of sleep, to poor sleep at night resulting in an individual wanting or needing to sleep more during the day,” he explains.
Regardless of cause, sleeping too much can lead to some serious issues. Here are the risks posed by oversleeping.
Per the Cleveland Clinic, about 15% of people with depression are over-sleepers. But the relationship between depression and oversleeping is bidirectional.
As a study published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience explains, in those with depression, oversleeping can exacerbate symptoms and make depression worse.
Raises heart disease risk
A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association links heart disease to oversleeping. In this case, the study authors define oversleeping as anything over the recommended seven to eight hours.
The study authors note that the connection between oversleeping and heart disease still isn’t fully understood—and oversleeping doesn’t necessarily cause heart disease. (Learn more about how sleep affects your heart.)
Causes weight gain
Research also shows a correlation between oversleeping and weight gain. One study, published in the journal Sleep, followed 276 adults between the ages of 21-64 over the course of six years.
The study found that the “long-duration sleepers” (aka over-sleepers) were 25% more likely to experience weight gain of around 11 pounds over the six years the study took place, compared to normal sleepers.
The researchers note that the long-duration sleepers who participated in the study had higher BMIs than the normal sleepers to start. That’s one possible reason why they were more likely to gain weight over the six-year period.
Oversleeping also throws your body clock out of whack, which can lead to changes in appetite and, in turn, weight gain. (Check out this guide to time-restricted eating to learn more about the link between your circadian rhythm and your weight.)
If you’re prone to morning headaches, it may be tempting to stay in bed—but oversleeping won’t help. As the American Migraine Foundation notes, oversleeping is a common headache trigger.
Research suggests oversleeping disrupts neurotransmitters in your brain, like serotonin, causing headaches.
Increases mortality risk
Sleeping too much (nine hours or more) is associated with higher mortality rates.
According to a study published in PLoS One, “the evidence that long sleep is associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, or other cardiovascular diseases and with a 20%-30% higher mortality risk has consistently been found even stronger than the associations with short sleep.”
This is just a correlation, so experts can’t say oversleeping is a cause of death—but it’s still an interesting connection. The researchers note over-sleepers tend to be depressed or of low socioeconomic status, which could be related to the increased mortality rate.
Are you sleeping too much?
How can you tell if you’re sleeping too much? Pay attention to how you feel when you get out of bed. Getting too much sleep can make you feel lethargic and unmotivated, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Beyond that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sleep recommendations broken down by age range, which you can use as a guideline to determine approximately how much sleep you need:
- 0-3 months: 14-17 hours
- 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
- 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
- 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
- 6-13 years old: 9-11 hours
- 14-17 years old: 8-10 hours
- 18-25 years old: 7-9 hours
- 26-64 years old: 7-9 hours
- 65 years old and up: 7-8 hours
Ways to prevent oversleeping
If you’re prone to oversleeping and unsure of how to address the issue, there are a few fairly easy solutions you can try.
Stick to a schedule
One of the best ways to avoid oversleeping is to stick to a schedule. That means going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. Try to stick as close as possible to this schedule even on the weekends or days off. And be careful with naps because they can throw your sleep routine out of whack.
Set up your bedroom for sleep
Make sure you take into account lighting, noise, and temperature in your room. You may find it comforting to invest in a silk sleep mask or earplugs to block out disruptions. (Here’s how to design your bedroom for better sleep.)
Curb your phone use before bed
Blue light can trick your brain into thinking it’s still time to rise and shine—so avoid electronic usage as much as possible in the hour before bedtime. If you tend to read on your phone or a tablet, consider investing in some blue light-blocking glasses.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
It goes without saying that you’ll generally feel better if you’re eating well and exercising, but these things can help you sleep as well. Check out our guides to the best foods for sleep and how exercise can help you sleep.
Visit your doctor
Finally, if you’ve tried all of these things and you’re still finding it hard not to fall back into bed, it’s probably time to visit a doctor who specializes in sleep.
If you’ve been attempting to stick to a schedule while making other healthy sleep choices, bring along a journal documenting these changes so your doctor can get a better idea of the full picture.
Need help putting together a bedtime routine? Try these nighttime activities to help you relax.