Ah, long naps. They’re the stuff that dreams are made of. But if sleeping is the main event of your days? You could have an underlying health issue.
First, it’s important to know that our sleep needs fluctuate depending on factors like:
- sleep deprivation
- sleep quality
For context, here’s how much sleep you need by age:
|Age||Hours of sleep per day|
|newborns||14–17 hours (includes naps)|
|infants||12–15 hours (includes naps)|
|toddlers||11–14 hours (includes naps)|
|school-aged kids||9–11 hours|
|older adults||7–8 hours|
Sleep is all chill and cozy until you become Rip Van Winkle and wake up 20 years older.
If you regularly burn the midnight oil to crank out work projects, or if you have little kids, then the reason for oversleeping is obvious.
Can you catch up on sleep though? Not really
- One study found it takes 4 days to fully recover from just 1 hour of lost sleep.
- Another study found peeps who reduced their sleep by 5 hours during the week but made up for it by sleeping on the weekend still experienced symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Read more about racking up “sleep debt.”
Mood can have a huge impact on your sleeping patterns. Some people with depression get too much sleep, while others have difficulty sleeping at all. In turn, sleep disturbances can trigger depression.
With depression, sleep quality can suffer and be less restorative as a result, so even more sleep is required to feel rested.
Other signs of depression include:
- weight fluctuations
- poor concentration
- brain fog
- feeling worthless or hopeless
It’s a good idea to reach out to a doctor or mental health professional if you suspect you have depression.
Sometimes depression is related to an underlying condition, so contacting your general practitioner can be a good place to start.
Thyroid issues are common, affecting about 12 percent of U.S. people. Females are up to 8 times more likely to have a thyroid issue than males.
Hypothyroidism occurs when you’re body isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones, which slows your metabolism and decreases repair and growth throughout the body.
Common signs of hypothyroidism include:
- weight gain
- feeling cold or weak
- muscle aches
- hair loss
- feeling down or depressed
- irregular periods
A routine blood check can detect thyroid issues. Call your doctor to schedule lab work if you suspect your thyroid is out of whack.
There may be a reason you feel extra sleepy when you’re under the weather.
Why? Your body needs some extra mojo to heal. Plus, fighting an illness can take a lot of energy, which can make you crave shuteye.
Sleep can help boost the immune system, which explains our natural urge to sleep when we’re coming down with something.
Obstructive sleep apnea is super common — with almost 1 billion people affected worldwide — and is a likely factor for sleeping too much.
Sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing during sleep for 10 to 20 seconds at a time. Each pause in breathing triggers a brief awakening that you probably won’t remember in the morning. This results in non-restful sleep and leads to daytime sleepiness.
Other signs of sleep apnea include:
This rare condition causes sudden bursts of sleep, even at inappropriate times. Narcolepsy results in intense daytime sleepiness and falling asleep during everyday activities.
The causes of narcolepsy aren’t fully understood, but some possible factors include:
- family history
- brain injury
- autoimmune disorders
Other symptoms include:
- muscle paralysis
- muscle weakness
- loss of muscle tone
Kind of. While not a direct cause, these issues are associated with getting too much sleep:
- weight gain
- heart disease
- memory loss
- sleep apnea
Which came first…
Most of these conditions can trigger sleepiness or be triggered by excessive sleep. Your doctor can help you figure out if the sleepiness is causing the condition or the condition causing the sleepiness.
If your extended slumber party has been going on for 6 weeks or longer, it’s a good idea to call your doctor. Be prepared to answer questions about lifestyle habits, meds you’re taking, and your health history.
If an underlying medical condition is ruled out, your doctor may suggest:
- Keeping a sleep diary. You’ll record all the details about your sleep, like when you fall asleep, when you wake, and how often you wake in the middle of the night.
- Taking a polysomnogram. This requires staying overnight in a sleep center and tracking your brain activity, heart rate, eye movements, and more.
- Taking a multiple sleep latency test. It measures your sleep while you nap during the day.
- Rating your sleepiness on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. This scale will help your doctor determine how much your day-to-day is impacted by your sleep habits.
- Stick to a consistent sleep and wake schedule — even on the weekends (seriously).
- Unplug a few hours before bed. All your digital devices emit blue light, which has been shown to disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythms.
- Build a sleep oasis. We get our best sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room. Invest in blackout drapes, earplugs, or an app like Calm.
- Keep a sleep diary. Jotting down your concerns and details about your sleep will help you identify patterns, and will also provide your doctor with helpful details.
- Ditch the afternoon caffeine treat. Alcohol and caffeine consumed too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep and sleep quality.
Sleeping beauty shouldn’t have waited so long to get help. Sleeping too much is associated with health issues like memory loss, weight gain, and diabetes.
Oversleeping can also indicate underlying illness, depression, sleep apnea, thyroid issues, and narcolepsy.
It’s important to find the root cause of excessive sleepiness in order to treat it. If sleep tips like the ones above don’t help, your doctor can help you sort it out.
Keep calm and dream on.