Although many people understand the potential health effects of not getting enough sleep, they may not know that regularly oversleeping may also be harmful to the body.
Occasionally oversleeping may leave a person feeling groggy or tired the next day.
In this article, learn more about the causes and possible effects of regularly oversleeping.
Most adults need about 7–9 hours of sleep each night. However, there is individual variation. For example, some people may need as little as 6 hours of sleep, while others may need as much as 10 hours.
Oversleeping typically does not affect people who need this extra hour or two of sleep. Similarly, oversleeping does not refer to the extra sleep that people need as they recover from illnesses, extreme workouts, or travel-related issues such as jet lag.
Oversleeping affects people who regularly get much more sleep than their body needs, such as sleeping for 11–13 hours each night.
Although occasional oversleeping is normal, regular oversleeping may indicate an underlying health issue.
There are several links between health conditions and oversleeping. The following sections will discuss these in more detail.
Disrupted sleep cycle
Numerous issues can cause disruptions in the sleep cycle.
Interruptions to the sleep cycle may lead to the sleepiness that causes oversleeping in some people. Such interruptions may come in the form of:
- loud noises
- bright lights
- caffeine consumption before bed
- restless legs syndrome
- bruxism, or teeth grinding
Other conditions may also cause disturbances in the sleep cycle. The sections below will outline some of these.
Narcolepsy is a sleep-related condition that can cause a person to experience extreme sleepiness throughout the day. This does not go away after a full night’s sleep or with daytime napping.
Narcolepsy may also cause other sleep issues, in addition to physical and cognitive symptoms.
Physical conditions such as hypothyroidism may also influence sleep patterns in some cases.
Having an underactive thyroid may cause a person to experience sleepiness, even after a full night’s rest. This may lead to daytime napping or falling back asleep in the morning and oversleeping.
Other common symptoms of hypothyroidism include feeling cold, muscle weakness, and unexplained weight gain.
Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea may also be a cause of oversleeping.
Obstructive sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing for a short time during sleep. This typically occurs multiple times per night and disrupts the sleep cycle each time it occurs.
This can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and a need for more sleep to feel rested.
Other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- difficulty concentrating
- memory issues
- headaches or a dry mouth upon waking
- decreased libido
- waking up often to urinate
The relationship between sleep issues and depression is bidirectional. As one study notes, impaired sleep is both a risk factor for and a symptom of depression.
Another study suggests that many forms of sleep disorder are a risk factor for depression, including narcolepsy, circadian rhythm disorders, and insomnia.
Although this generally manifests as insomnia or difficulty falling or staying asleep, hypersomnia may occur in some cases of depression. This may be due to a broken sleep cycle (leading to oversleeping to make up for the loss of sleep) or issues such as inflammation.
However, the exact cause is unclear.
Some medications may also cause excessive sleepiness as a side effect, which could lead to oversleeping.
If excessive sleepiness due to medication is difficult to cope with, a person should talk to a doctor about adjusting the dosage or changing to a new medication.
In some cases, even after providing a full diagnosis, doctors may not know the underlying reason for oversleeping. This is known as idiopathic hypersomnia.
A person with this condition may simply have excessive sleepiness and oversleeping with no identifiable cause.
For the occasional case of oversleeping, a person may feel the effects the following day. It may be difficult for them to start their day, and typical stimulants such as caffeine may have little to no effect.
Regular oversleeping may lead to other symptoms that vary from person to person. These include:
Although occasionally oversleeping is not necessarily bad for health, the complications from regularly oversleeping may put a person at risk of other conditions.
One study reported on the different risks. The researchers found that people who got too much sleep or too little sleep were significantly more likely to have overweight or obesity than average sleepers.
A review suggested that there may also be a link between regular oversleeping and several complications, including high blood sugar and risk factors for heart disease. These risks vary based on sex and individual factors, so the authors call for more research into the topic.
Anyone who is concerned about their regular sleep habits should see a doctor for a full diagnosis.
Oversleeping can feed into habits that may lead to more oversleeping. For this reason, it is important to break the cycle and get back to a regular sleeping pattern.
The following sections will provide some tips on how to do this.
Set a regular alarm
Setting an alarm for the same time each day may help the body regulate its patterns and get back to its natural rhythms.
Do not hit the snooze button
Getting up and out of bed completely may help wake the body up and prevent falling back asleep or oversleeping.
Avoid naps or only take short naps
Some people who oversleep may benefit from avoiding naps. Too much napping may interrupt the body’s sleep patterns and promote oversleeping.
On the other hand, some people may find that a short nap of just 10–20 minutes helps them feel refreshed.
Avoid lights around bedtime
The bright, short-wavelength light from electronic devices may stimulate the brain, causing a person to stay up longer than necessary.
For people whose bodies are sensitive to these lights, it may be best to avoid using electronic devices and all sources of light near bedtime.
Keep a sleep journal
A doctor may ask a person to keep a sleep journal. The person will detail their usual sleep habits and routines in the journal, including their bedtime and waking time.
They can also include any incidents, such as how many times they wake up to urinate or any difficulties falling asleep.
Keeping a sleep journal may provide the doctor with the information they need to diagnose any underlying health issues the person may have.
Occasional oversleeping is not generally a cause for concern. A person who oversleeps may have to deal with a day of grogginess or low energy, but the effects typically do not go beyond that.
However, anyone with a history of oversleeping or who notices other concerning symptoms should contact their doctor for a thorough diagnosis.
Occasionally oversleeping may cause a person to experience symptoms the following day. For example, it may be difficult for them to find energy or to focus.
Although oversleeping itself is not dangerous, regularly getting too much sleep may influence numerous physical and mental health issues.
Anyone who is struggling with oversleeping should contact their doctor for a full diagnosis.