Is Oversleeping Bad? Potential Causes and Side Effects

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Hadley Mendelsohn

Published 04/19/2024

Few things are more precious than a good night’s sleep, but did you know that regularly oversleeping can actually do more harm than good?

Oversleeping, also known as hypersomnia, is when you sleep more than ten hours a night on a regular basis. Ideally, you should be sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night, but getting more than that (i.e. too much) is really common. Oversleeping affects 4 to 6 percent of the population, one article points out. And while we don’t like to label things as strictly “bad” or “good,” too much sleep can indeed lead to and point to some underlying health concerns worth addressing.

So if you’ve been sleeping too much lately, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms and causes of oversleeping, plus what you can do to get your sleep hygiene back on track.

Anything over ten hours a night is considered too much sleep. Sleep needs vary significantly with age, so figuring out how much sleep is too much sleep will vary accordingly. In general, the younger someone is, the more sleep they will need.

When it comes to averages, one study found that most people between ages 18 and 64 get about seven hours of sleep a night. The study found that around 3 percent of people could be considered "long sleepers," while more than 7 percent were "short sleepers.” So a healthy sleep schedule for adults should include at least seven hours of shut-eye but no more than ten hours. Older adults should get between seven to eight hours of sleep.

High-quality sleep is essential to your overall health. It can directly impact the following:

  • Heart health

  • Mental well-being

  • Cognitive function

  • Immunity

  • Reproductive health

  • Hormone regulation

Sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, and circadian rhythm disorders have also been linked to health problems.

Fortunately, most of those disorders are treatable, and that’s why it’s great that you’re addressing your concerns about oversleeping now. Now, let’s jump into the main signs and symptoms of oversleeping.

The most obvious sign of oversleeping is hitting the snooze button over and over again, even after a solid ten hours of sleep. Other signs of oversleeping include the following:

  • Feeling excessive daytime sleepiness and grogginess (you might be feeling confused and out of it more regularly)

  • Continuing to be exhausted after sleeping ten hours or when you wake up from a daytime nap

  • Having low energy levels

  • Feeling anxious and irritable

  • Being unable to concentrate and remember things as well as you usually do

  • Getting headaches

  • Having hallucinations

  • Experiencing a loss of appetite

There are several risks associated with sleeping too much. Spending too much time asleep can negatively impact your immune system, mental health, and heart health. It could also lead to chronic health issues, like heart disease.

A survey of almost 25,000 adults mentions that people who slept over ten hours a night were more likely to have mental health issues and a higher body mass index (BMI). It also points out a link between people carrying excess weight and people who have obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and higher mortality risks more so than those who get too little sleep.

Indeed, one study looked at the impacts of oversleeping on people over six years, and it found that those who slept over 10 hours were 21 percent more likely to gain weight than those who slept seven to nine hours a night. In other words, this study suggests that sleeping too much could lead to weight gain.

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There can be many causes for oversleeping. Sometimes, excessive sleeping is the result of simple circumstantial changes. Maybe your sleep needs are different because your body is trying to fight off an infection, like the common cold, or you’re catching up on sleep after a big weekend (i.e. your body is trying to compensate for a sleep debt).

But if you find yourself oversleeping on a regular basis, it may be due to an underlying health issue.

Some of the reasons people sleep more than usual include:

  • Depression and other mental health issues

  • Medication side effects

  • Sleep apnea

  • Substance use or misuse

  • Chronic infections

  • Metabolic diseases

  • Narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia, and other neurological issues

Though not direct causes of oversleeping, things like bruxism (grinding your teeth), restless leg syndrome, and chronic pain can disrupt your sleep and make you feel tired the next day.

Depression and Oversleeping

Depression and sleep problems often go hand in hand. Symptoms of depression can include both sleeping too much and not sleeping enough. When you live with depression and experience sleep problems, a negative feedback loop can develop, where each issue exacerbates the other.

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression or you think that your mental health may be contributing to your sleep habits, you can learn more about the links in our guide to depression-related sleep issues.

Sleep Apnea and Oversleeping

According to a 2021 study, obstructive sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of hypersomnia. Sleep apnea is a very common condition, affecting over 900 million adults aged 30 to 69 globally. You’ve likely heard of it before in relation to one of its primary symptoms — snoring!

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder where breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. This happens when your upper airway collapses momentarily and blocks airflow.

If you have obesity or carry excess weight, you are at increased risk of sleep apnea. In people with obesity, fat deposits and weakened muscles in the neck area actually cause your airway to narrow — making obstruction more likely.

Excessive daytime sleepiness is also very common in people with sleep apnea. As many as 40 to 58 percent of people with sleep apnea are excessively tired during the day. This can lead to trouble waking up, extra naps, and other issues.

The reason this happens is because every time your breathing stops during the night (which can happen more than 30 times per hour) you wake up for a second. While you may not remember these interruptions, they do a number on your sleep quality. In this way, sleep apnea can impact daily functioning, mood, cognition, and overall well-being.

If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your healthcare provider might suggest trying treatments like positive airway pressure (PAP) devices, oral appliances, and surgical interventions. Treatments like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can help alleviate excessive daytime sleepiness, though it doesn’t work for everyone.

As with any health concern, understanding the underlying cause of oversleeping is important. Talking with a doctor or other healthcare professional is often the best first step. They can help you determine whether your hypersomnia is associated with sleep apnea, depression, or excess weight.

Treatment for oversleeping will depend on the cause, but may include things like:

  • A diet and exercise program

  • Antidepressants

  • Weight loss medications

  • A CPAP machine for sleep apnea

  • Substance abuse treatment

  • Talk therapy

The most effective long-term treatment for oversleeping is to adopt proper sleep hygiene practices and healthy daily habits. That’s a good thing! It means that you can implement little changes to start making a difference in how you feel.

Since seven to nine hours of sleep are recommended per night, a great first step is to keep track (either mentally or in a sleep journal) of your sleep time and wake time. This way, you’ll quickly gauge whether you’re getting enough or too much shut-eye.

From there, experts suggest developing and sticking to a bedtime routine (doing your skincare routine, reading a chapter in your book, etc.), getting regular exercise, and incorporating mindfulness practices into your day. This may include yoga, meditation, or journaling. or another mindfulness technique that works for you and helps you slow down any racing thoughts or lingering worries from the day.

There are also some substances you could try avoiding, as they’ve been linked to disrupted sleep. These include caffeine, alcohol and having heavy meals, particularly right before bed. Another great tip is to limit your exposure to light late in the day, as it can improve sleep quality and duration (tons of experts agree that putting your phone away before bed and closing your curtains can help, too). Sleep medicines may also be recommended by your healthcare provider or sleep specialist.

Goldilocks was onto something: The amount of sleep you get needs to be just right, and the importance of developing healthy sleep hygiene can’t be overstated. A good night’s sleep is essential to your health and wellness.

Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there to help you find a path to better sleep habits. To dive deeper into what good sleep hygiene looks like and how to implement those habits yourself, check out our complete guide to sleep hygiene.

12 Sources

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