When the topic of sleep comes up in conversation, it’s frequently because we’re commiserating with friends or colleagues about how tired we feel after not getting near enough. In a world where a lot of people are really damn exhausted, the idea of getting too much sleep is laughable. But as it turns out, the phrase “too much of a good thing” applies here, too. According to doctors, sleeping too much can be a sign of an underlying medical condition and, if it’s not addressed, it can potentially be harmful to your health in the long-term.
Every person’s body is different and the amount of sleep we need varies — but doctors agree that healthy adults require between seven and eight hours per night. “Most people need seven hours of sleep to feel refreshed and alert the following day,” James A. Rowley, MD, chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine at DMC’s Detroit Receiving Hospital, told POPSUGAR. “A minimum of seven hours is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.”
Timothy P. Wong, DO, who specializes in sleep medicine at Loma Linda University Health Sleep Disorder Center, agreed. He said that, if a patient needs more than eight hours of sleep per night, it’s time to explore the possibility that an underlying health condition is interfering with their sleep. “A common example is sleep apnea,” Dr. Wong explained. Individuals with sleep apnea may not be getting restful sleep, which means they’ll need to spend more hours in bed in order to wake up feeling refreshed.
Sanam Hafeez, PhD, a New York City-based neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, told POPSUGAR that sleeping too much can also be a sign of a mental health condition such as depression. “People with depression are more likely to experience fatigue, and people with chronic fatigue are more likely to become depressed, creating a cycle that can be hard to break,” she explained. It’s also worth noting that many individuals who have anxiety and depression are on medications that can cause drowsiness — so if you’re taking an anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication and sleeping more than the average adult, it’s worth talking with your doctor about the pros and cons of possibly changing your medication.
Experiencing fatigue despite getting at least eight hours of sleep per night can also be a symptom of chronic illnesses including fibromyalgia, lupus, myalgic encephalomyelitis (more commonly referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome), and Hashimoto’s disease. “If a person thinks they are sleeping too much and feels sleepy and fatigued during the day, they should discuss with their primary care physician or consider a consultation with a sleep physician,” Dr. Rowley said.
Whether sleeping too much is the result of sleep apnea, a chronic physical illness, or depression, it’s often a sign that something is wrong — and, although the idea of sleeping 10 to 12 hours per night may sound like a dream to some people, Dr. Rowley told POPSUGAR that there’s evidence that long sleep times (generally more than nine hours per night) are associated with increased co-morbidities such as heart disease and mortality.
There’s no need to immediately panic if you sleep too much — but it does mean it’s time to make an appointment with a medical provider who can help you determine the cause and possible solutions.