News reports abound about the weary, drowsy, sleep-deprived masses. Sleep aids can probably be found in the bedside table drawers and medicine cabinets of millions who experience sleepless nights. But is there such a thing as getting too much sleep – and how much is too much?
For years, the magic sleep number was 8. Eight hours of sleep per night has long been considered an optimal amount of sleep for an adult. Research has put that old belief to bed, though, revealing that people who get more than 8 hours of sleep report just as many sleep problems as those who get less than 7 hours of sleep. So the new magic sleep number falls somewhere between 7 and 8 hours.
Everyone oversleeps from time to time, usually to pay back a sleep debt – like after an all-night study session, a bout of jet lag, or any other period of sleep deprivation. Those who sleep beyond 8 hours on a regular basis (usually between 10 to 12 hours) could be long sleepers, the name given to people with hypersomnia (the opposite of insomnia, it literally means "too much sleep").
If long sleepers get the sleep their bodies need and their long sleep does not negatively affect their day-to-day life, this is not a serious problem. In some cases, however, hypersomnia can cause unproductive sleep and changes in mood, memory, appetite, and energy levels.
Check with your doctor if you regularly sleep 10 or more hours and experience daytime sleepiness that is not relieved by napping. There could be underlying reasons for excess sleep:
- use of certain medications
- head trauma
- medical conditions (e.g., multiple sclerosis, epilepsy)
- sleep disorders (narcolepsy, sleep apnea)
- symptoms of other medical conditions (e.g., oversleeping is a common symptom of depression)
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