The Dangers of Oversleeping
How many hours of sleep do you get?
Annie Tucker Morgan | DivineCaroline
January 21, 2011
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love to sleep. I’m like a baby in that regard—if I don’t get enough rest, I’m a zombie of Evil Dead –esque proportions the next day. I used to pride myself on the fact that I catch more Zs than most people I know; while they chug coffee and sleep in until noon on weekends to make up for being dog-tired during the workweek, I often log a solid 10 hours and wake up early and refreshed without even needing to rely on an alarm clock to rouse me.
Turns out, I shouldn’t have been so pleased with myself—instead, I should have been keeping my body vertical and my eyes open. Recent studies have indicated that oversleeping is at the root of many serious medical problems, including heart disease and diabetes, and can even lead to a shortened life span.
Too Much of a Good Thing …
The amount of sleep people need varies widely, depending on their age, overall health, work schedule, and stress and activity levels. But on average, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that seven to nine hours per night are ideal. Chronic oversleeping—not just catching up on sleep after a hard week once in a while, but regularly clocking marathon pillow time—is actually a medical condition known as hypersomnia. No matter how much people who suffer from this disorder sleep, neither napping during the day nor slumbering for many hours at night can relieve them of their exhaustion. In addition, according to WebMD, hypersomniacs are sometimes plagued by anxiety, low energy, and memory problems as a result of their fatigue.
However, scientists are quick to point out that not all individuals who sleep too much classify as hypersomniacs, since numerous unrelated factors can contribute significantly to excessive sleep habits as well. Depression, use of alcohol and certain prescription medications, and obstructive sleep apnea—a condition that disrupts breathing during sleep and thus prevents people from achieving normal sleep cycles—are all potential hindrances.
The Snowball Effect
Hypersomnia is crippling in and of itself, but that’s not the half of it—several large-scale studies have indicated that the condition can trigger a wide range of even more debilitating symptoms.
Coronary Heart Disease
In a survey of almost 72,000 women, nurses at Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, identified a 38 percent greater likelihood of developing coronary heart disease among women who slept nine to eleven hours per night, compared with women who got eight hours of sleep.
A study of almost 9,000 Americans pointed to a connection between sleep and a heightened risk of diabetes, WebMD notes. While the researchers did not establish a direct link, they did discover that people who got more than nine hours of sleep per night were 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes than people who slept seven hours. This discrepancy suggests that while oversleeping might not cause diabetes on its own, it could reflect underlying medical issues that lead to individuals’ susceptibility to the disease.
According to another study, people who slept nine to 10 hours nightly had a 21 percent greater chance of becoming obese over the course of six years than people who slept seven to eight hours—even when the subjects’ food consumption and exercise habits were similar across the board.