There has been much talk about the importance of getting enough sleep. Getting enough sleep enables you to think straight, reinforces memories and things you’ve learned, and reinvigorates the brain and body. Too little sleep on the other hand makes you cranky, induce stress chemicals, changes our genes, impairs ourcognition, and is harmful to you in a plethora of other manners. But what about too much sleep? Is sleeping too much also a detriment to your well-being? Turns out it is.
Oversleeping, medically termed as hypersomnia, can be a cause of health concern—if not now, then down the road. So if you are finding that you are sleeping too much, watch out for these harmful effects of oversleeping.
Sleeping too much can make a person prone to weight gain. A recent study reported that people who get nine or 10 hours of sleep each night were 21% more likely to become obese over a period of six years than those who get just between seven and eight hours of sleep. This link between sleep and obesity yielded the same result even when food intake and exercise were taken into consideration.
Sleeping longer than normal has also shown to exacerbate headache, especially for people who frequently complain of it. Researchers attribute this to the effect oversleeping has on specific neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin. People who oversleep during the day and do not get sufficient sleep at night may also find themselves suffering from headaches in the morning.
3) Back pain
Although doctors used to advise people suffering from back pain to go straight to bed, those days are long gone. A person needs to curtail his/her regular exercise program when experiencing back pain. Doctors now realize the essence of maintaining a certain level of activity on a person’s health. They now recommend against sleeping more than usual, as much as possible.
Albeit depression is more linked to insomnia than hypersomnia, roughly 15% of people with depression has been reported to sleep too much. This may, in turn, worsen their depression. This is because regular sleep habits are crucial to the recovery process. Counterintuitively, in certain cases, sleep deprivation can give a temporary antidepressant effect.
5) Heart disease
The Nurses’ Health Study, which involved approximately 72,000 women, showed that those who get between nine to 11 hours of sleep per night were 38% more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who get just the right amount (eight hours). Notwithstanding, researchers have not yet determined a reason for the correlation between oversleeping and heart disease.
6) Cognitive Decline
To analyze the correlation between sleep and cognitive decline, researchers assessed the reports taken from 15,263 women, all of whom were age 70 years or older when the first cognitive assessment was conducted
Participants were also asked to report their daily sleep patterns and habits. Research showed that sleeping sleeping too much was greatly associated with cognitive decline over time:
- Women who slept for more than nine hours showed lower average scores than those who slept seven hours per day.
- Women whose sleep duration were longer than two hours were observed to have lower cognitive assessment scores than those whose daily sleep patterns did not change significantly.
- In a subgroup of women, researchers took blood samples for changes in protein levels that are considered markers for changes to the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and did the analysis. They found that women who got more or less than seven hours of sleep showed evidence of Alzheimer-indicative changes to protein levels.
Studies have shown that people who get nine or more hours of sleep a night have significantly higher incidence of death compared to those who sleep just seven to eight hours a night. Although no specific reason for this link has been determined, researchers found that depression and low socioeconomic status are also correlated with longer sleep. Speculations on these factors could be due to the observed increase in mortality rates in people who oversleep.
The amount of sleep a person needs significantly varies over the course of his/her lifetime. It depends on a person’s age, activity level, overall health as well as lifestyle habits. During periods of stress or sickness, for instance, a person may feel a need to sleep more. However, since sleep differs from one person to another, experts usually recommend quality sufficient quality sleep (between seven and nine hours) each night.
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If you are finding that it is hard to wake up no matter how much you sleep, you might want to time your sleep cycles. Studies have found that if you wake up during the lighter stages of sleep (stage 1 and 2 of NREM sleep), it will be much easier to wake up well-rested. We go through multiple sleep cycles during a night’s sleep. For me, I hit the sweet spot is between 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep a night. When I wake up during that 30 minute interval, I have no trouble waking up and feel well-rested. During that time, I am in the initial stages of my sleep cycle.
If you want to track your sleep, you can manually log the hours you sleep each night and record how you feel when waking up the next morning. If you want to automate things a little more, you can get something like the Fitbit One that tracks your sleep cycles and automatically uploads to your smart phone or computer.
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