Can You Oversleep?

An individual’s need for sleep is variable to a degree, depending on age, time and circumstance. During times of stress, for instance, your need for sleep may increase. As you age, you may find yourself sleeping less. And obviously, during times of illness, your sleep needs increase.

In normal circumstances, then, is it possible to oversleep? The answer is yes. Oversleeping has been linked to headaches, back pain, obesity, diabetes and heart problems.

However, it should be noted that oversleeping can also be caused by depression and low socioeconomic status, the latter often preventing access to good health care, which in turn can lead to untreated diseases causing oversleep.

Hypersomnia is a medical condition that makes people overly tired throughout the day, which cannot be relieved by napping, and which also leads to oversleeping at night. Not everyone who oversleeps suffers from hypersomnia, however. A lot of people who oversleep are suffering from depression or alcohol abuse. In some circumstances, prescription medications can lead to oversleeping, but if you suspect that’s the case, you need to confer with your prescribing physician.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can also lead to oversleeping because of disruptions in one’s sleep at night due to breathing difficulties caused by the disorder.

Studies have shown that either sleeping too much or too little will increase one’s chances of developing diabetes. Likewise, sleeping too much has been shown as a factor in weight gain and obesity. Headaches can result from oversleeping due to effects on the brain’s neurotransmitters, including serotonin.

Back pain often results from oversleeping as well. And depression actually worsens from oversleeping, as one of the “cures” for depression is to observe regular habits, including good sleep hygiene (sleeping seven to eight hours a night, for instance). More troubling, a Nurses’ Health Study of 72,000 women found that the odds of developing heart disease increased by 38 percent among those who slept 9 to 11 hours a night.

The point is to observe good sleep hygiene and regular sleeping patterns for optimal mental and physical health, but if you are suffering from OSA or another disorder that’s affecting your sleep, then you should seek professional help as soon as possible.

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