Dr. Anis Rehman
Dr. Rehman, M.D., is a board-certified physician in Internal Medicine as well as Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism.
Oversleeping, or sleeping for over nine hours in a night, happens for many reasons. Maybe you oversleep because you’re fighting off an illness, or you’re catching up after a few nights of sleep deprivation. However, consistently oversleeping may be the sign of a sleep disorder, mental health disorder, or other health issue. We cover how oversleeping is defined, the various issues that cause oversleeping, and what you can do if you tend to oversleep.
Oversleeping, or long sleeping, is defined as sleeping more than nine hours in a 24-hour period. Hypersomnia describes a condition in which you both oversleep and experience excessive sleepiness during the day. Narcolepsy and other sleep disorders commonly cause hypersomnia. Doctors might also call consistent oversleeping that causes you distress in daily life an excessive quantity of sleep (EQS). When the cause for your sleepiness cannot be found, the disorder is called idiopathic hypersomnia.
On average, most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. A good night’s sleep promotes overall health and mental alertness. Without enough sleep, you may feel sluggish and unable to focus. On the other hand, too much sleep can also affect your health.
The exact amount of sleep you need each night depends on your daytime habits and activities, health, and sleep patterns. Older adults may need only six hours of sleep while other people, such as athletes, may need an extra hour of sleep. Occasionally you may require more sleep than normal, such as after strenuous activity or travel. If another hour of shuteye helps you feel your best, then that amount of sleep is right for your body. If consistently sleeping longer still leaves you tired or even nodding off during the day, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue.
In addition to sleeping more than nine hours a night, other symptoms of oversleeping include:
Oversleeping can occur when you try to make up for your “sleep debt.” For example, you may have to stay up late several nights in a row to complete a big project and therefore become sleep deprived. Then, on the weekend you might make up the sleep debt by sleeping longer than normal.
A number of health conditions can also lead to oversleeping and excessive daytime sleepiness:
Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing temporarily during your sleep. As a result, you snore and choke during the night and feel sleepy during the day. To make up for poor sleep, you may nap during the day and try to sleep longer at night, leading to oversleeping.
Sleep apnea symptoms are often resolved with appropriate treatment. After a sleep study confirming you have sleep apnea, your healthcare provider may write a prescription for a CPAP machine. This machine helps support your breathing during sleep.
There are three types of narcolepsy, but in almost all cases you experience excessive daytime sleepiness and overpowering urges to sleep, called sleep attacks. In secondary narcolepsy, caused by injury to the hypothalamus, you may sleep for more than 10 hours each night. While narcolepsy is a lifelong disorder, it can be managed with treatment, including medication and lifestyle changes.
If healthcare professionals can’t identify an underlying cause for your oversleeping, they may diagnose you with idiopathic hypersomnia. This sleep disorder is characterized by difficulty waking, excessive sleepiness, and the inability to feel rested after sleeping at night or napping during the day. With this disorder, you may sleep as much as 14 to 18 hours a day.
For treatment, doctors often prescribe medications similar to what is prescribed for narcolepsy. These medications may not treat idiopathic hypersomnia as effectively as they treat narcolepsy, however. Additionally, if you have idiopathic hypersomnia, you may need to make lifestyle changes such as limiting alcohol and avoiding late-night activities.
People with depression and anxiety often struggle with sleep disorders or other health disorders. Both oversleeping and difficulty sleeping are effects of depression, and adolescents and older adults with depression are most likely to experience excessive sleepiness. Several studies have shown a higher rate of depression in long sleepers. Other studies show that people with anxiety disorders are also more likely to experience long sleep, which causes them distress.
Many treatments exist for both depression and anxiety. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, a number of prescription medications can improve your symptoms. Consult your healthcare provider to determine which methods of treatment are appropriate for you.
Oversleeping impacts your overall health and can have negative effects, just as a lack of sleep does. Early research suggests that longer sleep:
Both short and long sleep durations are associated with a number of health concerns and chronic diseases:
If you are concerned about oversleeping, talk with your doctor about your sleep and health habits. You may want to keep a sleep diary to record your nighttime sleep and wake times, as well as any naps you take during the day. Your doctor can use this information to help you identify the cause of your oversleeping and suggest a treatment plan.
Regardless of the cause of your oversleeping, you can implement healthy sleep tips to improve your sleep habits: