Q: With more time at home and less things to do, I find myself sleeping more than usual. I am sleeping full nights (although sometimes restless and filled with bad dreams) and taking a nap almost every day. Is there such a thing as too much sleep?
Medically speaking, sleeping too much can, in fact, cause significant problems and has even been associated with a higher mortality rate than those who sleep seven to eight hours a night.
Oversleeping has been associated with such varied conditions as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, headaches and back pain. Although association does not mean cause, there are certainly some interesting facts about sleeping more than normal.
The amount of sleep you need varies significantly over the course of your lifetime, and can depend on such factors as age, degree of activity, general health and lifestyle habits.
Most experts agree that the average adult should get between seven and eight hours of sleep to maintain ideal health.
During periods of illness and stress (can anyone say pandemic?), many people may feel an increased need for sleep. Other conditions that can lead to an increase in the number of hours slept include obstructive sleep apnea and depression.
Boredom is another phenomenon some of us may be dealing with during this time, which can lead to more time in bed.
It is still unclear why sleeping too much has been correlated with an increased risk of diabetes and obesity. One recent study showed that people who slept nine or 10 hours every night were 21% more likely to become obese over a six-year period than were people who slept between seven to eight hours, even when the amount of food and exercise was taken into account.
In another study involving 72,000 women, those who slept nine to 11 hours per night were 38% more likely to have heart disease than those women who slept eight hours. Again, the reason has yet to be identified.
If you do sleep more than eight hours per night, see your doctor for a check-up. The answer could lie with medications, alcohol or other drug consumption, or another underlying medical condition. Finding the cause may return sleep habits back to normal.
In addition, it is important to practice good sleep hygiene. You mentioned in your question that you often take naps during the day, but have restless sleep at night.
If you cut out the naps and replace them with physical activity, this can help regulate your sleep drive and contribute to better sleep at night.
Cutting down on caffeine and maintaining a routine wake-up and bedtime (also challenging during these times) will help. Keep the bedroom cool and comfortable, and stop the use of distracting devices such as phones, computers and televisions before going to bed.
Do not get me wrong: Getting enough sleep is important! But, let us not “sleep” through these challenging days. On the other hand, if you do have some extra time, use it wisely: help a friend or neighbor or give back to society. We all need to wake up.
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