Why the Amount of Sleep You Get May Be an Early Warning of Disease
I’ve often advised on how important it is to get enough sleep. Experts agree that too little sleep is a major cause of health problems.
In fact, too little sleep can cause heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and other serious conditions.
I frequently remind you that getting a good night’s sleep is as critical to life as food, water, and air. Sleeping is responsible for regenerating, healing, and recharging your body.
Each adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. And if you’re “catching up” on sleep you may temporarily need more than that. For example, national sleep research has shown that some adults may temporarily need up to 12 hours of sleep per night after shortchanging themselves.
But if you’re commonly sleeping more than 7-9 hours per night, that may be a sign of problems.
That’s because sleep research shows that sleeping too much is associated with many diseases.
But before you start setting more alarms and stocking up on caffeine in an attempt to protect your health, think again. In this article I’ll share with you what the causes of oversleeping may be and what you can do to protect yourself.
How Much Sleep is Too Much?
There are a surprising number of people who are getting too much sleep. A recent study conducted on seniors in their 60s and 70s showed some surprising results.
Most surprising was these over 40 percent of the participants were sleeping more than 9 hours per night.
Those sleeping over 9 hours per night were also found to suffer significant cognitive decline over many years - much more than those sleeping between 7 and 9 hours each night.
But the researchers showed that the amount of sleep wasn’t likely the cause. Rather, it was a indicator. So louder alarm clocks wouldn’t improve the health of the oversleepers.
Why Do People Sleep Too Much?
If sleeping too much isn’t just about being lazy, what are the causes of oversleeping? Researchers have given us some clues.
Some people suffer from an oversleeping medical disorder called hypersomnia. This condition creates extreme sleepiness throughout the day for sufferers. Napping does not help this condition. They also sleep for exceptionally long periods at night. A lot of people with this condition experience memory problems, low energy, and anxiety. This is all a result of their almost continual need to sleep.
Other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can lead to a need for more sleep. The problem here is that the disorder is disrupting the normal sleep cycle.
Not everybody who sleeps a lot has a sleep disorder. There can be other causes for oversleeping. Prescription drugs, alcohol, and other substances can cause people to sleep too much. Other conditions like depression can also result in people sleeping too much.
Medical Problems Tied to Oversleeping
Here are some of the health problems linked to oversleeping. In other words, if you are oversleeping, that may be an early warning sign that you are at risk for the following.
Obesity. A recent study showed that people who got 9 or more hours of sleep each night were over 20% more likely to become obese compared to normal sleepers. The study took place over a 6-year period. The connection between sleep and obesity was constant, even when considering exercise and food.
Diabetes. Studies have indicated that people who sleep either too long or not long enough have an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Depression. Although depression is more often linked to insomnia, about 15% of people with depression get too much sleep. This can actually make the depression worse.
Heart disease. A recent large sleep study showed that people who slept 9 or more hours a night were a whopping 38% more likely to have heart disease.
Death. Several different studies have shown that people sleeping 9 or more hours per night have much higher death rates than normal sleepers. Researchers have not been able to determine a correlation. But they have seen that low socioeconomic status and depression correlate with sleeping longer. They think these factors might contribute to the higher death rate for people who oversleep.
Good Sleep Hygiene
Your sleep goal should be to get all the benefits of sleep without getting too much, or too little. If you’re averaging more than 9 hours of sleep a night talk to a professional who can help you to find out what the underlying problem may be.
If you think you are over-sleeping because of alcohol or prescription drugs, it might help to cut back on these substances. But make sure you don’t stop taking a prescription until you’ve talked to your doctor about it.
Whether you are oversleeping or under-sleeping, practicing good sleep hygiene will help get you back on track. Your goal should be getting a healthy 7-9 hours sleep each night.
It helps to keep the same times for going to sleep and waking up every day. Also, get outside in the fresh air and sunshine for at least a half hour every day, preferably early in the day. This will provide you with a dose of vitamin D, which aids sleep.
By following the simple tips I’ve outlined in this article, you can help get yourself back on track to a better night’s sleep.