A majority of people report having problems with getting enough hours of sleep or suffering from sleep deprivation — making it important to understand the recommended sleep by age. Still, some people experience the opposite issue when it comes to the amount of sleep they get. According to information provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 4 to 6 percent of the population experiences hypersomnia: excessive daytime sleep or sleepiness. If you’ve ever wondered, “Why do I sleep so much?” you may have this condition.
Hypersomnia is caused by a number of factors, including but not limited to narcolepsy, insufficient sleep syndrome, and breathing-related sleep disorders like sleep apnea. It could also be the cause of an undiagnosed medical condition such as depression or obesity. Symptoms of hypersomnia are similar to symptoms of insomnia, which is the inability to sleep. These include:
- Increased anxiety and irritation
- Decreased energy
- Memory difficulty
- Loss of focus and concentration
People with hypersomnia nap frequently during the day and/or sleep for prolonged nighttime hours without experiencing relief from symptoms. Sleep deprivation or insomnia often leads to other health conditions, while sleeping too much could be an indicator that something is already wrong. Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, says that sleeping patterns change with aging, although dramatic changes, including sleeping over nine hours per night to feel rested, could be a sign of an underlying problem. If you’re looking for natural remedies, check out our guide on how to help insomnia.
Causes of Hypersomnia
If you’ve recently been asking yourself, “Why am I sleeping so much?” consider what events are currently happening in your life. Are you experiencing extra stress or anxiety? Have you recently been ill with a cold or the flu? Are you experiencing other physical symptoms aside from altered sleep patterns? Hypersomnia, like insomnia, may be a chronic condition or a temporary occurrence.
By learning about known causes of hypersomnia and paying attention to your sleep habits, you’ll begin to identify if your symptoms are going to be short-lived and remedied at home or if you need to see a sleep doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by an inability to control sleep-wake cycles normally. It’s a rare disease known to affect approximately 200,000 Americans, but only about one-quarter of people who have it are diagnosed, according to the Narcolepsy Network.
A person with narcolepsy may suddenly fall asleep for a few seconds or up to several minutes at any time during the day. This is often associated with increased sleepiness and decreased alertness, which can result in an auto accident among other dangerous results. In some cases, narcolepsy is accompanied by cataplexy, which is the loss of muscle tone.
When cataplexy occurs, it can cause temporary weakness of muscles and slurred speech. It’s triggered by strong emotions, such as happiness, excitement, surprise, or fear. Another effect of narcolepsy is sleep paralysis. This condition is the inability to move or speak while falling asleep or when waking up. Although brief, it can feel unsettling, to say the least.
Insufficient Sleep Syndrome
Insufficient sleep syndrome is the chronic state of sleep deprivation. This condition is more gradual than the onset of narcolepsy and its symptoms aren’t immediately apparent. It can affect cognitive performance, increased levels of fatigue, and mood swings.
Insufficient sleep syndrome is common in shift workers or frequent travelers. The inconsistent sleep schedule and lack of sleep for consecutive days can result in too much sleeping to try to make up for the previously missed sleep. Sleep deprivation is nothing new to the majority of Americans. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index®, there have been small improvements in sleep health based on the responses of over 12,000 adults.
However, Americans still rate a score of 68 out of 100 in sleep quality and 76 out of 100 in sleep disorders. Finding the right amount of quality sleep, whether it’s too much or not enough, is still a work in progress.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeatedly stopping and starting breathing. The most recognized form is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when throat muscles relax. When this occurs, your airway becomes blocked as you breathe in. If you’re not receiving enough air, it causes you to wake up briefly multiple times during the night. Each episode is short, but easily results in difficulty achieving quality sleep and may result in hypersomnia.
Since you’re not receiving the sleep you need at night, an increase of regular napping may occur and cause a further imbalance in your circadian rhythm. Sleep apnea often is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Since it’s normal for people with sleep apnea to forget about constantly waking up during the night, the increase in daytime sleepiness may seem temporary at first.
Narcolepsy, insufficient sleep syndrome, and sleep apnea are a few of the many causes of why you may be sleeping so much, but other lifestyle and environmental factors can play a role too. Oversleeping can make you feel continually groggy and fatigued rather than well-rested.
Although you may experience sleeping a few extra hours on the weekend every once in a while, when it becomes a persistent behavior, that’s the indicator there could be other problems involved. When you start to sleep too much, it can lead to infections, metabolic abnormalities, and feelings of depression.
Improving Sleep Wellness by Finding a Balance
Reaching that sweet spot of eight hours of sleep per night might be challenging at first, but when you are working on your sleep hygiene, aim to reach this consistent rate. To regulate your sleep, here are a few tips to try for bedtime.
Start a Sleep Schedule
Maintain sleep consistency by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. While certain circumstances may make this difficult, stick to your bedtime routine as closely as possible. For example, when traveling to a different time zone, don’t oversleep as a way to compensate for missed hours. Honoring your regular pattern helps your body follow your set sleep-wake cycle.
Track Your Sleep Behavior
Take note of the time you go to bed and how long it takes you to fall asleep. Also, monitor how long you sleep every night and how many naps you take during the day. This information will give you insight into your sleep patterns and identify any trends that call for adjustments that need to be made. The Eight Sleep app tracks advanced sleep analytics when synced up with the Smart Bed or The Pod, in addition to providing personalized coaching and challenges to help improve your sleep and track your progress.
Regulate the Ideal Sleep Environment
Finding balance in your sleep wellness routine applies to regulating the temperature of your bedroom. A cooler body temperature prompts you to fall asleep with greater ease and sleep better through the night. Too often a bedroom is too hot and poorly ventilated and prevents ample sleep from being a possibility. With the power of The Pod technology, you can adjust the temperature of your mattress and its sensors will learn your preferences and adjust as needed throughout the night so you’re never too hot or too cold.
There may be times when you wonder, “Why do I need sleep so much?” The first thing to do is take into account if your schedule or environment is abnormal. Once you begin to notice changes in your sleep behavior, take note of how often they’re occurring and make adjustments where needed.
Finding a balance is challenging for many. For instance, when we experience sleep debt, we may turn to oversleeping as a way to remedy the problem. Neither is a healthy night’s sleep behavior and both results in fatigue. Oversleeping every so often may be your body’s way of telling you it needs extra rest to fight off an illness or mitigate high levels of stress. In this case, it’s a good idea to learn effective stress relievers.
As long as wild shifts in your bedtime routine don’t become your new norm, you should be able to bounce back to a balanced state of wellness.
Sleep Well Not Necessarily More
Your sleep habits are indicative of your health and when they get off track, symptoms will begin to manifest. Oversleeping can be just as troublesome as sleep deprivation, which means it takes ongoing attention to manage how well you’re able to get a good night’s sleep. Even if you’ve become used to a sleep-wake cycle that’s under or over eight hours, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy for your body and it’ll catch up with you over time.
Take proactive measures to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, monitor your sleep behavior, and create an ideal sleep environment. By honoring your mind and body, you can inch closer to the eight-hour-per-night recommendation. Keep in mind, though, quantity doesn’t outweigh the importance of quality. The goal is to reach all stages of sleep every night without interruption. This will improve your well-being and keep you from sleeping too much.
Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181743/; https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/oversleeping-bad-for-your-health; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcolepsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20375497; https://narcolepsynetwork.org/about-narcolepsy/narcolepsy-fast-facts/; https://www.sleepfoundation.org/shi;