When it comes to sleep, can you have too much of a good thing? It's true a good night's sleep is essential for health. But oversleeping has been linked to a host of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and increased risk of death.
Researchers are careful to note, however, that two other factors -- depression and low socioeconomic status -- are strongly associated with oversleeping. Those two factors may be the reason for the observed negative health effects. For example, people of lower socioeconomic status may have less access to health care and therefore more undiagnosed illnesses, such as heart disease, which, in turn, may cause oversleeping.
The amount of sleep you need varies significantly over the course of your lifetime. It depends on your age and activity level as well as your general health and lifestyle habits. For instance, during periods of stress or illness, you may feel an increased need for sleep. But although sleep needs differ over time and from person to person, experts typically recommend that adults should sleep between seven and nine hours each night.
For people who suffer from hypersomnia, oversleeping is actually a medical disorder. The condition causes people to suffer from extreme sleepiness throughout the day, which is not usually relieved by napping. It also causes them to sleep for unusually long periods of time at night. Many people with hypersomnia experience symptoms of anxiety, low energy, and memory problems as a result of their almost constant need for sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes people to stop breathing momentarily during sleep, can also lead to an increased need for sleep. That's because it disrupts the normal sleep cycle.
Of course, not everyone who oversleeps has a sleep disorder. Other possible causes of oversleeping include the use of certain substances, such as alcohol and some prescription medications. Other medical conditions, including depression, can cause people to oversleep. And then there are people who simply want to sleep a lot.