Can you sleep too much?

Here's how to tell if you're getting an unhealthy amount of shut-eye

Can you sleep too much?

Source: Web exclusive: October 2009

Sleeping for more than eight hours is considered a luxury for most of us’but is there such a thing as getting too much sleep? We asked Helen Driver, a Kingston, Ont.-based sleep researcher and president of the Canadian Sleep Society, to help us answer this toughie.

You’re not sleeping too much if…

You naturally need more sleep
Just as there are people who can thrive on less than eight hours of sleep every night, there are some who need much more shut-eye. "There are naturally people who are long sleepers and know they cannot function without getting nine hours of sleep every night," says Driver.

What Driver classifies as a long sleeper isn’t someone who suffers from a sleeping disorder. "One needs to separate someone who’s just a natural longer sleeper from someone who’s having disturbed sleep that’s causing them to feel sleepy during the day," she says. If you sleep for more than eight hours and wake up feeling refreshed, you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you.

You’ve had a few late nights
If your best friend just got married or you recently finished a major proposal at work, it’s natural to sleep more in order to make up for lost z’s. ‘For most of us, our body goes through cycles and adapts and catches up [on sleep] pretty well,’ says Driver.

Though you can’t catch up hour-for-hour on lost sleep, you can go through a recovery period when you’ll want to sleep for longer periods of time.

Driver says it’s okay to periodically sleep longer if you need time to bounce back from an all-nighter, but don’t make it a habit. ‘In the long term, it’s better to stick to as regular a schedule as you can because it does put a stress on the body to constantly [wake up at different times],’ she says.

You may be sleeping too much if…

You feel sleepy during the day
If you are waking up feeling groggy after a long period, an underlying condition could be to blame. "That’s where a clinical consult needs to come in," says Driver. A sleep professional would want to determine if a person is snoring, which is a sign of sleep apnea, or if they’re kicking their legs every 20 minutes, she adds.

You feel depressed
Excessive sleep is a symptom of depression. If you’re reluctant to wake up and face the day or feelings of hopelessness are driving you to sleep long hours, it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional.

You’re overweight
Sleepiness is associated with obesity. A 2008 study published in the journal Sleep found that mice who were fed a high-fat diet slept more when they gained weight and less when they were made to lose the extra fat.

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