The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people’s daily routines, including their sleep schedules, to change dramatically. While it may feel like sleep quality is decreasing, overall, a study from late March 2020 found that, compared to mid-February 2020 (when there were only 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S.), sleep quality actually improved for non-shift workers. This is likely due to the reduction of early morning commitments and stressful, work-related deadlines.
Our sleep is resilient. For example, another study found that from 1990-1991, during the Persian Gulf War, locals experienced no objective sleep quality declines. Better sleep is certainly a silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic, but an overall improvement in sleep quality begs the question: Can we ever get too much sleep? Can too much sleep have a negative impact on our bodies?
The Answer is…
Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a day — no more, no less. There are exceptions, but they are just that: rare exceptions, not the rule. Sleeping too little can be a sign of a larger issue — and so can sleeping too much. So, if an adult you know regularly sleeps 10+ hours a night, it’s worth diving into not whether they “need” that much sleep, but why they are sleeping that much in the first place.
How Can Sleeping Too Much Be Harmful?
Sleeping too much is associated with the following health concerns:
- Depression — The link between sleep and mood is complex. Sleeping too much is a known indicator of depression. What’s more, people who experience depression are more likely to develop a sleep disorder, and people with sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea are more likely to experience depression.
- Obesity — Since obesity is often a sign of another issue, people who sleep too much may have an obesity-related condition that is causing excessive sleep, such as depression, cancer, or type 2 diabetes.
- Heart Disease — Sleeping too much may increase inflammation levels in the body, which is associated with heart disease.
- Type 2 Diabetes — It’s all interconnected: 85% of diabetics are overweight, and as we touched on above, obesity is associated with conditions that may cause a person to oversleep.
- Headaches: Scientists have multiple hypotheses for why oversleeping causes headaches, but one key explanation could be that when you sleep past your normal wake time, your body misses out on the food, coffee, and water it’s used to receiving. Accordingly, you experience mild dehydration and malnourishment, causing that pounding sensation until you get some sustenance in you.
Overall, we’re ALL for people getting more sleep, as one-third of Americans are sleep-deprived. Our intention is not to scare you away from sleeping more! For most people, the extra zzz’s granted by the coronavirus pandemic are welcome and much-needed. But consistent oversleeping of 10 hours or more should be evaluated by a medical professional such as your primary care practitioner to determine any underlying conditions that might be contributing to excessive rest.
Additionally, remember that sleep quality is different from sleep quantity. It’s possible for a person to lay in bed for ten hours but only be truly asleep for six of those hours. In fact, this is often the case for people with obstructive sleep apnea — while they may be “asleep” for several hours, their sleep quality is actually very low due to frequent apneas, or cessations in breathing, disturbing their sleep cycles
What to Do About Excess Sleep
Dr. Jeff Rodgers has been helping patients in the Atlanta area for over 20 years determining the root cause of their sleep issues, treating sleep apnea through oral appliance therapy. Oral appliances allow sleep apnea sufferers to breathe normally at night and get the quality sleep that’s needed to feel focused and energized throughout the day. Right now, Dr. Rodgers is offering free sleep apnea screenings, which you can schedule by clicking here.