How Much Sleep is Too Much Sleep?

With busy schedules and hectic lifestyles, people are often concerned about the amount of sleep they get. On the other end of the spectrum, parents worry that their teenagers sleep too long on weekends, and other adults wonder if their make-up sleep is detrimental to their health. The amount of sleep needed varies by age, activity level, lifestyle and other factors. Children need more sleep than adults, and the elderly sleep longer with daytime naps. Individual circadian rhythms change over time as personal needs adapt to new energy levels. The National Sleep Foundation shows a chart of the average amounts of sleep needed by age groups and discusses the effects of too little and too much sleep.

The extent of research on oversleeping is limited, but scientists have found some correlations between longer sleep periods and mortality rates. Those who sleep longer tend to suffer from more illnesses than those who receive eight uninterrupted hours every night. According to governmental statistics from 2010, most men and women get at least eight hours of sleep on average. A small study of 669 adults resulted in lower numbers. The participants of this study tracked their times spent in bed and asleep for three days. The results showed an average sleeping time of 6.1 hours, which is less than the recommended seven to nine hours for adults. Science Daily discusses the sleep pattern variations between gender, race and socioeconomic status.

Certain medical conditions, such as hypersomnia, cause people to feel tired throughout the day and sleep for long durations without feeling rested upon waking. Other individuals sleep for longer periods due to substances, depression, prescriptions or temporary illnesses. Some people just enjoy sleep and take advantage of any time that allows them to stay in bed.

Researchers speculate that sleeping too much can pose some of the same risks as sleep deprivation. Data accumulated over time shows that people who oversleep on a regular basis have increased risks for illnesses and accidents. Studies have linked oversleeping to diabetes, heart disease, and higher mortality risks. Due to the effect sleep has on neurotransmitters, some people report frequent headaches after sleeping for more than nine hours every day. There is not sufficient research to make any claims that too much sleep causes any of these effects, but some scientists think that oversleeping could be a symptom of underlying health problems.

There is not a single formula used to calculate the amount of sleep a person needs or how much is too much. Currently, scientists are researching contributing factors and possible genes that determine a person’s sleep needs. While the actual effects of oversleeping are unclear, individuals should consult a medical expert if they are sleeping more than the recommended amount on a frequent basis. Sleeping late on weekends to make up for lost sleep during the week will not cause any health problems, but a habit of long sleep durations may be a sign of something more serious. For the healthy American, it is best to strive for at least seven hours every night and adjust for more time if this amount is insufficient.


Ellen Davidson’s passion for reading, insurance, health and nutrition has allowed her to pursue a career in writing. She is currently a staff writer for an  Alternative Group Health Insurance Medicine site.

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