Is Too Much Sleep Killing You?
Excessive sleep plus prolonged sitting takes nearly as many years off of your life as drinking and smoking.
Not getting enough sleep is a huge problem for many of us, but is it possible to get too much sleep? Yes. Especially if you also sit too much during the day. When it comes to sleep, you really can get too much of a good thing.
A recent study found that sleeping more than nine hours a night, especially when paired with too much sitting during the day, may be nudging you toward an early death.
The Australian study, which focused on adults aged 45 and up, involved a variety of behaviors, including smoking, high alcohol intake, poor diet, physical inactivity, prolonged sitting, and unhealthy (short/long) sleep duration. During six years of follow-up of 231,048 participants, 15,635 deaths were registered.
Combinations involving physical inactivity, prolonged sitting, and/or long sleep duration and combinations involving smoking and high alcohol intake had the strongest associations with all-cause mortality.
If you sleep too much, sit too much (more than seven hours a day), and aren’t particularly active (less than 150 minutes a week of exercise), you’re more than four times as likely to die as someone without those habits.
More information about the study can be found in the journal PLOS Medicine.
Why do some people sleep so much?
Mary B. Mattis, LCSW, LCDC, Clinical Director of SoCo Counseling in Austin, Texas, tells Care2, “Having the urge and ability to escape into sleep for more than about nine hours a day on an on-going basis can be a sign that there is something wrong.”
While depression can cause insomnia in some people, said Mattis, it can cause others to oversleep. Too much sleep can exacerbate depression. She also said that people who are prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during the lower daylight winter months, may want to sleep more. But sleeping during those already reduced daylight hours makes SAD worse.
“If you are concerned about oversleeping, you might consider whether there are any other emotional or mood symptoms that are co-occurring with the increased need for sleep,” said Mattis. “Oversleeping can be an early sign of an episode of mood disorder or another mental illness. Early detection and treatment can prevent it from getting worse before it gets better.”
Too much sleep is also associated with obstructive sleep apnea, prescription medication use, and substance abuse, according to Scott Schreiber, a chiropractic physician in Newark, Delaware.
In addition, “Excessive sleeping can be a sign of diabetes and heart disease, both potentially fatal,” Dr. Schreiber told Care2. “Excessive sleep also limits activity and has been associated with obesity. In addition, greater incidence of headaches and back pain increase with excessive sleeping.”
So, how much should you sleep?
Dr. Schreiber suggests that most people should sleep between seven and nine hours a night. More than that is cause for concern. Additionally, “an evaluation by a health professional will make a determination if you require more sleep, or your excessive sleep is the manifestation of any of the above conditions.”
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep ranges by age:
- newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
- infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- school age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
- adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
More than that, and you just may be sleeping your life away.
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