If too little sleep messes up your body and makes you function at a lesser capacity, does it follow that too much sleep is good? Definitely not.
Sleep is an important part of life and you should really take it seriously, making sure you’re getting the number of hours that your body needs. However, too much sleep can also be harmful, and you shouldn’t overdo it. The key therefore is balance. Too little or too much sleep can be equally harmful, so the key is striking that balance and getting the quantity that’s just right.
How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting
There is no magic formula to determine the number of hours you should spend on your bed, but sleep experts generally agree that seven to nine hours of sleep per night is optimal for healthy adults. This is the normal range, but the optimal number hours actually differ from one person to another, and this can be affected by certain factors like how old you are.
Growing children require more hours of sleep in a day because their bodies are still developing. On the other hand, adults don’t need as much sleep but tend to underestimate and take for granted the quantity and quality of sleep that they do need. To be absolutely clear on this matter, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep ranges based on one’s age:
- Newborns (0-3 months old) – 14-17 hours per day
- Infants (4-11 months old) – 12-15 hours per day
- Toddlers (1-2 years old) – 11-14 hours per day
- Preschoolers (3-5 years old) – 10-13 hours per day
- School-age children (6-13 years old) – 9-11 hours per day
- Teenagers (14-17 years old) – 8-10 hours per day
- Young adults (18-25 years old) – 7-9 hours per day
- Adults (26-64 years old) – 7-9 hours per day
- Other adults (65+ years old) – 7-8 hours per day
These optimal sleeping times were reached after a world-class research study that involved eighteen leading scientists and NSF’s expert panel. Depending on how old you are, following these optimal sleeping times will help you in ensuring that you’re getting the right quantity – not too little, but not too much either.
Why Oversleeping Can Be Harmful
Sleep is needed so that our mind and body can recharge, but if we sleep for too many hours, why does it become harmful? First of all, too much of anything is always a bad thing, and that includes sleep. The irony here is that some of the side effects that you experience when you’re sleep deprived, you also experience when you lack sleep.
Take certain illnesses for instance. When you don’t sleep for enough hours every night, you dramatically increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. When you sleep too much, you also become more prone to headaches. You’ll notice this when you lack sleep as well, but too much sleep affects the neurotransmitters in your brain and this will give you some headaches the following day. Too much sleep can also lead to back pain, especially for those with existing back problems. Naturally, another very important factor that could contribute to this is the quality of your mattress.
Sleeping too much can also lead to further depression. Those who are suffering from depression tend to oversleep, and oversleeping makes it worse. So this is a cycle that needs to be broken.
Why Do People Oversleep?
Oversleeping, like lack of sleep, can be harmful to the health. But why do people do it in the first place? It’s important to note here that oversleeping can actually be a serious medical condition, and as such it needs to be treated. When you’re suffering from hypersomnia, you’re excessively sleepy during the day and you cannot relieve this by napping. You also suffer from low energy, anxiety, and memory problems.
However, not all those who oversleep suffer from hypersomnia. There are times when oversleeping is a sign that you’re suffering from another illness, but there are also many other reasons why people tend to oversleep. Here are some of them:
Periods of stress
When you’re going through a tough time in your life, you tend to just want to sleep it off. This is perfectly understandable, and is especially seen among those suffering from grief or currently fighting emotional battles that drain all of their energy.
Recovering from illnesses
People also tend to oversleep when they’re on the road to recovery. This is because your body just fought (or is fighting) a war, and it’s exhausted. When you’re just recovering from that war, you tend to sleep more.
If you’ve had too much alcohol the night before, you will tend to oversleep and this is perfectly normally because alcohol is a depressant. Just make sure you don’t overdo it, and be prepared for the hangover when you wake up.