Are you getting enough sleep?
No one ever asks me how much sleep is too much sleep! It’s usually “why can’t I sleep?” Followed by “I need some sleep medication…”
The truth is that most people sleep too much…and that’s as bad, if not worse, than not getting enough sleep.
Sleep Needs Change With Age
Although sleep needs may vary from person to person, The National Sleep Foundation recommends these targets for making sure you’re getting an adequate amount.
- Adults (18-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
Most people know that not getting enough sleep can be bad for us. It is linked to a number of chronic diseases, not to mention irritability and sluggishness during the day.
But did you know that sleeping too much could also be problematic? Oversleeping is associated with many health problems, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Greater risk of dying from a medical condition
Does that mean sleeping too much will make you sick?
Not necessarily, says Vsevolod Polotsky, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“We don’t exactly know the cause and effect,” he says. “It probably works the other way, that when you are sick, it leads to more sleep time.”
Does sleeping too much actually contribute to illness, or is it a sign of an existing condition?
Either way, if you find yourself always nodding off or looking for the next nap, it might be time to see your doctor.
How Much Sleep Is Too Much?
- In general, experts recommend that healthy adults get an average of 7 to 9 hours per night of shuteye.
If you regularly need more than 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested, it might be a sign of an underlying problem.
What’s Making You So Tired?
Many people find themselves sleeping more as they get older, and assume it’s a normal part of aging.
But getting older shouldn’t change your sleep needs dramatically.
A number of conditions can disrupt sleep or interfere with the quality of your slumber, leading you to feel tired and sluggish even after spending 8 hours in bed.
Those conditions include:
➡ Restless legs syndrome, a brain disorder that causes an unpleasant and sometimes overwhelming urge to move your legs when you’re at rest
➡ Bruxism, where you grind or clench your teeth during sleep
➡ Chronic pain
➡ Certain medications
Then there are conditions that don’t significantly impair the quality of your sleep but increase the amount of sleep you need. Those include:
➡ Narcolepsy, a brain disorder that interferes with the body’s sleep-wake cycles
➡ Delayed sleep phase syndrome, a disorder in which your circadian rhythm, or biological clock, keeps you up into the wee hours, making it hard to wake in the morning
➡ Idiopathic hypersomnia, a disorder that causes excessive sleepiness for unknown reasons
Fortunately, there are treatments for many of these conditions, which can help improve the quality of your sleep.
If you’ve ruled out those conditions and are still hitting the snooze button after 9 hours under the covers, it might be a clue that you have an underlying medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes or depression.
Should you have a Sleep Study?
If you’re an over-sleeper, I recommend checking in with your doctor.
They might recommend a sleep study to rule out a disorder.
Often some disorders cannot be identified with a normal office visit, and your doctor needs to gather more conclusive evidence while you’re asleep.
- A sleep study is a non-invasive, overnight exam performed in a sleep lab set up for overnight stays.
➡ You’ll be asked to arrive roughly two hours before bedtime. You can bring personal items related to sleep, and you can sleep in your own pajamas.
➡ While you sleep, a **EEG monitors your sleep stages and the cycles of REM and nonREM sleep you go through during the night, to find possible disruptions in the pattern of your sleep.
It will also measure things such as eye movements, oxygen levels in your blood (through a sensor—there are no needles involved), heart and breathing rates, snoring, and body movements.
**An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain using small, flat metal discs (electrodes) attached to your scalp.
Our brain cells communicate via electrical impulses and are active all the time, even when you’re asleep.
➡ Before you go to bed in the exam room a technologist will place sensors, or electrodes, on your head and body, but you’ll still have plenty of room to move and get comfortable.
➡ **Polysomnographic technologists monitor you during the night and can help you if you need to use the bathroom, for example.
**A sleep technician, also known as a polysomnographic technician, performs tests and collects data on patients with sleep disorders. *
Don’t worry about how many hours of sleep you’ll get. A full night of sleep is not required to gather useful information from your sleep study.
The data from your sleep study will usually be taken by a technologist, and later evaluated by your doctor and a follow-up visit will be scheduled to discuss your results and potential treatments.
Remember 2 things:
1. The amount of sleep you get or don’t get affects every organ in your body, head to toe
2. Never take unnecessary risks with your body. You are here for a reason.