It is very common to see social media posts on sleep, on how they love sleep and hate getting up to attend to daily chores. We have become familiar with posts like; “I wish I could be paid to sleep all day”, “I could easily win the sleep Olympics”, “My hobby is sleeping”. These posts are usually by made by millennials. We all know that; too little sleep is bad for our health and 7/8 hours has been thrown around as the optimum number of hours of sleep. How much sleep does one really need to live a healthy life? Is there anything like too much sleep? What can we do if we are sleeping too much?
Sleep is a naturally recurring state of the mind and body and it is characterized by reduced consciousness, reduced sensory ability, reduced ability to interact with the surroundings and inhibition of voluntary muscles. So, when someone is asleep, they are unable to voluntarily interact or move their bodies. The various systems of the body are usually restored during the period of sleep and it assists with improvement of the mind and body. Current research is pointing to the idea that, the brain’s waste products are gotten rid of during sleep. The National Sleep Foundation (yes this exists) recommends at least 7-9 hours of sleep each day for adults. Children generally should get way above this and the number of hours is inversely proportional to the age of the child. So, one could be sleeping excessively when he/she averages above 9 hours of sleep everyday.
Excessive sleepiness could occur when one does not get enough sleep at night, this is the most common cause of excessive sleepiness. When oversleeping becomes habitual, that is, one is always sleeping excessively, the person could be suffering from a medical condition called Hypersomnia. Persons with hypersomnia take naps during the day despite having slept throughout the night, they also complain of being constantly tired. Other causes include, sleep apnoea and narcolepsy. In sleep apnoea, the quality of sleep is reduced, the individual still feels sleepy despite having slept well at night. In Narcolepsy, the individual experiences difficulty in partaking in normal activities without being interrupted by sleep. He finds himself nodding off during meetings, while watching a movie or even while eating. It is actually a chronic brain disorder, those with this condition have issues with their sleep-wake cycles and they tend to experience sudden bouts of sleepiness. It is also very rare.
Oversleeping makes a mess of our Circadian rhythm and affects us physically, mentally and behaviourally. This results in symptoms such as fatigue and more sleepiness. Excessive sleepiness has a lot of drawbacks and complications. These include:
- Increased danger of experiencing depressive symptoms.
- Weight gain leading to obesity.
- Decreased memory and quick brain aging.
- Increases the risk of having dementia.
- Increases the risk of developing Diabetes mellitus.
- Increased risk of heart disease.
- Low back pain.
- Decreased productivity.
However, there are ways of dealing with oversleeping. It is important first and foremost to consult a physician, as the cause of the excessive sleepiness could be a treatable condition such as sleeping sickness. Also, excessive sleepiness might be a side-effect of a drug, so you might need to discuss with your Doctor, he could prescribe an alternative. It is also important to observe sleep hygiene and this entails: establishing a sleep schedule and sticking to it, sleeping in a quiet dark room free of distractions (TV, smartphones, game consoles, music), avoid drinking any stimulants (alcohol, coffee, caffeinated drinks) close to bedtime and making sure the bed is used for sleeping only. It is also important to keep our alarm clocks faraway from arm’s reach.
The age-old and time-tested axiom, “Too much of anything is bad”, also applies to sleep. Too much sleep is bad for our health and so we should endeavour to sleep for the optimum number of hours, that will enable us function productively and live healthy lives.