Oversleeping — why you shouldn’t stay in bed long

By Vladimir Marchenko & Andrew Sokol

  1. Why do I sleep so much
  2. Reasons for oversleeping
  3. Advantages of oversleeping
  4. What happens if you sleep too much
  5. The side effects of oversleeping
  6. How to avoid oversleeping

The urge to hit the snooze button and stay in bed a bit more is one of the strongest in the morning (especially in winter). However, a couple more minutes, let alone hours, spent in bed do not always lead to the expected cheerfulness and freshness. What is so wrong about snooze addiction?

Why do I sleep so much

There is no consensus among specialists in the field of sleep concerning the best wake up strategy. Some think it is more useful to put the alarm clock a little earlier and then get up a bit after the alarm went off. Others believe that it is healthier to wake up at the very last moment. However, it is very individual and may differ from night to night for the same person. Some people really like to toss and turn in bed till the last minute, while others have negative experiences connected with oversleeping. Some believe that the more you sleep, the more beneficial it is for your health, while others believe that staying in bed after 6-8 hours of sleep is unnatural and provokes drowsiness.

Of course, the duration of sleep depends on the individual characteristics of a person (age, metabolism, lifestyle). Moreover, almost everyone from time to time has a desire to stay longer in bed, especially on the weekends. Ordinary alarm clocks do not take into account the phase of sleep and, for this reason, the awakening often occurs in a deep sleep phase, which causes a feeling of sleepiness and makes it difficult to get up. If a person wakes up much earlier than the alarm clock, for example, because of the sunlight, he can easily fall asleep again without any adverse effects and wake up at the appropriate time without difficulty. On the contrary, if a person wakes up several times in the morning due to the sounds of the alarm it is not very healthy. Moreover, if in the morning he doesn’t hear the alarm clock at all it usually indicates health problems.

man damage alarm clock with hammer
Sleeping for more than 9-10 hours provokes headaches and drowsiness
(the so-called "weekend syndrome")

People who sleep too much often develop the so-called "sleep hangover." It happens due to the fact that our body uses a variety of external signals to determine the time of the day in order to produce the “correct” hormones regulating circadian rhythms. Light is one of the strongest signals for our body to determine the time of day. When a person continues to sleep, let’s say, from 8 until 10 am, his brain cannot adapt to what is happening which causes drowsiness that may in the long term lead to more serious problems.

Reasons for oversleeping

First, you need to ask yourself  "why am i sleeping so much" and generally speaking how much is too much sleep. If oversleeping occurs rarely and does not cause discomfort, there is nothing to worry about. However, if you constantly don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning and sleeping does not make you feel cheerful, you should think carefully what determines such state of yours. There are several typical reasons:

  • Presence of diseases, physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion - hormonal imbalance, diabetes, hard physical work, stress, delayed sleep, etc.;
  • Hypersomnia - excessive sleepiness, as opposed to insomnia;
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea - is a condition characterized by frequent awakenings in the middle of the night associated with the inability to breathe. As a result, sleep is intermittent and the person does not feel fresh, even if he spent 7-9 hours in bed;
  • Taking medications. This includes sleeping pills, that can cause certain side effects; you can learn more about them from the medication guides;
  • Depression can cause both the inability to fall asleep and excessive sleepiness (observed in about 15% of people suffering from depression). It is believed that a person tries to escape from his problems by falling sleep;
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder, usually occurring in winter. The lack of sunlight leads to a reduction in the absorption of vitamin D, which is responsible for metabolism and good mood. The body tries to compensate for the lack of light during sleep.

Advantages of oversleeping

David Dinges, chief of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine supposes that dosing is not a bad thing at all. Extra 10 minutes of sleep, in his opinion, allow us to wake up gradually. However, he separates light dosing in the morning from falling asleep again, as the latter induces the start of a new sleep cycle. Hence he recommends letting the brain “turn on” gradually in the morning rather than jumping out of bed straight after the alarm.

frequency of oversleeping by generation
The frequency of oversleeping by generation

Dosing can also help if there were interrupted deep NREM or REM sleep phases. In this case, it wouldn’t be possible to resume the entire 60-90 minute sleep cycle. Instead, however, you can catch up on the precious minutes by immediately entering the REM phase with the help of dosing. This state of sleep is called Dreamathon when sometimes you can “renew” an interrupted dream or even see a new dream before the alarm goes off again. Potentially, it provides a more favourable awakening, however, it is quite difficult to “catch” such state.

Disadvantages of oversleeping

Professor of medicine and former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Timothy Morgenthaler is convinced that spontaneous naps after awakening are not beneficial for the body. Drowsiness in the morning indicates that the person did not get enough sleep last night. Quality sleep consists of two phases and 4-5 stages. While dosing in the morning, a person manages to enter only 1-2 stages of NREM sleep maximum. It is not possible to go through a full sleep cycle (60-90 minutes), as delayed alarm signal will disrupt the sleep cycle at its very beginning. Hence, the quality of sleep decreases if you use snooze alarm function.

Oversleeping may cause a number of diseases, including CVS and diabetes. Scientists from the University of Cambridge have found that excessive sleep increases the risk of stroke. For about 9.5 years, nearly 10,000 people, from 42 to 81 y.o, were participating in the experiment. It turned out the risk of stroke increased by 46% for older people who slept for more than 8 hours a day.

It is ideal to get up immediately after the alarm goes off, without hitting the snooze button. This habit is very beneficial for your nervous system. As your body prepares to wake up, the production of the main sleep hormone melatonin stops. Instead, an intensive synthesis of the stress hormone cortisol is triggered, which induces the preparation of the body for the day. After turning off the alarm and continuing to doze, the brain is frustrated as it doesn’t know where to spend the “freshly prepared” cortisol and when it should induce the synthesis of melatonin again. The effects of such sleep interruption accumulate with every cycle of snoozing your alarm. By waking up and dozing off over and over again you will be finding yourself deeper and deeper in the slow sleep phase, which will cause fatigue and drowsiness after awakening. If the pattern repeats every day, the body will soon start to perceive the alarm clock signal as something negative and will be stably associating it with a possibility to sleep more, endlessly prolonging your morning nap.

You can learn more about the processes that occur in the body in this video.

The side effects of oversleeping

The side effects of excessive sleep can be roughly divided into two categories — physical and psychological. Note that in some cases it has not been fully established whether the side effect is a consequence or a cause of oversleeping.

Physical side effects include:

  • obesity;
  • diabetes;
  • headaches;
  • increased pain;
  • cardiovascular diseases;
  • the risk of developing a stroke;
  • activation of inflammatory processes.

The psychological problems are the following:

  • anxiety;
  • depression;
  • memory impairment;
  • “sleep hangover".

Thus, the side effects of excess sleeping are far more serious than the benefits we get staying a few more minutes in bed every day.

oversleeping problem

A headache after sleep can indicate serious health problems such as pathologies of the endocrine, cardiovascular and nervous systems

How to avoid oversleeping

In order to avoid excessive sleeping, you should adhere to a stable sleep schedule - go to bed and wake up at about the same time during the entire week, have a balanced work-rest routine, make your bedroom dark, silent, and comfortable, f.e. order a nice mattress, etc. Here are a few other useful recommendations:

1. Get a comprehensive physical examination. Perhaps, your constant desire to sleep is a symptom of more serious health problems, such as depression or diabetes.

2. No electronics in your sleeping area. The desire to scroll through the news feed before going to bed, answer the neverending emails, watch the latest videos and chat with friends seems to be harmless, however, it can easily steal an hour or two of your sleep. The effects of the blue screen light make it difficult to fall asleep and even more difficult to wake up.

3. Limit the number of energy drinks during the day. It’s not easy to quit drinking coffee in one night, but you can try to gradually limit its consumption. At first, stick to three cups a day, then reduce to two in the morning only, and etc. Energy drinks can be replaced with something more healthy (fresh juice or a vitamin drink);

4. Practise healthy eating. A nutritious diet is useful not only for your body as a whole but it also helps to prevent excessive sleep because you will get enough energy from the food. An unhealthy diet, on the contrary, contains either too many "empty" calories, or, conversely, lacks them.

5. Reduce alcohol consumption. Alcoholic beverages negatively affect sleep phases, cause spontaneous awakenings at night and waking up too early in the morning. Together with these effects, you feel sleep-deprived during the day and a constant desire to doze off. 

6. More light is key! Sunlight is a natural alarm clock that signals the body to wake up. It is very difficult to keep sleeping when the sun shines brightly. That’s why don’t hide from it, insteas, go towards it - into the yard, or onto the balcony.

7. Train yourself to get up without an alarm. When you regularly follow sleep routine recommendations, your body adjusts to the time of awakening / falling asleep by itself and activates the "natural alarm clock". Wakening up without an alarm will appreciably boost your energy in the morning.

good morning with young woman

However, boosting your mental health has the biggest favourable effect on your sleep. And Hypnopedia app can help you with this. There, you can choose short motivational statements, regarding every sphere of your life that you would like to pump, to be reproduced at night. They are played at the best stage of your sleep so that the motivational statements get comprehended by your brain. It occurs without waking you up. Verbal formulas enclosed in the affirmations improve mental health and have a positive effect upon awakening on productivity and other psychophysiological characteristics.

Also, Hypnopedia application has an alarm clock that captures your biometric characteristics while you sleep using Apple Watch sensors, and gently wakes you up at the most favourable moment of your sleep. The alarm clock is very accurate and one, as a rule, does not want to continue sleeping after its signal. It provides a compromise solution for those who want both: to get more sleep and sleep healthier. For these purposes, the special "smart" period lasting either 10, 20 or 30 minutes was designed. The alarm clock wakes you up within this scheduled period which gives you an opportunity to stay in bed a bit longer.

Ссылка App Store

The desire to dose in bed for a bit after the alarm clock went off is one of the normal  components of human life that usually caused by simple laziness. It periodically occurs with almost everyone and does not pose a serious health risk. It is much worse, though, if oversleeping becomes your normal routine and does not bring the expected freshness. In this case, you should, first of all, pay serious attention to your sleep hygiene, and listen to how your body feels. Based on the state of your health, you may want to consult with medical specialists about your rest and sleep schedule.

Hypnopedia Sleep Dreams Self-awareness