We often hear a lot about how lack of sleep affects our physical and mental health, but oversleeping can also lead to health issues. According to recent statistics from SingleCare, more than 50 million adults in the US have a sleep disorder -- whether undersleeping or oversleeping. The average adult needs anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep each night, so consistently getting anything under or over that can put you at risk of developing chronic health problems.
Here are common culprits of oversleeping and how you can get your sleeping habits back on track. For more advice on getting better rest, here are the best foods for better sleep and how GABA supplements might be a good alternative to melatonin.
Common causes of excessive sleep and fatigue
If you've asked yourself, "Why am I sleeping so much?" know there are several causes for excessive sleeping. It could be due to stress, diet, jet lag or another reason entirely. Here we'll discuss why you might sleep all day and how to combat it.
Sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are common reasons for sleepless nights. When you don't get enough rest during the night, you might want to take a nap or try to make up for it with more hours of sleep during the day. With insomnia, you'll experience bouts of an inability to sleep properly, which can sometimes be treated with things like prescriptions or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Sleep apnea is a breathing condition that can interrupt sleep, often treated by various breathing apparatuses like a CPAP machine. Restless leg syndrome is exactly what it sounds like and can make it hard to sleep soundly because you need to move your legs. This, too, can be treated with prescription medications from your doctor.
Jet lag throws your circadian rhythm out of whack. This happens when you travel across time zones or have a daily routine that doesn't coincide with your natural sleep-wake cycle. If you've ever flown from the US to Europe, you probably had to take a few days to return to your normal sleep schedule.
During this period of jet lag, you might find it hard to fall asleep and experience other periods of sleeping in the daytime. Ideally, if you can plan your travel for a day or two before you have to return to work, it can help you iron out your schedule, but your best bet is to force yourself to stay awake through the day and go to bed at night.
Anxiety or stress
According to Harvard Health, stress and anxiety have been linked to poor sleep. Often, people who are anxious or stressed out will have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Because of this disruption to a steady sleep schedule, these people will also occasionally find themselves sleeping too much as their body tries to make up for the lost sleep.
There are a few ways to improve sleep if anxiety and stress are the issues, mainly by improving your sleep hygiene. That means setting yourself up for success at bedtime by creating ideal sleep conditions -- a dark bedroom with a comfortable temperature and no screens. It may also help to exercise earlier in the day to wear you out more and avoid stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, and certain foods.
While you may have been told that eating turkey on Thanksgiving makes you tired, thanks to the tryptophan, it's probably in your head. While tryptophan can make you sleepy, the tryptophan in turkey doesn't work that way because of the amino acids involved.
That doesn't mean there isn't still a link between food and sleep, however: It's possible to experience excess sleepiness after eating large amounts of carbohydrates or protein, as those take a while for the body to digest, and that work makes your system tired. You may also feel extra tired after you eat a large meal for a similar reason. Instead, eat smaller meals (not too close to bedtime) and don't overeat problematic foods like sugar or pasta.
Several medical conditions can affect sleep, including depression, heart disease, and some cancers. Research has linked some illnesses to sleep because they affect your brain. A disruption in brain function can manifest in either a lack of sleep or too much sleep, depending on how your medical condition affects you. While it can be difficult to pinpoint why you're sleeping too much, if it persists and you can't figure out a cause, it could be one of these more serious concerns. If that's the case, seeing your doctor to discuss what may be happening is important.
Plenty of medications can actually make you tired (just like some can cause insomnia). Those that can tire you include antihistamines, antidepressants, muscle relaxers, proton-pump inhibitors and beta blockers. While some of these medications are helpful in their ability to induce sleep -- like a muscle relaxer or antidepressant -- others can disrupt your sleep schedule to the point of becoming a larger problem. If you're currently taking a medication that's interfering with your sleep and making you sleep too much, discuss it with your doctor to see if there might be a different medication to take.
In general, when you hurt yourself -- if you break a bone or pull a muscle, for example -- you might feel extra tired. This is a good thing, though. Your body has to do a lot of hard work to heal, which can make you tired. This may also be exacerbated by painkillers you might be taking, which often will also induce sleep. On the flip side, there are times when an injury disrupts your sleep because of the pain. There aren't many ways to work through that other than making sure your bed is set up comfortably and having your doctor outline a pain regimen that can help you rest at night.
The wrong mattress or pillows
Your mattress has a lot to do with how you sleep at night, and it's important to find a mattress suited to your sleeper type. People who sleep on their backs need a different mattress and pillow setup from those who sleep on their stomachs or sides.
Pillows and mattresses have different firmness levels, which you should choose based on your preferred sleep positions. If you're a stomach sleeper and have a firm pillow, you may not sleep well because of the pain. The first step toward getting your setup right is knowing which type of sleeper you are and setting your bed up accordingly.
Drinking excessive alcohol or caffeine
You already know caffeine can wreak havoc on your sleep because it's a stimulant. If you have caffeine too late in the day, you may not be able to sleep well. That means you might wake up groggy and have more caffeine, putting yourself on an endless cycle of tiredness that can lead to a crash of oversleeping. Alcohol, on the other hand, might make you fall asleep easily, but you most likely won't sleep well (and probably won't wake up feeling great). This disrupted sleep can also mean you'll sleep too much later to make up for it. To avoid either of these issues, limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, especially late in the day.
Even if you're someone who thinks they can sleep anywhere, most likely, it won't be quality sleep. If you're sleeping in a poor sleep environment, you might get bad quality sleep, which will mean making up for it later and feeling fatigued until you do. A good sleep environment is a relaxing dark room with a comfortable temperature and no screens. You might sleep soundly if you use a diffuser with lavender essential oil or a white noise machine.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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