By Paul Jordan
Experts recommend you should get around 7 to 9 hours sleep per night. But what if you get more than that? Does anything happen to you? Can getting too much sleep ever become a real issue?
Oversleeping has been a problem of mine for many years. Despite trying out many products and resources aimed at curing insomnia, I found hardly any even mentioned oversleeping.
After a bit of research I discovered I was definitely not alone. For a problem so many people suffer with, it’s surprising so little information is available out there. But after lots of trial and error, bit by bit, I finally overcame my oversleeping.
So here it is, the Sleep Habits article on oversleeping. We’ll start by looking at the causes and effects of oversleeping. I’ll then share with you the methods I used to end my oversleeping problem which you can take away and use to stop oversleeping also.
Causes of Oversleeping
Oversleeping has three main causes. A lack of sleep, the timing of sleep, and your own mindset.
Not getting enough sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep during the night, varying from person to person, you’ll find it hard if not virtually impossible to get up in the morning.
Lack of sleep can be caused by poor quality sleep, not getting enough hours sleep or having an abnormal need for sleep. You can read more about this in the lack of sleep article.
If you haven’t had enough sleep, you wouldn’t have paid off all your “sleep debt” and so must put in more hours of sleep to pay it off.
Sleeping in because of a lack of sleep isn’t really oversleeping. It just appears that way. Teenagers need more sleep when going through puberty. So while it might seem like they’re oversleeping, they’re only getting the sleep they need.
But if you regularly sleep more 9 hours as an adult or 10 as a teenager, it’s fair to say you’re oversleeping.
Having a poor sleep schedule
A strong sleep schedule is key to falling asleep and waking up in the morning. It brings your body out of its deep sleep to feel bright, alert and ready to start the day.
When your internal body clock is on track, you’ll find yourself naturally waking up in morning without the need for an alarm clock. When it goes off track, unless you’ve got a very loud alarm clock and a heck of a lot of willpower, you’ve got no chance!
This often associated with delayed sleep phase syndrome, where your sleep schedule gets pushed back later and later so you end up going to bed later and as a result also wake up later.
A poor mindset
Essentially anything that makes you want to stay in bed rather than get up. Winter often has this effect. You need to give yourself a really good reason to get out of your warm bed and into the cold!
A poor mindset can be caused by:
- Lack of motivation
If you suffer from SAD or Seasonal affective disorder, you may find waking up early in the morning when it’s still dark outside especially difficult.
Effects of Oversleeping
Surprisingly, getting too much sleep comes with a whole host of negative side effects, both physically and psychologically.
Warning: This section gets pretty nasty. If you just want to find out how to stop oversleeping and don’t need the gory bits to motivate you, skip straight to the next section.
Here’s a list of the many physical effects that can be linked to oversleeping:
- Putting on weight – Your body can’t make good use of the energy gained from food when you’re sleeping so it’s forced store it as fat. The longer you sleep, the less energy you’ll need. This can be made worse if you have a big meal late in the evening. If you don’t give your body chance to burn it off, it’s forced to store it as fat.
- Headaches – Really common! It’s believed to caused by the effect that too much REM sleep has on the neurotransmitters in the brain. REM occurs more during the later stages of sleep, just before you wake up. So the more you sleep in, the more REM sleep you’ll receive. Dehydration can also be a factor.
- Back pain – Unless you’ve got one of those funky memory foam mattresses, laying in bed for too long will eventually lead to back pain. Plus, people prone to back pain are encouraged to keep active and obviously you’re not keeping active if you’re in bed!
- Heart disease – Research shows a link between people who sleep 9 to 11 hours per night and a 38% increased chance of coronary heart disease. The reason for this link is not fully understood, but it could be linked the increased risk of obesity from oversleeping.
- Death – Undeniably the most serious effect! People who sleep 9 or more hours per night have a higher death rate than those who sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. The reason for this is thought to be down to the psychological effects associated with oversleeping although it’s still a bit of a mystery.
Along with the physical, there’s quite a lot of negative psychological effects related to oversleeping.
When you oversleep, there’s no denying you’re just wasting time on something that is actually unhealthy for you. So when you wake up and see exactly how much time you’ve wasted, it’s hard not to feel pretty rubbish.
The feeling isn’t helped by the fact you know you’ll have difficulty getting to sleep that night. Especially annoying if you’re doing your best to keep up a steady sleep pattern.
Oversleeping and missing appointments and social activities can be a real problem. I actually overslept and missed my first lecture at university. Not a good start! Thankfully it was only maths.
When you’ve overslept, it’s hard to get stuck into work and make a success of the rest of the day. Besides feeling rubbish, your mind feels foggy and clogged. I remember thinking that I would probably feel better with just 4 hours sleep rather than oversleeping by just a few hours.
Getting enough sleep is like hitting the bullseye on a dartboard. Miss by not getting enough sleep, and you’ll feel sleep deprived for the rest of the day. But miss by getting too much sleep, and you seem to have almost the same effect, if not worse.
So unsurprisingly, depression is commonly linked with oversleeping. A study has shown 15% of people with depression sleep too much. Although it’s hard to say if this is a result of oversleeping or if oversleeping is just one of the symptoms. Either way, it sure doesn’t help.
Interestingly, sleep deprivation is actually used to treat depression. So if you’re feeling down, getting an early start on the day may help you feel better.
How to Stop Oversleeping
Most of the cures for oversleeping are actually pretty simple, but they do the trick.
The main problem people have with oversleeping, just like with insomnia, is just not knowing what to do to cure it. Once you’ve found the right treatment for you, it’s just a matter of sticking with it.
You can use them all of the suggestions below or just one or two. Pick the ones that feel right to you.
Change the way you feel about sleep
Understand what sleep actually is and what it’s there for. You need it to survive and function. The less sleep you need to survive and function, the better.
The problem is that too many people fall in love with sleep. They love the feeling of being nice and comfy in bed. And that’s great, but getting too much sleep has plenty of nasty effects.
Getting the right amount of sleep is a bit of a balancing act. It needs to be within the 7 to 9 hours range, although it changes from person to person. Anything more or less than what you need and you’re not getting the right amount of sleep.
You can’t just “sleep the sleep off”. Any more or less than what you need and you’ll feel rubbish and have the nasty side effects that come with it.
Create the intention when you go to bed to receive just the right amount of sleep you need. When you wake up at the right time, know that your need for sleep has been fulfilled and that it’s time to wake up and start the day.
Plan your day
By planning your days, you’ll a give yourself a good reason to get up. If you don’t plan anything, it’s all too easy to think “what’s the point of getting up” and just go back to sleep.
Creating a task list at the end of each day for what you’d like to achieve tomorrow really helps you get up in the morning. As soon as you wake up, take a look at your task list and you’ll immediately have loads of reasons why getting up straight away would be a really good idea.
I’m a bit of a productivity freak so I’ve tried pretty much every to do list software and system out there but my current favorite is Toodledo. I tend to use my online task list as a central repository for my tasks and my paper notepad for what I need to get done today, but there’s tons of time management techniques out there. David Allen’s book Getting Things Done is home to one of the most popular time management systems. So if you’re new to time management, David Allen’s book is a great place to start.
If you have nothing to do, make it your goal to find something to do. Start a new project, find new clubs and activities that interest you, discover what you want to do in life and find out what you can to do to achieve it. Head down to your local library and find books on discovering your purpose in life. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so allow yourself to take things one step at a time.
Optimise your wake up routine
You should only wake up when you’ve had enough hours sleep. So set your alarm clock to go off once you’ve had 7 to 9 hours sleep. Not before and not after. If you need to wake up before this time, consider making a habit of going to bed earlier.
As soon as you wake up, open your curtains to let in as much natural light as possible. This lets your body natural rhythm know that it’s morning and stops melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. I talk about this much more in the article how to wake up in the morning feeling more alert.
A great way of optimising your wake up routine is to actually practise it, just like you would rehearse for a stage play. You can do this by setting your alarm clock to go off in a few minutes time, going to bed and getting up as soon as it goes off. Do this 10 times and I guarantee you’ll find it much easier to wake up and get out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off. It works by getting your brain to associate the sound of the alarm with waking up, to the point where waking up becomes a completely automatic response to the sound of your alarm. It’s spooky how well this works. The next article in this series How to Get Up As Soon As Your Alarm Goes Off explains this technique in more detail.
Practising this technique physically is one way, but you can also do it just as effectively, if not more so, in your mind. Donna Lee’s Wake Up Fresh & Alert hypnosis download guides you through this very same method, contained within a deeply relaxing 30 minute audio session. The benefit of hypnosis is that when you’re relaxed, you’re subconscious is easier to access, and this is where you want to store the habit of waking up when your alarm goes off. It’s not free, but it can offer you a fast track way to stop oversleeping.
Have a strong sleep schedule
Having a regular predictable sleep schedule makes it much easier for your body to wake up and go to sleep each night.
Your natural sleep cycle works with your body’s natural processes to help you wake up in the morning. But if you wake up at different times each morning, your internal body clock has no way of calibrating itself to know when it’s the right time to wake up. If you don’t even know what time you’re going to wake up in the morning, your body clock has no chance!
If you’ve got a problem with oversleeping, it can be hard to imagine waking up full of energy in the morning. But once you’ve got a good sleep schedule, that’s just what naturally happens.
Some people find it easier than others to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Just like some people are more prone to insomnia than others. But the concepts of sticking to a good sleep schedule are the same for everyone so it’s a skill you can master with a bit of practice.
Oversleeping can be a real problem and the effects may be worse than you might have thought. Once you’ve cured it though, as long as you stick to the changes, oversleeping will be a thing of the past. If all else fails, you can always build yourself your own mega alarm clock.