Sleep Addiction and Oversleeping

4 Aug

What is Sleep Addiction?

“Sleep addiction” is sometimes used to describe a persons behavior who sleeps too much and seems unable or unwilling to change their sleeping patterns.

The phrase itself is not used professionally nor is there an addiction or disorder that goes by the same name. It is not recognized as a physical or psychiatric disorder by any medical establishment.

Identifying the reason that a person appears to be addicted to sleep is the real key here and we will look at a number of probable causes. I am going to make the assumption that many people people looking up information online about sleep addiction are actually dealing with a person who is suffering from depression, but there are other causes as well, such as Hypersomnia, a disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness.

In this article we will look at the problem of sleeping too much, disorders and conditions characterized by excessive sleepiness or extreme drowsiness, as well as how to get help for these problems.

But first, let’s look at what happens when you sleep too much.

What are the Effects of Sleeping Too Much?

Oversleeping is associated with a number of negative problems, from the relatively minor to the very serious.

People sleeping too much may find themselves with lower energy levels, headaches and, ironically, suffer from sleepiness and fatigue throughout the day.

It’s important to note that in some cases separating cause from effect here can be….muddled. For instance, does over sleeping contribute to depression or does depression contribute to oversleeping? Or are both oversleeping and depression the effect of a larger underlying cause? Furthermore, once a person is experiencing both, could they act to reinforce the other as a feedback loop? It’s a good idea to keep an analytical mind when looking at the associations between behaviors.

More striking are the correlations noted between over sleeping and more serious health problems.

Diabetes and Sleeping Too Much
In a study involving of approximately 9,000 people, researchers concluded that those who slept more than 9 hours a night had a 50% greater risk of diabetes versus those who slept just 7 hours a night. (Interestingly, the same study found those sleeping under 5 hours a night also had an increased risk of diabetes.) The connection here is not understood but it may be that the underlying health issues that contribute to diabetes also contribute to excessive sleep. (Source 1)

Obesity and Sleeping Too Much
A study looking at sleep patterns and data over 6 years showed that people sleeping 9-10 hours each night were over 20% more likely to become obese over the same period versus those who slept between 7-9 hours. What’s interesting to note is that the study showed this to be true even when you took into consideration what people were eating and how much exercise they did. (Source 1)

Heart Disease and Sleeping Too Much
A health study with an impressive 72,000 women deduced that sleeping between 9-11 hours a night were almost 40% more likely to have coranary heart disease compared to women who sleep only 8 hours each night. The studied offered no conclusions as to why this is.(Source 1)

Oversleeping and…Death?
Overlapping studies show a connection between people sleeping 9+ hours a night and notably higher death rates – what gives? The studies don’t offer concrete conclusions, but the researchers speculate that it’s due to two other factors associated with longer sleep: depression and a low socioeconomic status. From this the implication is that depressed people, who tend to sleep longer, without access to health care are going to have higher death rates than those who aren’t depressed and have money for health care. Therefore, the data shows this odd connection between sleeping longer hours and dying. (Note that this is a different topic that dying in your sleep.) (Source 1)



How Much Sleep Should I Get?

How much sleep you need depends on a bunch of different factors such as your age, gender, health, and how active you are. Specifics aside, here are some generalizations based on your age and the ideal amount of sleep you need to be functionable, healthy, and alert. (Source 2)

How Much Sleep Do You Need? | Source:  NSF

Why Do People Oversleep?

Here are a look at some of the causes of oversleeping or “sleep addiction”, if you’d like to call it that.

Depression.

About 15% of people with depression oversleep. (Source 1) I suspect – and I could be wrong – that many if not most of the people who come here for information about sleep addiction are doing so out of a concern for a loved one, such as teenaged child or their partner, who may be sleeping far too much. Again, I suspect that in many of these cases, it could be depression related. There are other causes but they tend to be rarer than depression. In any event, this person needs to have a medical evaluation to determine the true cause.



Hypersomnia.

Hypersomnia is a disorder in which a person is tired all or nearly all the time, despite not being sleep deprived.

Hypersomnia symptoms include anxiety, irritability, lack of energy, restlessness, impaired thinking and speech, loss of appetite, loss of memory, and even hallucinations.

Hypersomnia is uncommon. It occurs mostly between 15 and 30 years of age and it’s symptoms can come and go with long periods of time in between.

Kleine-Levin syndrome

Kleine-Levin Syndrome is a type of hypersomnia in which individuals will sleep up to 18 hours a day. (Source 3) It’s become relatively well known due to a popular news report showcasing a young girl with the syndrome, calling it Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. This disorder must be excruciatingly disruptive for the individuals and their families who have it.

You can watch the video clip below to learn more.

Where Can I Get Help?

It’s very simple: if you feel you are sleeping more than you should or you are worried about excessive sleepiness, make an appointment with your doctor and have yourself evaluated. If you are worried about a friend, partner, or loved one, then convince them to take a look at their symptoms and see if you can get them to a doctor. Nothing presented on this page is a substitute for medical advice; please understand that, and seek professional advice from a doctor.


Sources and Information

  • Source 1: WebMD | http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/physical-side-effects-oversleeping
  • Source 2: National Sleep Foundation | http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
  • Source 3: KLS Foundation | http://klsfoundation.org/kleine/levin/info/what_is_kleine_levin_syndrome

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