Can you really sleep too much? Really? is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page.

You may be aware that sleeping too little can increase your
risk of serious and chronic health problems. But did you know that too much
sleep can also boost your risk for disease?

In our 24/7 always connected society, when it seems that
most people are struggling to get enough sleep, the problem of sleeping too
much may not seem like much of a problem at all. Yet prolonged sleep is
associated with many of the same health problems as insufficient sleep. New
research shows
that both sleeping too much and sleeping too little are linked to elevated
risks of chronic disease in middle-aged adults.

A large-scale study
conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that both insufficient and
prolonged sleep are associated with a range of serious and chronic conditions
including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The study included 54,269 men
and women aged 45 years and older. All had participated in the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System,
an ongoing survey that collects health information at the state level.
Respondents in this study came from 14 states around the U.S. For the purpose
of their investigation, researchers defined too little sleep as 6 hours or less
per night. Too much sleep was defined as 10 hours or more per night, and
optimal sleep duration was in the range of 7-9 hours. They found “short sleep”
was more common than “long sleep,” but that both short and long sleep durations
were linked to elevated risks of chronic disease:

  • Nearly
    one-third of respondents—31.1%–reported sleeping 6 hours or fewer per
    night. The majority of respondents, 64.8%, reported sleeping in the
    optimal range of 7-9 hours.
  • Slightly
    more than 4% of adults reported sleeping 10 or more hours per night.
  • Both
    short sleep and long sleep were associated with greater risks of coronary
    heart disease and stroke.
  • Short
    sleep and long sleep were also associated with elevated risk of diabetes
    and obesity. Both short and long sleepers were significantly more likely
    to report frequent mental distress, defined by researchers as an
    experience of poor mental health on 14 or more of the previous 30 days.
  • Long
    sleepers had even higher risks of coronary heart disease, stroke and
    diabetes than short sleepers did.

As researchers themselves point out, the relationships
between unhealthy sleep duration (too short and too long) and other factors
such as mental health
and body weight
are complicated. The researchers suggest—rightly so—that more study is needed
to understand how these factors of sleep, mental health, and weight interact
with each other to influence risk of chronic disease.

The negative health
effects of too much sleep are not as well known as the risks of not sleeping
Research shows that prolonged sleep duration can carry many of the
same risks as insufficient sleep—and sometimes the risks are even higher:

  • Insufficient
    sleep is a well-known risk
    for diabetes. A number of studies also show that sleeping too
    much increases the risk of diabetes and
    metabolic disorders, including metabolic syndrome.
    Some research suggests that long sleep poses similar levels of
    increased risk as short sleep, while other studies indicate the diabetes
    risk to long sleepers is even greater.
  • Cardiovascular
    problems, including high blood
    and heart
    , are also linked to both insufficient sleep and prolonged
    sleep. An investigation that included data from the Nurses’ Health Study on
    more than 71,000 women showed that long
    sleep duration was associated with increased risk of coronary heart
    disease. Research shows that abnormal sleep duration—long or short—may
    nearly double
    the risk of some cardiovascular disease.
  • Long
    sleep periods are associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older
    adults. Researchers at Spain’s University Hospital Madrid and New York’s
    Columbia University examined
    the possible impact of sleep duration on cognitive function in adults in
    their 60s and 70s. They observed 2,700 men and women in this age group
    over a period of 3 years during which time all types of sleepers—short,
    normal, and long—experienced some degree of cognitive decline. Researchers
    found that those who regularly slept more than 9 hours per night
    experienced much more significant decline in cognitive function, almost
    double that of normal sleepers. About 40% of the adults in this group were
    long sleepers.

There is still a great deal more to understand about how
abnormal sleep duration, whether short or long, affects health. The more we
learn about sleep and its relationship to health and disease, the more it
appears that there is an optimal amount of sleep, in the range of 7 to 9 hours
per night. The problem of getting enough sleep is markedly more common, and
deserves all the attention it gets—and more. That said, we ought not lose sight
of the health hazards associated with sleeping too much.

Don’t mistake sleeping more with sleeping better. For
the best sleep for long-term health, aim for a not-too-little, not-too-much
middle ground.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor®

The Sleep Doctor’s Diet
Plan:  Lose Weight Through Better Sleep

Everything you do, you do better with a good night’s sleep™
twitter: @thesleepdoctor  @sleepdrteam

+ posts

Michael Breus, Ph.D - The Sleep Doctor is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and one of only 168 psychologists to pass the Sleep Medical Specialty Board without going to medical school. Dr. Breus is a sought after lecturer and his knowledge is shared daily in major national media worldwide including Today, Dr. Oz, Oprah, and for fourteen years as the sleep expert on WebMD. Dr. Breus is the bestselling author of The Power of When, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan and Good Night!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *