If oversleeping day and night has you wondering why you’re sleeping so much, it may be time to figure out how to get your Zzz’s back on track.
Why am I sleeping so much?
Sleep is a major part of our lives and can be influenced by different lifestyle and medical factors. Some common causes for sleeping a lot include:
- needing more sleep
- uncomfortable sleep environment
- sleep disorders
- circadian rhythm out of whack
- drinking alcohol
- living with pain
- infection or illness
- depression or anxiety
- chronic conditions
- some medications
In adults, oversleeping usually means you’re sleeping more than the recommended 7 to 9 hours in a 24-hour period.
If you are sleeping 7 to 9 hours at night and still feel extremely sleepy during the day, that can be considered hypersomnia. Hypersomnia is a medical condition where you experience excessive sleepiness during the day — even if you get the recommended hours of sleep at night. Narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are sleep disorders that commonly cause hypersomnia as a major symptom.
Other signs and symptoms that are can be associated with hypersomnia include:
- repeatedly requiring longer sleep at night or are excessively sleepy during the daytime
- napping often in the daytime (even at inappropriate times like at work or during meals)
- still feeling tired and fatigued after a nap
- having trouble waking up or feel disoriented when you wake up
- experiencing other symptoms, like:
- low energy
- slow speech and thinking
- low appetite
- memory problems
How you sleep has a domino effect on how your entire body functions (and your life). Problems with your health, work, and environment may also show up in bed and wreck your sleep.
Here are some reasons you may be sleeping so much.
1. Not getting enough sleep
If you’re falling asleep during the day after regularly sleeping less than 7 hours at night, not getting enough Zzz’s at night could be the problem.
It’s not always possible to sleep more (we see you new parents, nightshift workers, and constant WFH-ers). But, if you can prioritize sleep, it may help you return to healthier sleep habits.
2. A hostile sleep environment
Could your bedroom be quieter, cooler, or darker? Noise, temperature, and light can wreck your sleep vibe and make it hard to get a restful snooze.
Sleeping with your BFF Netflix could be a problem too. TVs and nighttime scrolling can add a major source of distraction, noise, and light in the bedroom.
3. Sleep and neurological disorders
There are more than 80 sleep disorders that can affect your sleep differently. But some of these disorders can make you sleep more than normal or have trouble staying awake during the day.
Some common culprits include:
- Narcolepsy. Technically a neurological disorder, narcolepsy affects how the brain regulates sleeping and waking. Excessive daytime sleepiness is the main symptom, along with muscle weakness (cataplexy), sleep paralysis, and visual hallucinations. People with narcolepsy often have “sleep attacks” — basically periods when they have an irresistible urge to fall asleep.
- Parasomnia. This sleep disorder includes unusual sleep behaviors like sleepwalking, talking, or performing other activities like you’re awake (like putting away your laundry if you’re a motivated sleepwalker).
- Restless leg syndrome. While falling asleep, your legs may feel tingly, painful, or the urge to move.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People with OSA stop breathing for brief periods while they’re sleeping. Interrupted sleep can make them feel excessively tired, and it’s associated with other health problems.
4. Circadian rhythm problems
Over the course of the day, light enters your eyes and helps your brain regulate your circadian rhythm. This helps regulate your body temperature, metabolism, sleepiness, and alertness.
For some folks, circadian rhythms are thrown off by too much or too little light exposure or alternative schedules (like alternating shift work and jet lag).
You can mitigate circadian rhythm disruptions by getting a dose of sunlight (or artificial sunlight) early in your “day” and keeping your room completely dark during sleep. This can help you produce melatonin (aka the sleep hormone) in the right amounts for your schedule.
5. Alcohol use
Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime might make you feel sleepy, but it actually disrupts your sleep enough to make you feel tired the next day.
That’s because, after the first few hours of sleep, alcohol messes with your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and can cause you to wake up more often.
6. Injuries and pain
Chronic pain or temporary pain from an injury may make it very hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. At the same time, prescription pain medications can have a sedative effect causing you to feel more tired and sleep during daylight hours.
7. Being sick
When the immune system is activated by infection or illness, the inflammatory response increases your need for sleep. The flip side is that not getting enough sleep interferes with your immune response and your ability to fight infection.
If you’re sick, your sleepiness is serving a purpose — your body needs the extra rest to heal.
8. Depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety can both make you feel extremely tired or disrupt your sleep, but it can be different for everyone.
Folks with depression may be unable to get out of bed in the morning, oversleep, feel restless, or have extreme fatigue. Depression can also be the result of a physical health condition or a sleep disorder.
The worrisome thoughts and overwhelming feelings of anxiety can make you feel tired and cause sleep issues like trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Anxiety with insomnia is pretty common, but the exact link isn’t known.
If you think anxiety or depression is making you sleep more or less, talking with a doctor or therapist can help you figure out the best way to get your sleep on track.
9. Underlying medical conditions
Many medical conditions cause fatigue. Some illnesses and conditions that are likely to make you feel excessively tired include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). A disease characterized by profound fatigue, sleep abnormalities, pain, and other symptoms that are made worse by exertion.
- Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid means you have low levels of thyroid hormone. This causes tiredness.
- Anemia. A deficiency in iron or vitamin B-12 can cause anemia, one of the most common reasons for fatigue.
- Fibromyalgia. A disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues.
Check the side effects listed on your over-the-counter and prescription meds. Drowsiness is a common side effect of certain medications. Some of the most likely offenders include:
- sedatives and anti-anxiety medication
- pain medications
- medications that treat nausea
Sleep disruption and poor sleep quality are associated with several short- and long-term health effects. You may experience higher stress levels, lower insulin sensitivity, and increased appetite. Over time, poor sleep is also associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Excessive sleepiness and involuntarily falling asleep can also put you at risk of accident and injury, especially while you’re driving or working in an environment that requires safety precautions.
Sleeping too much could be a sign of a bigger problem. If your excessive tiredness is unexplained, or you have other symptoms, bring it up with your doctor. They can help identify the problem and recommend treatment that improves your sleep and overall wellness.
Sleep health, mental health, and physical health are so closely linked that improving one will likely benefit you in other ways.
Ready to stop snoozing through your alarm or nodding off at work? If a medical condition isn’t causing your oversleeping, these lifestyle changes may help you get a good night’s sleep:
- Stick to a sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Exercise 20–30 minutes a day, but not in the late evening, which can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day, obviously.
- Avoid alcohol right before bed.
- Try a relaxing bedtime routine like taking a bath or reading.
- Optimize your sleeping space: it should be dark and quiet, at a comfortably cool temperature. Keep televisions and electronics in other rooms.
- If you can’t fall asleep, get out of bed to do something else until you’re sleepy.
Sleep settings and schedules vary a lot from person to person. But if you’re regularly sleeping longer than 7 to 9 hours, or falling asleep during the day, there may be an underlying problem.
Prioritize your sleep health by adjusting your sleep environment and talking with your doctor about excessive sleepiness and other symptoms. A medical condition or medication could be making you super tired.