We are offering convenient telehealth e-visits and home diagnostic services for all of our existing patients as well as for new patients.

Learn More

How Much Sleep Is Too Much Sleep?

Not many of us ask ourselves this question; indeed, for many American adults and increasingly for children, sleep is like moneytheres never enough and we always want more. The CDC estimates that about one-third of adults dont get sufficient sleep, and the National Sleep Foundation estimates the number of sleep-deprived kids to be about 25 to 30%.

Were all aware that many of us arent sleeping enough each day. But what about that small proportion of the populationabout 5% of adults, according to the American Sleep Associationwho sleep too much? For those individuals who sleep long or nap often, how much sleep is is too much sleep? (Or is there such a thing?)

Hypersomnia: Sleeping (and Napping) Too Much


Indeed, there is such a thing as excessive sleep. For somepeople, the cause is a sleep disorder called hypersomnia (also called hypersomnolence ). Hypersomnia is a condition where people experience a very long primary sleep at night, combined with excessive daytime sleepiness that results in frequent, long naps.

As with many other sleep disorders, hypersomnia can be either primary or secondary.

Primary hypersomnia, which is rare and affects less than 1% of the population, has its roots in the nervous system. It is a completely separate sleep disorder of its own, dictated by brain activity. If you have primary hypersomnia, youll sleep more than 10 hours per night, and your sleep will be heavy and deepyoull be difficult to rouse. During the day, youll be chronically exhausted, and the naps you cant avoid taking wont seem to help very much; youll still be sleepy when you wake.

Primary hypersomnia or hypersomnolence is very rare and easily confused with other causes and conditions that cause daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and excess sleep (such as depression, drug interactions and side effects, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and other sleep disorders). To receive a positive diagnosis of primary hypersomnia, youll need to work with a sleep specialist over a period of several months, tracking your sleep and undergoing sleep tests like a polysomnogram and multiple sleep latency test.

Secondary hypersomnia is far more common than primary, and is labeled as secondary because its triggered by another disease or condition such as sleep apnea, diabetes, MS, or sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome or delayed sleep phase disorder (common in teens).

As with primary hypersomnia, youll need to consult with a sleep specialist and undergo sleep testing in order to get at the root of whats causing your long sleep sessions and daytime fatigue. Other specialists such as your primary physician, a neurologist, or a rheumatologist may also be involved in getting to the bottom of your particular diagnosis.

With secondary hypersomnia, once you effectively treat the primary, underlying health condition, your sleep problems should resolve, allowing you to get a more appropriate amount of sleep.

Why Is Too Much Sleep a Problem?

In todays busy life, getting too much sleep almost seems too good to be true. Most of us would probably love one weekend day where we could sleep in and get a solid ten or twelve hours of shuteye. But for those with hypersomnia, getting more than the optimal amount of sleep on a regular or recurrent basis can actually be harmful.

First, sleeping more than the recommended amount each day may be a sign of a serious underlying health problem or comorbid condition that requires treatment. If youre sleeping 10-12 hours or more per day and youre still exhausted and napping a lot, consider this a warning that something may be wrong. Consulting your doctor can help to determine what that problem is.

Second, the excess sleep itself may be harming your health. Journals like Sleep Health and The Annals of Medicine have reported in the past that long sleepers (those who sleep longer than 10 hours per night on average) may be more likely to also have depression, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and strokessometimes, fatally. (Some short sleepers, who sleep less than 6 hours per night every night, are also subject to a higher likelihood of certain illnesses.

These studies have found an association between long sleep and chronic illness and disease, rather than causation . This means scientists know theres a connection, but they have more to learn about what this connection means. What they do know for sure is that chronic or recurrent hypersomnia is linked in some way to poorer health outcomes. People who sleep an abnormal amount are associated with a higher rate of certain illnesses. If youre sleeping too much on a regular basis, you may have an increased likelihood of becoming seriously ill at some point.

Third, long sleeps can interfere with relationships and your social life. If youre asleep when everyone else is awakeand if youre tired when you are awakethis can take a toll on your job, your family life, and your own emotions as you find yourself with less and less time to stick to commitments or explore hobbies and interests. If youre taking medications or trying to stick to a diet and exercise plan, these can suffer from your irregular schedule, too. Also, sleeping too much can be isolating, and this can lead to side effects of social isolation like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

How Much Sleep Is the Perfect Amount?

So, returning the title of this blog post: how much sleep is too much sleep? The National Sleep Foundation Sleep Duration Recommendations can help you to determine where your sleep habits fall on the spectrum.

In brief:

  • Teenagers ages 14 to 17 normally sleep from 7 to 11 hours (ideally, 8 to 10 hours).
  • Young adults ages 18 to 25 should aim for 6 to 11 hours of sleep per night, with 7 to 9 hours being ideal.
  • Adults ages 26 to 64 should sleep between 6 and 10 hours per night, with 7 to 9 hours being ideal.
  • Adults over 65 may need a little less sleep (5 to 9 hours).

The National Sleep Foundation website offers a full chart that includes sleep guidelines for all ages, including infants and small children. Though every one of us is different in regards to whats normal as an individual, generally speaking, these guidelines can give you a baseline understanding of whats typical for a healthy person in your age group.

If youre sleeping more than the recommended maximum amount each dayand if you are noticing other symptoms that may indicate a problem, such as chronic fatigueyou may want to speak to your doctor to rule out more serious problems, or to get a referral to a sleep specialist who can help you with a diagnosis and treatment.

If you feel like you are sleeping too much feel free to contact Sound Sleep Health in Seattle today at (425) 279-7151 . One of our Sleep Medicne experts can address the over 80 sleep disorders.

Further Reading

News & Updates

What is a Split Night Sleep Study and why would I need one?

When you are scheduled to undergo a sleep study, you may not realize that there is more than one kind of sleep study. Aside from the home sleep apnea test (HSAT)which you may have already experiencedthere are three main in-lab, overnight sleep tests you might encounter. Many people start with an overnight or nocturnal polysomnogram…

Read more

Sleep Apnea Raises Your Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death: Get the Facts

You may have heard of sleep apnea, but do you really know what it is? Far from a harmless sleep disorder that keeps you from a sound nights rest, sleep apnea can lead to serious health complications, including sudden cardiac death. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.…

Read more

Tips for Cleaning Your CPAP Machine

Every day you take great pains to ensure that youre wearing clean socks and underwear for hygienic purposes. This ingrained standard of care is the type of thing you should be doing when it comes to your CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Just think, you spend a fair number of hours every night with…

Read more