Health And Wellbeing For The Over 50s

Oversleeping: Causes and Side Effects


You may have heard plenty about the negative effects of not getting enough sleep, but did you know that oversleeping can affect your health too? There is such thing as getting too much sleep and it’s often linked to other medical conditions.

How Much Sleep is Too Much?

Adults typically need between six and eight hours of sleep each night, although the ‘right’ amount varies significantly from person to person. As well as your age, activity levels and general lifestyle habits play a big role in how much you sleep, and some people simply feel perfectly well-rested on less sleep than others.

However, if you’re regularly sleeping for more than ten hours a night, you may start to experience some of the side effects of oversleeping.

What Causes Oversleeping?

Oversleeping can be a side effect of certain health conditions or lifestyle factors. For instance, it’s relatively common for people with depression to oversleep, and some prescription medicines can cause people to sleep more than usual. Drinking too much alcohol can also cause oversleeping.

However, for some, oversleeping is actually a medical disorder rather than a side effect. In this case, it’s referred to as hypersomnia. The condition causes people to sleep excessively as well as suffering from extreme sleepiness throughout the day, which can of course interfere with their everyday lives. Unfortunately, there is no obvious explanation for this disorder.

Obstructive sleep apnoea – a disorder which cause people to stop breathing momentarily during sleep – can also lead to an increased need for sleep because it disrupts the normal sleep cycle.

What are the Side Effects and Health Complications?

Oversleeping can leave you feeling restless and agitated, low on energy, and struggling to concentrate. In people who are prone to headaches, sleeping too much can often make them worse and more frequent.

You may find yourself experiencing back pain thanks to decreased levels of activity. Research into the effects of oversleeping have also linked it to the following health problems:

  • Diabetes: A US study of almost 9,000 people found a relationship between sleep and the risk of diabetes. People who slept for more than nine hours each night seemed to have a 50% greater risk of diabetes than people who slept for around seven hours a night. While data from the study could not explain the link, researchers suggested that oversleeping could be a sign of underlying medical problems that increase the risk of diabetes.
  • Heart Disease: A US study involving 72,000 women showed that women who slept for nine to eleven hours each night were 38% more likely to have coronary heart disease than women who slept for around eight hours. Again, there was no evidence from the study to explain the connection.
  • Obesity: Another US study showed that people who slept for nine to ten hours every night were 21% more likely to become obese over a six-year period than people who slept between seven and eight hours. The association between sleep and obesity held up even when factors such as food intake and exercise were taken into account, although it is unclear why.


If you think you’re sleeping more than you should be, make sure you seek medical advice. Your doctor will need to check whether your oversleeping is caused by an underlying medical condition or whether you need to be taken off any medications you might be taking.

Sadly, many people, especially in the over 50s age group, suffer from the opposite problem, sleep deprivation. If this applies to you, you may like to read our article:

12 Tips to Help Counteract your Sleep Deprivation

The NHS in the UK has a useful page in their Every Mind Matters advice section which may offer some additional advice.

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