Published 24th January 2022

Here’s why you may be sleeping so much

Are you sleeping too much? Going through an occasional bout of oversleeping (more than 10 hours per night) is common and usually has an obvious explanation. Maybe you’re fighting off a cold, recovering from jet lag, or getting some rest after a particularly stressful time at work or home.

More persistent oversleeping could be a sign of a sleep disorder or that something’s not quite right with your metabolic health. 

Often, the reason you need to sleep more than usual has to do with the quality of your sleep. You might not be getting enough restful sleep, even if you’re regularly sleeping for long periods of time.

Read on to see whether you’re sleeping too much, what could be causing it, and how to get your sleep schedule back on track. 

How long should you sleep for?

Experts agree that between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night is a healthy range for adults, although it differs from person to person. 

If you’re sleeping more than 9 hours but that’s normal for you — and it’s not causing any problems in your day-to-day life — there may be no underlying issue. You may simply need more sleep than some people.

Your sleep needs change depending on your age and stage of life. For example, research has found that adolescents need more sleep than older populations (roughly 8 to 10 hours). 

It’s widely acknowledged that getting too little sleep can be bad for your health, but oversleeping can cause problems, too. For example, researchers have found links between sleeping for more than 10 hours per night and depression and obesity.

However, the number of hours you sleep is not the only important factor. Your sleep quality and other metabolic factors, like diet and hormones, also play a vital role in whether you feel tired during the day.

Sleep efficiency and sleep quality play into whether you are getting enough rest, too. 

Sleep efficiency is the amount of time you are actually asleep out of the total amount of time spent in bed. Sleep quality refers to how well you slept and how restorative your sleep was. 

You may have low sleep efficiency and poor sleep quality if you wake up a lot, or if you get up to use the bathroom or look after a baby.

Reasons you may be sleeping so much

Feeling tired or even exhausted from time to time is common. It’s often due to a short-term period of sleep deprivation, such as from:

  • working long hours

  • jet lag

  • doing night shifts

  • staying up too late

  • taking care of a baby, child, or vulnerable adult

Other factors that can lead to sleeping too much include:

1. Blood sugar spikes

Your metabolism is a complex system that responds to sleep, hormones, and what you eat. 

Eating sugary foods can lead to spikes in your blood sugar levels, followed by dips later on that make you feel tired. 

Recent research from ZOE’s PREDICT study — the largest of its kind — showed that what time you go to bed is more significant than how long you sleep when it comes to regulating blood sugar.

Participants who had a good night’s sleep did not experience the same blood sugar spikes after breakfast the next day as people who slept less well. 

The same was true of those who went to bed earlier. People with later bedtimes experienced a spike in their blood sugar after breakfast, even if they got up later and got the same hours of sleep as those with an early bedtime.

Keeping your blood sugar levels steady can help you avoid spikes and dips and the tiredness that can come with these. The ZOE at-home test analyzes your blood sugar and blood fat responses and helps you find the best foods for your unique metabolism. 

Our unpublished research found that 80% of participants who closely followed our personalized nutrition program for 3 months said they had more energy. You can take a free quiz to learn more about your own blood sugar responses.

2. Sleep disorders

There are around 100 different sleep disorder classifications.

Some sleep disorders, like narcolepsy, are a direct cause of sleeping too much. Narcolepsy is usually the result of low levels of or dysfunction of certain chemicals in your brain. 

If you have narcolepsy, you may feel well rested after waking up, only to feel extremely sleepy throughout the day. Many people with narcolepsy find that they struggle to sleep through the night without waking.

They may also fall asleep during daytime activities, like talking, working, or even driving, making it a potentially dangerous condition. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include sleep paralysis, muscle weakness during the day, and seeing dream-like images while drifting off to sleep. 

More common sleep disorders may cause you to sleep more because you’re recovering from a bout of sleep deprivation.

Insomnia, for example, is usually associated with not getting enough sleep. After dealing with a period of insomnia, you might be feeling very tired all the time and may start sleeping more than usual or at different times.

Other sleep disorders that can disrupt your sleep and cause you to be more tired include:

  • sleep apnea (where your breathing stops and starts throughout the night)

  • restless leg syndrome (an almost uncontrollable urge to move your legs)

  • sleepwalking (also known as parasomnia)

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms consistent with sleep disorders, such as choking or gasping for air during sleep, loud snoring, sleepwalking, or feeling strong urges to move your legs, talk to your doctor. 

3. Mental health conditions

Many mental health conditions can contribute to feeling tired all the time and needing more sleep than usual. 

According to one large-scale study, the most common conditions to cause fatigue and sleep problems are depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Discuss mental health concerns with your doctors, as untreated mental health conditions can lead to many other preventable health problems.

4. Medication

Feeling sleepy can be a side effect of many medications, including over-the-counter products. Anything from cold remedies to prescription drugs can cause drowsiness. 

If you’re feeling sleepy during the day, be sure to read the side effects listed on the medication you’re taking. You may want to do the same for any herbs or supplements you take, particularly if you only recently started using them.

5. Menopause

Unpublished research from ZOE found that women who had gone through menopause had significantly worse sleep quality and were more likely to feel tired during the day. 

They also had greater blood sugar spikes after eating, which can lead to sleepiness. 

A regular sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene can help. Read on for more tips on how to improve your sleep.

6. Lifestyle factors

Our busy schedules often don’t allow us to get enough sleep or keep a consistent routine. Many lifestyle factors can disrupt your sleep patterns, including:

  • drinking alcohol, which can disrupt your sleep and other body functions

  • consuming too much caffeine, or having it too late in the day

  • having a hectic work schedule

  • caring for a baby or child

  • having a complex medication schedule or caring for another person who has one

  • excessive light pollution at night

  • not getting enough daylight during waking hours

These are just a few of the many possible reasons you may be experiencing sleep disruption. While some are easily fixed, such as limiting your coffee to before noon, other factors like childcare are not. 

However, there are some steps you can take to improve your sleep.

How to improve your sleep

Research shows that sleeping well is critical for your appetite, immune system, metabolism, and cardiovascular health. 

If you’re sleeping too much, there are things you can do to take control of your energy levels and metabolic health. A few ways to achieve better quality sleep and reduce sleepiness overall include:

  • going to bed earlier

  • changing your diet to limit blood sugar spikes and dips, and avoiding large meals or sugary foods close to bedtime

  • avoiding caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime

  • getting enough sunlight during the day

  • removing disruptions from the bedroom, such as light and noise

Just as everyone needs a different amount of sleep, the way your body responds to different foods is also unique. ZOE’s at-home test kit can help you understand these responses and give you personalized recommendations to modify your diet to help with your metabolic health.

Find out more about how ZOE analyzes your unique gut bacteria, along with your blood sugar and blood fat responses — as well as how gut bacteria can influence your sleep.

Summary

While a short period of oversleeping may help you regain your energy after an illness or stressful period, sleeping too much in the long term is linked to health problems.

If you’re sleeping too much, first consider any underlying conditions, the medications you take, and your lifestyle. 

If you’re concerned that a sleep disorder or mental health condition is leading you to sleep too much, speak to a doctor. Also, always talk to your doctor before changing your medication, even if it’s causing drowsiness. 

Understanding your metabolic health can also be a great next step.

ZOE’s large-scale sleep study shows that sleep quality is more important than the number of hours you sleep when it comes to your blood sugar regulation. 

Both your sleep and your blood sugar levels can have a significant impact on your overall health. The good news is that you can take concrete steps to improve them.

If you are feeling sleepy all the time and sleeping too much, focus on going to bed earlier and improving your sleep quality, rather than simply increasing the hours. 

The ZOE at-home test kit can help you understand your body’s individual responses to different foods — from your blood sugar and blood fat to your gut health — and give you personalized advice on the best foods for your body.

To find out what ZOE can do for you, take a free quiz.

Sources

Associations of fatigue and sleep disturbance with nine common mental disorders. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. (2019). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31376877/

How much sleep do I need? (2017). https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html

Impact of insufficient sleep on dysregulated blood glucose control under standardised meal conditions. Diabetologia. (2021). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-021-05608-y

Narcolepsy: A review. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. (2011). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3173034/

Narcolepsy fact sheet. (n.d.). https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Narcolepsy-Fact-Sheet

Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articˆles/PMC5449130/

Sleep disorders. (2021). https://medlineplus.gov/sleepdisorders.html

Sleep in adolescents and young adults. Clinical Medicine. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6301929/

Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130/

The risks of sleeping “too much”. Survey of a national representative sample of 24671 adults (INPES Health Barometer). Plos One. (2014). https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0106950