The Power Sleep Program

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Is Too Much Sleep Bad For You?

06.17.08 | 52 Comments

A patient who sleeps 6 to 7 hours may be concerned that she or he is not sleeping long enough, not realizing that 6 to 7 hours is currently the population average. Many people believe that 8 hours of sleep is required for health, but there is little medical basis to recommend sleeping 8 hours or more. For example, a classic study found that long sleepers reported less energy and had more psychopathology than did short sleepers. — Dr. Kripke

We know that sleeping too little can cause poor mental performance. Sleep-deprived night shift workers are responsible for the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.

But here’s a thought: Can too much sleep be bad for you?

The following is a list of 6 “problems” associated with sleeping 9 or more hours each night.

1 – More sleep correlated with higher risk of death.

Although it’s a common belief that 8 hours of sleep is required for optimal health, a six-year study of more than one million adults ages 30 to 102 has shown that people who get only 6 to 7 hours a night have a lower death rate. Individuals who sleep 8 hours or more, or less than 4 hours a night, were shown to have a significantly increased death rate compared to those who averaged 6 to 7 hours. — see here

2 – Long Sleep and Depression. Depression is linked to both long and short sleep. Most depressed people are at risk of insomnia and sleeping too little, but about 15% sleep too much. This is probably due to lethargy and lack of excitement for life.

3 – More sleep during winter months. Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD) occurs in many people during the winter months. It is characterized by depression, decreased energy/enthusiasm, decreased sex interest, and increased sleep. It is more pronounced in extreme latitudes. Light and temperature are big factors in controlling our internal body clocks. Winter days are shorter, causing our bodies to “hibernate”. From a physical standpoint, there is no need for the extra sleep during winter. In fact, sleeping more during the winter months further aggravates the symptoms of SAD. SAD is curable, though. You can overcome the symptoms of SAD with a light box or exercise.

4 – Less Energy. Studies have shown that long sleep is associated with decreased energy. Have you ever noticed that a 10 hour sleep can leave you feeling MORE tired than a 7 hour sleep? Truly restorative sleep comes from sleep QUALITY not quantity. Your body tries to compensate poor quality sleep by extending sleep duration. Good sleep quality comes from good sleep habits and lifestyle habits. Excellent sleep quality will leave you feeling refreshed/energetic after only 6 or 7 hours of sleep.

5 – Lack of Exercise. Daily exercise increases your core body temperature, allowing for a larger drop in body temperature at night, which improves sleep quality. Sedentary activity can cause a slight increase in sleep duration.

6 – Poor Diet. Eating habits and sleep habits go hand in hand. A poor diet is usually full of fatty, artificial foods, which sap your energy and make you feel tired. Poor diet means poor energy. Poor energy means more sleep. Furthermore, processed artificial foods are harder to digest. Don’t eat poor foods before bedtime. Why not? Because then more blood and metabolic energy will be allocated to the overworked digestive system instead of the brain during sleep. Your brain could use that extra blood and metabolic energy to improved sleep quality.

Unfortunately, none of these associations really answer the question “Is too much sleep harmful?” If you are completely healthy, then 10 hours of sleep per night might be perfectly fine. The direction of causation in each of these cases is not known.

Most scientists agree that there’s nothing harmful about sleep itself.

Those who sleep more than nine hours have something wrong with them that may be causing the heavy sleep, and leads to their demise. It is not the sleep itself that is harmful. — Sleep researcher Dr. White

Long sleep is usually a symptom of certain lifestyle decisions. It’s important to optimize our lifestyle habits, which will lead to increased sleep quality, more energy, and a — in some cases — a decreased need for sleep.

If you dislike sleeping too much, there may be effective ways to get by on less sleep.

However, I firmly believe that it’s best to start with a healthy attitude toward sleep. Start by learning to appreciate and enjoy a good 10-hour rest (chronic insomniacs would love to get that much sleep once in a while). Don’t force anything — excessive sleep might signal that your body needs to heal itself or recover; trying to cut down on sleep might make underlying problems worse.

But if you are concerned about how much you sleep (either too much or too little) and want that to change, then read over my 40 Sleep Hacks eBook. It’ll give you some ideas on how to improve your sleep quality.

(The eBook is free).

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