Ask Giz: How Much Sleep Is Too Much?

Ask Giz: How Much Sleep Is Too Much?
Contributor: Gizmodo Australia and Zachariah Kelly

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Today’s question doesn’t come from anybody in particular, but it’s something that we found quite interesting. How much shut-eye is too much?

If you love a good lie-in on the weekend or try to clock in as many sleeping hours as possible, you might be worried that you’re oversleeping. So, let’s dive into that.

How much sleep is too much?

Sleep is essential. Having enough rest at night means having enough energy to take on the next day. The “amount” of shut-eye one needs in a night varies from person to person and is largely different depending on their job and their day-to-day activities. But when are you getting too much rest?

So, in answering this question, here’s what several experts have to say on the matter.

Doctor Shelby Harris, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, shared the following:

“The vast majority of people, approximately 70%, need between six and nine hours of sleep a night. If you’re someone who needs more than nine hours on a regular basis, you might want to think about how restful your sleep is and if it is of good quality. Some people just require more sleep than others do, but there are many people who sleep long hours and are still excessively sleepy due to various sleep disorders. You might need to go see someone about snoring, or anything that might be going on in the middle of the night that might be interrupting your sleep, as one reason people will sleep longer is that the sleep they’re getting at night is just not refreshing, so they’re craving it more. If you find, though, that you can’t get to work or school because you are continually sleeping through your alarm, despite getting a full night’s sleep every night, definitely see a sleep specialist for a consultation.”

“One way to tell how much sleep you need is to actually take a week off of work if you can do it. Go to bed at your usual time, but don’t set an alarm in the morning. The first few days, you’re usually paying back a sleep debt, but by day four or five you should can get a good estimate of how much sleep you need, by averaging together how much sleep you’ve been getting the next few nights.”

“I always tell people to think about how you feel during the day. Don’t judge by how you feel right when you wake up, wait an hour, and if you feel rested and refreshed for most of the day (we all have dips here and there), you’re probably getting enough sleep on a regular basis.”

And here’s what Professor Kevin Morgan from Loughborough University’s Clinical Sleep Research Unit had to say:

“This is a good question, but since it presumes the existence of an optimal sleep value, it’s worth first considering how much sleep is enough…

“Importantly, the answer to this question is not a duration, it’s an experience. Most adults (over 70%) sleep somewhere between 6.5 to 8.5 hours per night. And many of those whose typical sleep duration falls outside of this range could be considered ‘normal.’ A better guide to sleep adequacy is how it makes you feel. Sleep which typically leaves you feeling reasonably refreshed, alert and able to keep going for most of the following day can be considered adequate…

“Within the biological economy of the circadian rhythm, then, ‘too much sleep’ is simply any value or quantum greater than ‘adequate.’ But this is unsatisfactory since it begs another question, what’s so bad about too much sleep (i.e. why is more than adequate “too much”)? Taking a broad bio-psycho-social perspective, there are a bunch of reasons why sleeping longer than you need to can have a downside: it can make you late for work, it places you out of sync with your family and friends, it encroaches on your wake-time and reduces opportunities for health-promoting physical activity (and in addition, increases your time spent unhealthily static); it attracts opprobrium which can degrade your mood and self-esteem; it messes with your appetite hormones, destabilising your experience of hunger and satiety, and last, but by no means least, because one of the most robust findings in longitudinal sleep epidemiology is that those who report the longest typical sleep durations (say, more than 10 hours per night) also tend to die significantly earlier than those who report ‘average’ sleep durations.”

So that’s what the experts think. It’s not really something we can drill down to specific hours or symptoms, however, it’s more of a broad, introspective, person-to-person question.

For me, a bed bug, anything more than 10 hours every 24 hours is oversleeping, however, the longer I stay in my bed beyond, say, seven hours, the longer I want to stay in it. Which, in my opinion, is bad because then I get nothing done.

Put it to rest

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Ask Giz is a fortnightly series where we answer your questions, be it tech, science, gadget, health or gaming related. This is a reader-involved series where we rely on Gizmodo Australia’s audience to submit questions. If you have a question for Giz, you can submit it here. Or check out the answer to our last Ask Giz: Why Does Grass Form a Pointed Tip When It’s Cut Straight?

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