Sleeping Too Much (Excessive Sleepers)

Michael Baten, M.D • Neurology/ Adult & Pediatric Sleep • Neurological Associates • 531 Harkle Rd Suite C • Santa Fe, NM 87505 • 505-983-8182

Excessive sleepers regularly sleep more than the average member of their age group. Their nightly length of sleep tends to be 10 to 12 hours. This sleep is very normal and of a good quality. It is simply much longer than most people need.

Their main complaint is that there is not enough time during the day to be awake. The disorder begins in childhood. It is a life-long pattern of needing a lot of sleep. It is not caused by a sudden change in medical or mental conditions. It is a very stable, consistent pattern of sleep.

Many excessive sleepers have to sleep less during the week due to the demands of work or school. They can function well on about nine hours of sleep per night during the week. Then they can catch up with 12 to 15 hours of sleep on weekends and holidays.

An excessive sleeper who does not get enough sleep will feel sleepy during the day; but as long as they get enough sleep, they will feel alert and well rested during the day. This need for long hours of sleep can disrupt relationships; make it difficult to keep up with social events and job or school schedules. Others may tell excessive sleepers to use stimulants in order to stay awake longer which only keep them from getting the sleep that they really do need and cause them more problems.

A small percentage of men and women report sleeping at least 10 hours per night. Personality may raise the chances of being an excessive sleeper. People who tend to be shy and introverted those who often worry or seem depressed are more likely to be excessive sleepers.

Self Evaluation. If you answer yes to these questions, then you may be an excessive sleeper.

  • Do you sleep for 10 hours or more on a regular basis?
  • Are you very tired during the day if you don’t get this much sleep?
  • Have you had this sleep pattern since you were a child?
  • It can be hard to know if a child is an excessive sleeper. All kids need more sleep than adults. A child may be an excessive sleeper if they regularly sleep for at least two hours more than is normal at that age.
  • Also, your sleep problems may be a result of one of the following: another sleep disorder, a medical condition, medication use, a mental health disorder or substance abuse.

Seeing a Sleep Specialist. You may not need help if you are able to get enough sleep to feel alert and well rested during the day. Talk with a family doctor about your pattern of long sleeping. You may need to see a sleep specialist if your need for sleep is affecting the quality of your daily life. Sleeping for a long period of time can affect your work schedule and your relationships at home. People who require a long sleep time can become sleep deprived. This lack of sleep can add up and cause problem sleepiness. If you are often sleepy, then you may benefit from seeing a sleep specialist. There is also a chance that your need to sleep for a long amount of time is caused by a medical condition or by depression.

Sleep Diary. You will also want to keep a sleep diary for two weeks. The sleep diary will help the doctor see your sleeping patterns. This information gives the doctor clues about what is causing your problem and how to correct it.

Testing. Tests are not needed for a doctor to detect that you are an excessive sleeper. Your doctor may have you do an overnight sleep study if he thinks that another sleep disorder is making you sleep longer. This study is called a polysomnogram which will chart your brain waves, heart beat, and breathing as you sleep. It will also record how your arms and legs move. This will show if there are other disorders, such as sleep apnea, that are causing your sleep problems.  There are other sleep disorders that cause sleepiness. They can be confused with being an excessive sleeper. The sleep doctor may have you do an overnight sleep study followed by a daytime nap study. This can help show if you have another disorder that causes sleepiness.

Treatments. Long sleepers do not need any treatment. Their sleep is very normal when they are able to sleep for the full length of time that they need. They simply need to make sure that they get enough sleep on a regular basis. If a medical condition or depression is the cause of the long sleeping, then those conditions will need to be treated.

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