Today we’ll discuss a variety of technical sleep terms, including chronotypes and circadian rhythms, all for the sake of giving you the opportunity to better understand your personal sleep cycle. We’ll also run down other factors that contribute to your body’s specific sleep timeline, and provide some simple steps to get your sleep cycle back on track.
But first, let’s answer that initial question.
Is Too Much Sleep Really Bad?
People’s sleep needs are different, but those needs also vary based on age and gender. That said, oversleeping can be an indicator of specific health problems. Sleeping too much can occur during bouts of stress or sickness, but eventually, correct itself once those two factors fade away. But longer-term health issues, like diabetes or heart disease, can lead to chronic oversleeping. According to webmd.com, “Researchers are careful to note, however, that two other factors—depression and low socioeconomic status—are strongly associated with oversleeping.” Subsequently, the article correlates the lower socioeconomic status with less access to healthcare—which means improperly treated (or untreated) illnesses can lead to oversleeping.
Organizations such as the National Sleep Foundation are big proponents of the 7-9 hours of sleep per night. I believe the better metric is always about quality of sleep. If you track your sleep, with something like an Oura ring, you want to look for 2 or more hours of deep sleep and about the same of REM.
If you’re concerned that you’re oversleeping, take stock of your current state; if you’re sick or stressed, work to manage those factors first and see if a healthier sleep pattern returns. If you oversleep for an extended period of time, it probably makes sense to visit a doctor. That way you can address any true medical issues at the heart of your oversleeping problem, and also make sure you don’t have more serious disorders like hypersomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, or narcolepsy.
Your DNA Has a Big Say in Your Sleep PatternsPotential medical issues aside, there are other factors that play a significant role in your personal sleep pattern. This starts with your chronotype (chrono = time). For years, this was broken down into two sleep types you’re probably familiar with: night owls and early birds. Keep in mind your chronotype, which is based on your PER3 gene, refers to more than just your sleep patterns; it encompasses all the primal aspects of daily life, which includes eating and sexual activity.
This 24-hour cycle is known as your circadian rhythm, an internal clock that syncs up with light and darkness, ultimately impacting far more than sleep. It controls alertness, hormone production, organ function, and even body temperature. Body temperature, specifically, plays a key role in your personal sleep pattern. Deeper restorative sleep occurs as your body core temperature slowly drops. When it rises, you typically wake up. So by following your normal sleep cycle—instead of fighting it—you have a better chance of being at your cognitive and physical best.
This all translates to early birds needing more sleep, and night owls needing less sleep. No matter which chronotype you are, giving in to your body clock has the potential to set you on a path to finding your ideal sleep cycle, and help you avoid sleeping too much or too little.
What You Can Do to Ensure a Healthy Sleep Cycle
Let’s start by answering an obvious question you may have at this point: can you change your chronotype? Unfortunately, you can’t. It’s in your DNA. Your best bet is to embrace it, and develop a healthy nighttime routine, which can include the following before bed:
- Avoiding bright screens
- Trying calm activities (like reading or meditating)
- Going to bed and rising at the same time daily
- Avoiding caffeine, heavy meals, and intense physical activity
- Creating a peaceful and dark sleep space
- Using cooling products that help lower your core body temperature at peak times
Try to Stop Sleeping Too Much If You CanIf you don’t already know it inherently, take the time to learn more about your chronotype. Though it will only serve as a sleep cycle guidepost, even making small adjustments to your schedule will give you a shot to fall into your ideal sleep cycle, which will only pay dividends in your daily life. If you aren’t sure then give it a month, always go to bed at the same time and always wake up at the same time, even on the weekend. You may be surprised how much you sleep loves habit and consistency.
By finding that ideal sleep cycle, you should be able to avoid sleeping too much. However, if you find yourself oversleeping for short periods of time, find ways to manage stress and sickness before being too concerned. If you find yourself sleeping too much for an extended period of time, then you should probably visit a doctor to find out if there are underlying issues causing it. In the end, quality of sleep is just as important as quantity, so from adhering to your chronotype to seeking help, a better night’s sleep is always right around the corner.
Do you know your sleep type? Have you taken any steps to manage your sleep cycle? We’d love for you to share your success stories.