Getting 6-8 hours’ sleep is essential, but any more than that can become problematic. Our bodies like routine, so disturbing this routine can preempt an adverse physiological response.
Moreover, If you’ve overslept, it probably means you’re late for something. Waking up to find you’re twenty minutes late for an important meeting sends a surge of adrenaline through your body that can take many hours to settle. This can make you feel imbalanced, on-edge, and downright fatigued. Feeling groggy is different from feeling exhausted because it is often tinged with a sense of ‘unease.’
We’ll describe how to improve your body’s natural ‘alarm clock’ so you’re never late for an appointment again. For those times when oversleeping is inevitable, we’ll explore how to regain focus, so the day is not wasted.
Regain Energy After Oversleeping
When we oversleep, a sense of weariness lingers for the rest of the day. This seems illogical because sleep is meant to make us feel rested. Thankfully, there are many strategies you can try to boost your energy levels. Adopting a couple of different strategies will give you the best chance of success.
- Diet and Supplements – Coffee can turbocharge your energy levels when you’re feeling groggy. However, coffee, sugar, and other stimulants are not the best option because they’ll soon send you crashing.
- Activities and Exercise – Exercise is probably the last thing you’ll feel like doing when you’re feeling drained. However, exercise improves circulation, boosts cognitive functioning, and lifts mood – so it’s best not to overlook this antidote.
- Sleep/Wake Hygiene – Most of us are aware of the importance of creating a ‘bedtime routine,’ but few are aware of the importance of a morning routine. Establishing a solid and enjoyable morning routine should prevent you from oversleeping in the first place. For those times when you do sleep-in, it’s important to stay productive because this will help shake off the feeling of grogginess.
- Cognitive Techniques – if you’ve overslept, you’ll probably find it difficult to focus on tasks. This is partly due to the sense of ‘unease’ caused by a change to your daily rhythm. Studies have shown that certain cognitive techniques can improve focus.
How Much Sleep Do We Need Per Day?
Sleep requirements decline throughout the lifespan; babies require considerably more sleep than adults because sleep is necessary for growth. It’s not just age that affects sleep. Sleep is ‘restorative’ in a physiological and psychological sense. This is why we require more sleep during periods of physical and emotional strain.
Assuming there are no extenuating ‘stressors,’ the following durations are considered acceptable for each stage of the lifespan:
- Babies (newborns – 1-year-old) – 12 – 18 hours (approx. 8 during the day, and 8 at night)
- Toddlers (1 year – 3 years) – 12 – 14 hours of sleep (2-3 hours taken during the daytime)
- Children (3 years – 10 years) – 10 – 13 hours of sleep
- Teenagers – 9 hours of sleep
- Adults up to 55 years – 6 – 9 hours
- Adults over 55 – 5 – 8 hours
A Sunday morning lie-in is unlikely to cause problems, but regularly exceeding these guidelines is thought to be unhealthy. Later, we’ll discuss the health complications associated with sleeping for too long.
What Does a Sleep Hangover Feel Like?
Oversleeping side effects include brain fog, headaches, and lethargy. A ‘sleep hangover’ is similar to a real hangover, in the sense that both make us feel very, very delicate. Alcohol causes us to feel weak and delicate because it is a chemical depressant. Excess sleep causes us to feel delicate because it disturbs our circadian rhythm – so we no longer feel ‘grounded.’
Ironically, having a ‘sleep hangover’ makes us feel as if we need more sleep. Of course, we know that oversleeping that has made us feel rough, so we must look elsewhere to remedy our exhaustion. This confusion rapidly leads to frustration. Thankfully, there are many things you can do (not involving sleep) to cure a sleep hangover.
Why Am I Oversleeping?
Many of the factors that cause oversleeping also cause poor, disturbed sleep. If sleep is disturbed during the night, it follows that you’ll find it harder to wake up in the morning and may well oversleep. The known risk factors for oversleeping include:
- Going to Bed too Late – This might seem obvious, but many people overlook it. If you go to bed late, you’ll struggle to get your 6-8 hours of sleep, so you’re more likely to oversleep. Four or five consecutive late nights will cause your body to ‘adjust’ to this new routine. Before you know it, you could be oversleeping on a regular basis. Breaking the cycle is important, and you’d be surprised how quickly you can train yourself to prefer early nights.
- Sleep Deprivation – Perhaps you’ve pulled a few too many ‘all-nighters’ before your exams, and now your body is trying to catch up. Similarly, hormonal changes such as menopause can lead to sleep deprivation. It’s not uncommon for sleep-deprived individuals to finally ‘crash’ in the early hours of the morning and then sleep through until lunchtime.
- Alcohol Intake – If you drink to excess, you’ll experience less deep ‘REM’ sleep. If you don’t get good quality sleep during the night, this could cause you to oversleep. A real hangover coupled with a sleep hangover is never going to be a good thing.
- Substance Misuse – Certain illegal substances are thousands of times more stimulative to the brain than substances like caffeine. Due to this ‘hyperstimulation,’ long periods of sleep are required to recover. Substance misuse can also interfere with our motivation to get things done, so we’re less likely to set the alarm, or find a reason to wake up on time.
- Working Irregular Shifts – Irregular shift patterns at work can play havoc with our circadian rhythms. If shifts change on a regular basis, it means that the time between shifts (i.e., the time to sleep) will vary too. After a pivotal shift change, workers may find themselves ‘catching up’ on the sleep they’ve lost elsewhere.
- You’re Coming Down with Something – When we are suffering from a cold or flu, our bodies require more sleep to fight the infection. Even if you’re someone that ‘soldiers on’ through illness, you might succumb to oversleeping if you don’t take adequate rest.
- Depression or Anxiety – Many clinical studies have noted the close relationship between depression and oversleeping. There is also a known link between generalized anxiety disorder and oversleeping. Oversleeping may begin as an ‘avoidance tactic.’ From a psychological point of view, people who are depressed find it hard to engage in activities, so going back to sleep seems the most tolerable option. Unfortunately, because our bodies adapt to new habits quickly, this pattern of oversleeping becomes ingrained. Unless the cycle is broken, the extra sleep then becomes a physiological
- Emotional Shock -It’s not just clinically depressed people that get stuck in a cycle of oversleeping, it can happen after periods of emotional shock such as bereavements and divorce.
- The Teenage Years – We tend to associate teenage oversleeping with laziness, but the physiological changes that occur during this period can cause oversleeping.
- Exercising Late in the Evening – Exercising late is known to disturb sleep because it causes a spike in cortisol levels. As mentioned, disturbed sleep may lead to oversleeping. Not only that, if the exercise is intensive, extra sleep may be required to support muscle repair. A well-designed exercise regime should always allow adequate time for sleep, especially if you don’t want to find yourself late for work in the morning!
- Vitamin D Deficiency – If your vitamin D levels are low, so too are your energy levels. This can lead to fatigue and over-sleeping.
- Time of Year – Natural light helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycles. It’s thought that natural sunlight can penetrate our closed eyelids, and help to trigger a slow, relaxed awakening in the morning. In the winter, we’re often required to rise before the sun, so we must wake up in the dark. Alternatively, we must rely on artificial lights, which are a lot dimmer than natural light. Some people are clinically affected by a lack of natural light and are diagnosed with a seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Studies have shown that people with SAD are much more likely to oversleep and feel fatigued during the winter months.
- Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea is a condition that disrupts breathing. Many people with this condition find themselves sleeping for longer than usual because their sleep is so disturbed during the night. As we’ll explore, oversleeping can lead to conditions that may aggravate or worsen sleep apnea, so it’s important to try and regulate sleep patterns.
- Medication – Medication for psychiatric disorders such as depression and bipolar is known to cause excessive sleeping.
- Thyroid Conditions – Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) can make you feel sluggish and weak. Women with thyroid conditions – and who are pregnant – often find it incredibly difficult to wake up in the morning.
Occasionally, oversleeping is idiopathic, which means there is no discernible cause. Even if you’re not sure of the cause, there are steps you can take to improve feelings of grogginess.
Do I Have Hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia is not the same as oversleeping. However, many people with hypersomnia will experience oversleeping. Hypersomnia is a feeling of overwhelming tiredness throughout the day. People with hypersomnia will often fall asleep at work, or on public transport.
The causes of hypersomnia are similar to the causes of oversleeping. These include – medication, chronic stress, alcohol or drug abuse, depression, and very poor sleep hygiene. If you find yourself oversleeping daily, and regularly falling asleep throughout the day, it is essential to see a doctor.
How to Prevent Oversleeping
Bad habits that disturb sleep can also lead to oversleeping. As such, working in partnership with your circadian rhythm is crucial for getting just the right amount of sleep. Consider the following tips to cure oversleeping for good.
- Keep a Sleep Diary – This is the first step to taking control of your sleep. A diary will offer an outsider’s perspective of your sleep patterns, helping you detect the irregularities that cause oversleeping. Keep a diary for a couple of weeks, noting down the quality and duration of your sleep. Be sure to note the time you sleep and the time you wake. If there are days you tend to oversleep, try to notice whether this is to overcompensate for other days when you’ve had less sleep.
- Choose a Bedtime and Stick to It – Once you’ve gained some insight into your sleep habits, choose a reasonable bedtime, and stick to it. Many people like to sleep at different times on the weekend than the weekdays. Try to meet in the middle so that your bedtimes are never drastically different. Help yourself by making sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and comfortable at your chosen ‘bedtime.’ Creating a dark sleep environment encourages melatonin production which will help to regulate your sleep.
- Check Vitamin D levels –Vitamin D deficiency is a global concern. It can lead to many health problems, including fatigue and oversleeping. If you aren’t regularly exposing your skin to the sun, and aren’t eating a nutrient-rich diet, you may be deficient in this key vitamin. Moderate exposure to the sun, increasing your intake of fish, eggs, and dairy, and taking a vitamin D supplement can counteract this deficiency.
- Don’t Do Too Much – Whether it’s exercising close to bedtime or studying late into the night, try not to do too much. We know that late nights will lead to oversleeping because your body will need to ‘catch up’ at some point. What’s more, elevated stress levels can become chronic, which may lead to hypersomnia in the long term. It may sound boring but try to plan your activities in advance so that you’re not cramming anything in too close to bedtime.
- Improve Your Wake-Up Call
We know that hitting the snooze button is bad for energy levels because it stops us from creating a regular sleep/wake routine. In all fairness, alarms are not the friendliest of sounds. If one of your family members wakes up before you, ask them if they’ll come and wake you up gently. Ask them to open your curtains shortly before you’re due to wake up, so the sunlight can provide you with a more natural wake-up call. If you don’t have a family member to do this, you could purchase a timed bedroom lamp that automatically turns on when it’s time to wake up.
- Embrace ‘Hygge’ – the Danish concept of Hygge has gained immense popularity in recent years. To embrace Hygge is to value the simple things in life. In practice, this means ritualizing the experiences you value the most, such as getting cozy in front of the fire, enjoying a hot chocolate in the morning, or delving into a good book. Incidentally, ritualizing daily activities and creating ‘routines’ is a key aspect of good sleep hygiene. Moreover, having a positive ‘morning routine’ can make the prospect of waking up a lot easier.
When designing a sleep/wake routine, keep the concept of Hygge in mind. Think about your simple pleasures and incorporate these into your life daily routine. Remember, Hygge is all about choosing activities that support wellbeing. Hygge is definitely not playing on your smartphone, spending hours online, or overworking late into the night. You’ll sleep a lot better for it, and wake feeling refreshed.
Feel More Awake After Oversleeping
We can do our best to prevent oversleeping, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. However, all is not lost if you do find that you’re sleeping in. There are many ways you can inject some energy back into your day.
- Get Up Straight Away – Once you’ve realized you’ve overslept, it’s important to try and get out of bed. Resist the urge to have just ‘5 more minutes’ because 5 can easily turn into 55.
- Eat a Balanced Breakfast – if possible, eat a breakfast that includes complex carbohydrates and protein. This will help to boost – and sustain – your energy levels.
- Inhale Essential Oils – Inhaling a ‘stimulative’ essential oil such as peppermint, lemon, or rosemary will give you a natural lift. Lavender or Eucalyptus oil can also alleviate the symptoms of a headache caused by oversleeping.
- Exercise – Exercise is guaranteed to improve energy levels. Avoid intensive cardio as that might make you feel worse. Instead, try brisk walking, and yoga stretches. Stretching has the added benefit of making you aware of your posture. This should help you feel more grounded and eradicate the sense of ‘unease’ often felt after oversleeping.
- Improve Your Surroundings – If there’s clutter around you, you’re bound to feel frustrated and weary. Studies have shown that organizing our environment can help us feel more focused and engaged.
- Define a Goal for the Day – If drugs, alcohol, or low mood contributed to oversleeping in the first place, you might be less motivated about the day ahead. Defining a goal (no matter how small) is important because it will help you feel more energized. Focusing on your goals quite literally gives you a reason to get up in the morning, so helps break the cycle of fatigue and oversleeping.
- Sleep on Time – If possible, try to get to sleep at your regular time, to get your routine back on track.
How to Deal with Brain Fog
Brain fog is a common side effect of oversleeping. If no intervention is taken, this fog could linger all day, making it difficult to focus on anything. Thankfully, there are things you can do to feel less groggy.
- Replace Coffee with Green Tea and Chocolate – Coffee is an effective stimulant – for about 20 minutes! Replacing coffee with a low caffeine option such as green tea will help improve your focus, without causing any adverse side effects.
In fact, a study mentioned in The Telegraph found that combining green tea with dark chocolate helped participants become attentive, focused, and relaxed. Dark chocolate makes us more alert, but it also increases our blood pressure. However, when dark chocolate is combined with green tea, L-theanine in green tea reduces our blood pressure. This combined treat promises energy and comfort at the same time. As such, it seems the perfect antidote for brain fog! If you want to try this, make sure the chocolate contains at least 60% cacao.
- Stay Hydrated – Dehydration can stop us from thinking clearly. The single easiest step you can take to improve brain fog is to drink more water. Try to sip water regularly throughout the day to maintain concentration.
- Be More Mindful – According to a study published on Science Direct, mindfulness training can enhance attention and improve memory. Next time you’re feeling sluggish and absent-minded, see if mindfulness practice can help you re-engage.
What Are the Effects of Oversleeping?
People that regularly oversleep are more likely to develop health complications. Oversleeping can cause problems for our social and work lives, too. The recognized effects of oversleeping include:
- Decreased Productivity – A study published in Psych Net found that workers were much less productive after periods of oversleeping. It’s not only work-related productivity that could suffer, keeping on top of household chores will become difficult if you regularly oversleep.
- An Increased BMI – Sleeping too much and sleeping too little are both associated with being overweight.
- Hormonal Imbalances – During sleep, our bodies produce hormones to modulate appetite, growth, and repair. If we get the incorrect amount of sleep, this may impact hormone production.
- Depression – In the case of psychiatric health, it’s not clear whether excess sleep is a cause or effect of mood disorders. In any case, oversleeping is likely to fuel a mood disorder.
- Chronic Fatigue – If oversleeping continues on a regular basis, chronic fatigue is likely to set it; no matter how much sleep you get, you’ll never feel truly rested. Chronic fatigue sometimes progresses to hypersomnia (falling asleep throughout the day). As such, it’s best to try and treat a sleep problem as soon as it arises.
- Risk of Diabetes – A vital study on NCBI found that sleeping too much (or too little) increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Researchers found that getting the recommended 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night protected against all three conditions.
Often, the habits that cause poor sleep are the very same habits that lead to oversleeping. If you’re currently facing a period of oversleeping, this could turn into a period of insomnia if you don’t tackle the underlying issues.
As such, try to create a balanced and healthy sleep/wake routine that works for you. Once you’ve found a schedule that works, try your best to stick to it. If you do find yourself oversleeping, the strategies mentioned here will help you fight brain fog, fatigue, and grogginess.