Nowadays, most people now know that sleep deprivation has a negative impact on our mental and physical performance and can cause long-term health problems. Our bodies and our brains need rest at night to recover and process the day’s events and newly-learned information. If we don’t get the sleep we need, the physical warning signals we should first take note of are poorer levels of concentration and mood swings.
But what about too much sleep? When exactly do we mean by “too much sleep” and what long-term consequences can this have? In this article, we’ll answer all the important questions about when too much sleep is unhealthy and give you tips on how to optimise your sleep.
How much sleep is too much sleep?
The question of the ideal amount of sleep proves to be somewhat difficult to answer, as what might be an adequate amount of sleep can vary from person to person. This is due to the fact that the optimal sleep time is partly determined by our genes and age.
While short sleepers can manage with about six hours per night, long sleepers regularly need more than ten hours of sleep. However, this does not mean that short sleepers wake up feeling less refreshed than long sleepers. Although the sleep phases of short sleepers are shorter and are repeated less frequently, they still go through the core sleep phase in which the body experiences the greatest level of recovery and processes day’s experiences.
Long sleepers remain in the individual phases longer and go through them several times per night. Short sleepers and long sleepers can achieve the same desired recovery effect, however. The optimal length of sleep for you therefore depends on how refreshed you feel the next day and how well you can concentrate. However, for health reasons, most people shouldn’t sleep more or less than a certain number of hours in the long run.
How much sleep do we need on average?
Only a small part of the population are long and short sleepers; most people are average sleepers. So, how much sleep do you need on average as an adult to positively influence your health?
On average, an adult should get about seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Babies and children, of course, need much more sleep than adults, with newborns in particular sleeping 14 to 17 hours a day. For the elderly, sleep time is usually shorter at night, but increases during the day, as older people take naps more often.
What phases of sleep do we go through at night?
At night, we go through five stages of sleep that affect our bodies in different ways. Restful sleep is characterized by sleep phases which occur one after the other without interruption; we experience about four to seven of these sleep cycles, with one cycle lasting about 90 minutes on average.
1. Sleep onset phase
During this phase, our physical and mental activities slowly wind down and our muscles begin to relax. In this phase, our sleep is still very light and superficial and we’re easily awakened by external stimuli.
2. Light sleep phase
In this phase, our pulse rate goes down a little and our breathing slows down. At the same time, our heart rate is also lowered and our body temperature drops slightly.
3 & 4. Deep sleep phase
The deep sleep phase is divided into two phases, namely the medium deep sleep phase and the deep sleep phase. The deep sleep phase is when the body and brain experience the deepest levels of relaxation, which is why these two phases are most important for us to wake up relaxed and well rested.
5. Dream sleep phase
We often hear the term “REM” (rapid eye movement) in the context of the dream sleep phase, as this is when our eyes move the fastest under the closed lids. In this phase, our dreams are the longest and most intense. Although our muscles remain relatively motionless, our heart rate increases and we breathe faster during this time. It is believed that we mainly process emotional experiences during the dream sleep phase.
What consequences can too much sleep have?
The lack of sufficient sleep is a widespread problem nowadays, leaving its sufferers feeling tired and listless. But too much sleep is also unhealthy for the body, which leads to long-term consequences that usually appear gradually. The direct consequences of sleeping in excess of eight hours can include experiencing headaches and back pain. If you want to improve your sleep quality and are an average sleeper, you should not exceed seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
One of the possible consequences of too much sleep is weight gain. However, it is not only an excess sleep that leads to weight gain, but also the lack thereof. In addition, researchers found in a 2009 study that people who sleep too much or too little have a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Furthermore, it was found that too little or too much sleep can negatively affect our cognitive function and memory. The lack of sleep or an excess of sleep may be responsible for increased forgetfulness in old age.
The consequences of too much sleep: Quebec study
A long-term study by Canadian scientists was published in 2008 to highlight the link between sleep duration and faster weight gain. In the study, 276 adults aged 21 to 64 were followed for six years to investigate their sleep patterns and the resulting health consequences.
In the study, the subjects were divided into three different groups: Short sleepers (less than six hours of sleep), Long sleepers (more than nine hours) and Average sleepers (seven to eight hours). About half of the participants came from a family in which at least one family member had a body mass index above 32.
In the study, body measurements and sleep duration were recorded in writing over six years. Over the six years, long sleepers gained 1.58 kg compared to average sleepers, with short sleepers gaining as much as 1.98 kg. Short sleepers were 35% more likely to gain more than 5 kg, compared to 25% for long sleepers.
The Quebec Family Study was thus able to show that there is a direct connection between weight gain and too much or too little sleep.
Products for a good night’s sleep at Zizzz
In addition to the right amount of sleep, the right environment also plays an important role in getting a good night’s sleep. To start the day feeling fresh and rested, we recommend duvets made from purely natural materials. Natural materials are better moisture absorbers and are more breathable than synthetic fabrics.
When it comes to the filling for your duvet, you can choose between three variants: duck down duvets, goose down duvets or Swisswool duvets. Our European goose or duck down is Downpass certified and comes from farms where neither force-feeding nor live-plucking is practised. Our duvets have a GOTS-certified organic cotton cover that feels silky soft against your skin.