In modern day society we seem to be programmed to count down the days, even the hours, to the luxury of a weekend lie in. And although it is true that being well rested is essential for good health, recent research is proving it to be equally true that having too much sleep may have the opposite effect.
Understanding your body clock
When it comes to knowing how much sleep you need, listening to your body clock is key. More formally referred to as your circadian rhythm, your body clock regulates natural daily rhythms such as sleep and hunger. Any factors that affect your natural circadian rhythm are termed ‘zeitgebers’.
Zeitbegers are responsible for adjusting your body clock to the local environment and include factors such as:
- social life
Consistency is key
Most of us love the weekend precisely because we aren’t ruled by the alarm clock for two whole days. In fact, even once you’ve woken up naturally you can nod straight back off to sleep for as long as you desire – children, dog, postman permitting – and catch up on the sleep missed throughout the week. Right?
Unfortunately, the idea that we need to ‘catch up’ on shuteye is generally a misconception. In reality, sleeping in for hours longer than usual disrupts and disables our circadian rhythm and does much more harm than it does good.
The most important thing to bear in mind when it comes to your sleep cycle is consistency. If you’re craving those feelings of rejuvenation and rebooting that we wrongly associate with a lie-in, then turn instead to tailoring for yourself a regular sleep pattern. Using random naps and weekends to counter sleep debt is not the answer. The solution: create a routine and stick to it! Creating a normal time for sleeping and waking every day will teach the brain when the correct time for sleep is and equally, when it is not.
The Risks of Sleep Overindulgence
Before we delve deep into the dangers of oversleeping, it is firstly important to remember that there are certain occasions when cramming in some extra snoozing can be beneficial. For example when a person is ill, recovering from illness or experiencing a period of emotional turbulence a lie in can be just what the doctor ordered. However, overindulging in this can be seriously detrimental to our well-being and can run the risk of:
- Diabetes: a study in the US found that of 9000 participants, those who slept for more than 9 hours a night were 50% more likely to develop diabetes than those who slept for 7 hours.
- Obesity: research has shown that people who slept for between 9 and 10 hours a night were 21% more likely to become obese than those who slept for less.
- Heart Disease: a study carried out on 72,000 women demonstrated that females who slept on average for more than 9 hours were at a 37% higher risk of developing heart disease.
- Stroke: research carried out on 10,000 people found that participants sleeping for more than eight hours a day were 46% more likely to suffer from a stroke.
Additional consequences of sleep overindulgence include:
- Back pain
- General drowsiness/tiredness
So, the simple rule is find the right sleep pattern for you; don’t go through patterns of gorging and starving yourself of sleep.