Setting the Stage for Healthier Sleep
The field of sleep science is still looking into the cause and effect relationship between oversleeping and health, but some habits and steps that promote better quality sleep and a healthy sleep duration are known.
While a small percentage of people naturally sleep longer, for many long sleepers (especially whose sleep needs have changed), there are certain conditions, behaviors and environmental factors that can increase sleep need or affect sleep quality (making you feel less rested on a normal amount).
To get an idea of how to avoid oversleeping and get healthier Zzz’s, we reached out a few sleep experts for their words of wisdom. Here’s what they had to say:
Dr. Robert Rosenberg
Too much sleep on a regular basis can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and death according to several studies done over the years. Too much is defined as greater than nine hours.
The most common cause is not getting enough sleep the night before, or cumulatively during the week. This is followed by sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, idiopathic hypersomnolence, as well as depression.
- Get enough sleep, seven to nine hours a night.
- Do not oversleep on weekends this throws your circadian rhythms off and makes falling asleep even more difficult when the work week comes along.
- Expose yourself to bright sunlight upon awakening. Consider leaving the drapes or blinds open at night. That morning sunlight will help you to wake up.
- Consider getting a dawn sunlight emitting alarm clock. Many of my patients are using them. You can set the dawn light to start filling your room with light 15 to 30 minutes before the alarm goes off.
- Avoid excessive naps especially after 4PM. These may make it more difficult to fall asleep and result in oversleeping. The same goes for excessive caffeine and blue light exposure close to bedtime.
There are myriad reasons to avoid oversleeping from loss of your job to missing out on mornings with your family. However if you continue to have this problem and struggle to wake up make sure there is not an underlying sleep disorder at fault.
Nancy H. Rothstein
If you oversleep frequently, you need to ask yourself WHY. It’s time to take a close look at your sleep and sleep habits. Start keeping a log of what you are doing in the hour before you go to bed.
If you are on tech devices or watching TV, it’s time to set your smartphone down an hour before bed and TURN OFF TECHNOLOGY. Your busy mind and body need to gear down in preparation for bedtime, not to mention the negative impact of blue light from the devices on your natural sleep/wake cycle. Find relaxing and calming things to do, such as reading a book or magazine. But NOT on a tech device! Drinking alcohol or caffeine in the hours before bed can also impact your sleep quality.
Bottom line is that if you are oversleeping regularly your body is SPEAKING TO YOU. Are you listening? Our body clock, also known as circadian rhythm, functions best when we have a consistent sleep and wake time. Sounds possible but how do you enact this?
- Select your optimal number of sleep hours to function at your best.
- Then, determine your WAKE TIME, likely based on your work schedule or family demands.
- GET UP at the SAME TIME EVERY DAY, including weekends.
- Put your alarm clock across the room. When it rings, GET UP. NO snooze button.
- Go to bed at the SAME TIME EVERY NIGHT, within about 1/2 hour range.
- COMMIT to this for at least 2 weeks, with a goal of 4, then reevaluate your sleep and wake times.
If you do improve your sleep habits and after a few weeks are still oversleeping, it’s time to see your physician to assess whether you may have a sleep disorder needing diagnosis and treatment. Sleep is a necessity, both in quality and quantity.
Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan
Oversleeping usually isn’t about needing more sleep – it’s usually about being exhausted because of some other physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual deficit.
- Set an alarm or two.
- Get to bed before midnight – the 90min sleep phase before midnight is very rejuvenating and will help to prevent morning fatigue.
- Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of rising. People who eat breakfast are more likely to wake with energy and habitually eating breakfast increases metabolism (and promotes better sleep at night).
- Drift off to sleep thinking of something – even small – that you’re looking forward to the next day.
- Withdraw consciously from technology to enable your sleep to hit deeper levels so you wake up more refreshed.
- Deal with emotional gremlins which might be causing you to escape into sleep and pull the duvet over your head.
- Address the true sources of your fatigue – do you need to exercise more? Eat more healthily? Get a new job? Leave that toxic relationship?
- Live a meaningful and purposeful life – know what you care about and do it. People who have purpose tend to wake up with energy.
Sleeping Well: The Most Important Things You Can Do
Based on our experts’ advice and current opinions on healthy sleep hygiene practices, here are the key things you can do to promote good sleep habits and ensure your body gets the ideal amount of rest.
Research links eating a balanced diet with a wide variety of nutrients and adequate calories, carbohydrates and fats with normal sleep durations. In one large study of diet and lifestyle habits using NHANES data, long sleepers tended to eat less variety of foods and less carbohydrates and calories overall. Their diets were also lower than normal sleepers’ on a few nutrients:
- Theobromine – found in chocolate and to a lesser extent in guarana.
- Dodecanoic acid – found in coconuts, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil.
- Choline – found in shrimp, fish, eggs, turkey, soy and some dark leafy greens.
- Selenium – found in brazil nuts, fish, shrimp, turkey, chicken, beef and some whole grains.
- Lycopene – found in guava, watermelon, cooked tomatoes, red cabbage and red peppers.
- Phosphorus – found in pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, eggs, fish, brazil nuts, lean meats, tofu and lentils.
Try to include a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and grains so your body receives the minerals, vitamins and nutrients it needs to function.
Things like watermelon, tomatoes, carrots, leafy greens, walnuts, almonds, chicken, wild salmon, and whole grains like oats, wheat, millet and amaranth all supply sleep-supporting nutrients. Pure water intake is also important — people who had better sleep drank plenty of plain water throughout the day.
But, don’t eat too much too close to bedtime, as heavy, fatty or spicy midnight snacks could backfire and keep you up or affect sleep quality. It’s best to balance intake throughout the day and perhaps have a healthy dinner that includes a carbohydrate. Reach for lighter but satiating things like crackers and natural peanut butter, a banana, a low-sugar yogurt or a piece of toast if you do need a nibble close to bedtime.
Moderate Alcohol Use
In the study of NHANES data, long sleepers tended to consume the most alcohol compared to short and normal snoozers.
Another study found that long sleepers were more likely to use alcohol to induce sleep, which could have important implications. Research has found that consuming alcohol within a few hours of bedtime makes sleep more fragment and less restorative.
Alcohol changes sleep cycles, impacting both slow wave and REM sleep as well as various hormones and neurotransmitters. The overall effect of less restorative rest possibly creates the desire to sleep longer hours (and also reduces overall activity, further affecting health).
Engaging in regular activity and moderate exercise helps promote higher quality sleep and a healthy sleep duration. While studies on exercise and sleep largely focus on reducing insomnia, it can help long sleepers, too. Getting higher quality sleep and waking less during the night can help you feel more rested and energized during the day.
Get Consistent Sunlight
Our bodies’ circadian clocks guide the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that tell us when to be awake and when to sleep. It takes its cues from things like behavior patterns, temperature, environment, and particularly, light.
Exposing yourself to direct sunlight early in the morning supports circadian rhythms (and Vitamin D production, which may play a role in sleep hormone melatonin). Sip your morning coffee outside, take an early walk, or park further from your office to catch some rays. Working near a well-lit window can also be helpful. If you have a difficult schedule or live in a climate where getting morning sunlight isn’t possible, light therapy may be beneficial.
Stick to a Regular Bedtime and Wake Time
Another important way to support your body’s internal clock is making your bedtime and wake time more consistent. As explained by Dr. Rosenburg above, irregular hours can throw off rest, making it harder to fall asleep on nights after sleeping in and leading you to be tired the next day.
When bedtimes and wake times are regular, your body’s systems learn when it’s time to initiate drowsiness and when it’s time to be awake.
Time Caffeine Right
We all know caffeine close to bed is a sleep no-no, but drinking coffee and tea even in the afternoon can have an impact on rest quality. Being wired at night can ruin your sleep, leaving you tired and prone to oversleeping the next day.
It can take up to 12 hours for the effects to completely dissipate, so try limiting caffeine to the first few hours you’re awake or at least before lunchtime.
Set Your Bedroom Up For Success
Pay close attention to your sleep space to make sure lights, sounds and temperatures are optimal for rest.
- Darkness. Darkness supports melatonin release, while bright lights from TVs, computers and smartphones keep you up later. Start dimming lights in the hour before bed and switch off electronics at least 30 minutes before you turn in. If you live in a well-lit area, blackout drapes or an eye mask may be a good partner.
- Calm noises. Disruptive sounds can make it hard to fall asleep and can affect sleep during the night. If you prefer complete quiet, earplugs or noise cancelling headphones can help. If you prefer a background noise, try sound conditioner/white noise machines or apps that play white and nature sounds
- Comfort. Your mattress can play a role in sleep, especially when it comes to pain and tossing and turning. Age is important — the average bed is meant to last around eight years, so if your’s is older, it may be lacking support and comfort. Finding the right firmness and comfort level for your sleep position also plays a role. If you’re feeling aching on waking or not sleeping well, take a closer look at your bed.
- Temperature. Cooler temperatures support better sleep. Set your thermostat in the 62 to 70 range, and opt for breathable sheets, blankets and pajamas. Materials like cotton and wool and smart fibers like Celliant help support a balanced body temperature and keep you comfortable throughout the night.
If you’re practicing good sleep hygiene habits and you find you still need an excessive amount of rest, or if your sleep need has changed without an obvious cause, consult your doctor. Increased sleep need can be a symptom of things like hypothyroidism, heart problems, depression (even low-level), and sleep apnea. Your doctor can assess your symptoms and determine the best way to approach improving rest.
As with many other aspects of health, moderation tends to be key when it comes to sleep. Much is said about the dangers of too little sleep, but it seems it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Regularly sleeping in excess of nine hours is linked with lower mental and physical health — making it important to strive for a “normal” amount of sleep and to be aware of changes in your body’s sleep need that may signal other concerns.
This article was originally published on Amerisleep. You can view the entire post, here.