Long sleeping is an uncommon sleeping finding or disorder characterized by the body’s insistence on remaining asleep for longer periods of time than would otherwise be deemed typical. This commonly results in 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night for people with the findings, and less than that leaves them feeling un-refreshed and sleepy throughout the day.
The disorder often begins in childhood, and last throughout the subject’s life. The sleep itself is very normal and deep. The disorder has not been connected to any genetic traits, medical conditions or psychological issues, and remains a relative mystery.
Most long sleepers will be forced to endure shorter than desired sleep durations to keep up with life’s demands, and this can cause numerous symptoms related to insomnia the next day. It also accrues into what is called a sleep debt, which is routinely paid back on weekends when long sleepers will sleep as long as 15 hours to get caught up on lost sleep. Other long sleepers will choose to fully accept the condition and live within its restraints, going to bed at a time early enough to allow for at least 10 hours of sleep each night. Long sleepers will often find it difficult to wake up to alarm clocks, and may be difficult to wake by others, and should ideally set aside enough sleep time so that the body wakes up when it is naturally refreshed.
Long sleeping has been found in approximately 2% of the population, with men at a slightly higher rate of having it than women. It may be difficult to first detect in children, as they routinely sleep more than adults, and are often not given free reign to sleep in as long as desired. Allowing a child to sleep in on weekends and measuring the time slept could be a good indication of the presence of this disorder, if it surpasses 10-12 hours.
A link has been found connecting long sleeping with introverted personality types, which may have to do with the release or lack thereof of certain chemicals in the brain, but no conclusive evidence has been found, nor is there a cure. Long sleepers are advised not to fight the disorder, as it may lead to the development of other sleeping disorders or medical issues, but to instead live within its constraints as well as is possible under their circumstance, and achieve the most sleep that they possibly can without neglecting other aspects of their lives.
The possibility exists that the disorder could be caused by depression or another medical condition, and if it has only recently started, then this is likely the case. In these situations, being examined by a doctor, and having a thorough check of your medical and sleep history performed may root out the problem. In these cases you may be asked to perform an overnight sleep study, or polysomnogram, to have any other sleeping disorders uncovered if they exist. In most cases, maintaining a sleep diary will be enough for the doctor to go on and make a diagnosis in your case.
If the long sleeping is being caused by another issue, that issue should be resolved as soon as possible, at which point the offending long sleeping should dissipate. If the long sleeping is the cause of natural biological rhythms, possible treatments are unknown, and since the level of sleep is of high quality, it is recommended to incorporate the long sleeping into the daily routine as best as possible. Attempting to avoid long sleeping, or staying aggressively awake could lead to other sleeping disorders such as a non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder, which are far more damaging to social relationships and professional careers than a couple of lost hours of awake time each day.
Reviewed September, 2007