Long sleeping is an uncommon sleep finding or disorder characterized by the body’s inclination to remain asleep for longer periods of time than would otherwise be deemed typical. This often results in 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night for people with the disorder. Less than that leaves them feeling unrefreshed and sleepy throughout the day.
The disorder often begins in childhood and lasts 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. Ideally, they should set aside enough sleep time so that the body wakes up when it is naturally refreshed.
Long sleeping has been found in approximately 2 percent of the population, with men at a slightly higher rate of having it than women. It may be difficult to detect in children because 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 to 12 hours).
Short sleepers are people who generally sleep less than 6 or 7 hours per night. They often have difficulty getting an average amount of sleep. Short sleepers feel refreshed and generally do not experience daytime sleepiness with this decreased amount of sleep.
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. 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. Instead, they should try to live within its constraints as well as they can. This means achieving as much sleep as possible without neglecting other aspects of their lives.
The disorder could be caused by depression or another medical condition. If it has only recently started, this is likely the case. In these situations, medical examinations, as well as a thorough check of your medical and sleep history may root out the problem. Maintaining a sleep diary will often be enough for the doctor to make a diagnosis, although you may be asked to perform an overnight sleep study, or polysomnogram, to have any other sleep disorders uncovered.
If the long sleeping is being caused by another issue, that issue should be resolved as soon as possible to see results quickly. If the long sleeping is the cause of natural biological circadian rhythm, possible treatments are unknown. 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. The 24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder is one example. This disorder is far more damaging to social relationships and professional careers than a couple of lost hours of awake time each day.
Overall, long sleeping isn’t detrimental to your health if properly managed. There are ways to work around it and get an average amount of sleep each day. If you suspect that you may be suffering from long sleeping disorder, consult your medical doctor immediately to get a proper diagnosis and treatment solution.
© 2020 American Sleep Association.