A person with an excessive sleep disorder sleeps much more than the average person. Depending on the nature of the excessive sleep disorder, sleeping too much can disrupt quality of life, increase the risk of accidents or cause health problems. Excessive sleep disorders include hypersomnia, long sleeping and Kleine-Levin syndrome.
Complications of an Excessive Sleep Disorder
Sleeping too much can affect health. A 2007 study at the University of Warwick, U.K. discovered that upping one’s sleep habits to eight hours or more per night can double one’s risk of death if the pattern continues over more than a decade. Why sleeping too much increases death rates is unclear, though researchers speculated that excessive sleep may be linked to being depressed, having a low socioeconomic status or having cancer.
An excessive sleep disorder may result in daytime sleepiness or sudden and irresistible urges to sleep. Daytime sleepiness or “sleep attacks” increase the risk of accidents, especially if a sleep attack occurs while driving or cooking.
Sleeping too much can have serious effects on quality of life. An excessive sleep disorder prevents people from fully engaging in social activities and careers. Relationships can suffer, and in extreme cases excessive sleeping prevents people from accomplishing even simple daily tasks.
While most adults need about eight hours of sleep per night, some people may need to sleep up to 12 hours a night to feel rested. Unlike people affected by other types of excessive sleeping disorders, such as hypersomnia, long sleepers are not actually sleeping too much. A long sleeper simply requires this much sleep to function normally. Long sleeping can affect social interactions, but as long as the sleeper gets sufficient sleep, it does not appear to have other adverse effects.
Hypersomnia syndrome has elements in common with narcolepsy. Like narcolepsy, hypersomnia causes daytime sleepiness and sleep attacks. People with hypersomnia, however, don’t experience other narcolepsy symptoms, such as cataplexy.
Like long sleeping disorder, hypersomnia syndrome can lead to people sleeping for prolonged lengths of time. A person with hypersomnia syndrome, however, wakes feeling tired. Sleeping longer does nothing to prevent daytime sleepiness for people with hypersomnia syndrome. People with hypersomnia may also experience hallucinations, memory difficulties, decreased appetite and anxiety, symptoms that aren’t typically seen in long sleepers.
Kleine-Levin syndrome is perhaps the most severe excessive sleep disorder. A person with Klein-Levin syndrome suffers from episodes of excessive sleep so extreme that the individual awakens only to use the washroom and eat. Individuals with Kleine-Levin syndrome (usually young men) may sleep for up to 20 hours at a time. When they wake, they’re often irritable and uncommunicative, experiencing personality changes.
Treatment for Excessive Sleep Disorders
Treatment for an excessive sleep disorder depends on the nature of the disorder. Long sleeping rarely requires treatment, but should be managed by ensuring the patient gets enough sleep each night. Stimulants and behavioral modification may help relieve the symptoms of both hypersomnia syndrome and Kleine-Levin syndrome.
Sometimes, an excessive sleep disorder occurs due to an underlying health condition. In such circumstances, treating the underlying condition prevents people from sleeping too much.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2006). Long sleeper. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from http://www.sleepeducation.com/Disorder.aspx?id=24.
CBC News. (2007). Too much sleep as dangerous as too little: Study. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2007/09/24/sleep-study.html.
KLS Foundation. (2009). What is Kleine-Levin syndrome? Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.kleinelevin.com/kleine/levin/info/what_is_kleine_levin_syndrome.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2008). NINDS hypersomnia information page. Retrieved August 28, 2010, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hypersomnia/hypersomnia.htm.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2009). NINDS Kleine-Levin syndrome information page. Retrieved September 2, 2010, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/kleine_levin/kleine_levin.htm.
University of Warwick. (2007). Researchers say lack of sleep doubles risk of death … but so can too much sleep. Retrieved September 2, 2010, from http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/researchers_say_lack/.