Hypersomnia: The Impact of Sleeping Too Much on Cognitive Performance
November 4, 2023
Glory Li (she/her/hers), Volunteer Writer
An adequate amount of rest is crucial for our overall health and well-being. Sleep especially helps with tissue repair, hormone regulation, and immune system maintenance. In our society today, most people have problems with insufficient sleep routines as everyone has so much to juggle in their daily lives. Therefore, we are told to sleep more, significantly more than what’s required on an irregular basis to “make up” for the lost amount of sleep. For example, on a Saturday, an entire twelve hours could be spent sprawled in our bed, trying to extinguish the feeling of exhaustion. Unfortunately and somewhat ironically, we have all noticed the exacerbated feeling throughout the afternoon as our eyelids are firmly closed in response to any external entertainment, not to mention demanding assignments. So the question is, why would we feel worse when we slept more than the regular, insufficient amount we usually take?
Excessive sleep can have a negative consequence on mental activity. Sleeping too much is a condition called hypersomnia, which is the opposite of insomnia where people have difficulty falling asleep. Unlike the latter, insomnia is extensively researched and studied in terms of its detrimental impact on health. However, it appeared most researchers overlooked or simply neglected hypersomnia because it wasn’t too much of a societal problem currently, but it doesn’t mean that this condition is something to be forgotten completely.
Here are some consequences and effects of hypersomnia on people:
- Disruption of circadian rhythm is the disturbance of our biological clock that regulates our sleep-wake pattern. In stretching the sleeping time, other stages in a customized sleep cycle will have to be adjusted correspondingly, inducing an overabundance of deep sleep. During the prolonged time we are sound asleep, the brain receives a redundant amount of slow brain waves that might assist with the restorative quality of our mind but slows down our cognitive processing. Individuals will be experiencing concentration challenges, alertness reduction, and diminished absorption of information.
- The lethargic, groggy feeling after a supposedly good-quantity rest is called sleep inertia. Because of hypersomnia, people need more time to shake off this feeling because it’s harder for a rapid transmission from rapid eye movement (REM) sleep to wakefulness. Through this transition, focus, memory, and motor skills are partially compromised in order to fully reactivate their functions.
- Even with bed hour extension, it’s not equivalent to supreme sleep quality; in fact, hypersomnia decreases sleep quality. After hours of physical leisure, people express fatigue and lack of motivation especially in the face of intellectually daunting tasks. Characteristics like frequent awakenings, fragmented sleep, irregular sleep patterns, and constant dreaming all indicate poor sleep quality. As compensation, hypersomnia pushes the quantity up in exchange for its quality.
- Fluctuating mood and emotional regulation. Hypersomnia contributes to mood swings, irritability, and even symptoms of depression. The thought of lounging in bed for half a day may sound like a dreamy vacation, but the following consequence is an epic battle of post-sleep emptiness and a vulnerable sense of donating twelve hours to nothing but the mattress. While most of us would rather engage in some form of entertainment than spend unwarranted time in bed, some people may use hypersomnia as an excuse to escape complicated tasks or stressful situations in an unhealthy, intentional manner. This deliberate act could sprout into guilt, anxiety, self-denial, and a plummeting self-confidence. It’s especially true after the realization that people were extending sleep solely for the purpose of escaping reality.
- Overall, hypersomnia will reduce daily productivity because individuals sleeping too much often feel constant daytime drowsiness, inducing a compelled feeling to take frequent naps throughout the day. They also suffer from the bottleneck of initiating tasks because somnolence works as an excuse to postpone and procrastinate, even for missions with great urgency. Nevertheless, on the other hand, if people start and attempt to work efficiently during this time, an inactive brain decelerates both mental and physical movement, so tasks take longer to accomplish anyway. Therefore, we should refrain from establishing the productivity standard unrealistically high immediately after sleep, the brain needs time to resume and adapt to its usual speed of functioning.
It’s important to emphasize sleep and rest are essential factors in health and standardized amounts of sleep are different according to each age group. Regardless, that’s not to exaggerate its necessity by doubling the amount we would normally require. Instead of producing the benefits we hoped to obtain, our mental cogitation does the opposite. In the current trend of underestimating the importance of sleep, there’s a swift amplification in rest awareness with countless studies and persuasions advocating and promoting sleep as the cornerstone for cognitive enhancement and mental rejuvenation. It’s possible the future problem would be the reverse of what’s happening now: people could be so convinced and brainwashed by the overemphasis on sleep that many will unhesitatingly delve into hypersomnia being self-deceived with the assumed advantages. This is not to say sleep is overrated nor to argumentatively decrease its value: rather it’s more of a premonition preventing the misunderstanding that oversleeping would be healthier when it’s not. The primary goal now is to avoid raising a new futuristic trend of hypersomnia similar to the modern trend of not getting enough sleep since both have proven to be detrimental to keeping a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, depending on individual needs, sleeping properly with a balanced amount each day is the only resting ritual to nurture our body that has ever existed and proved profitable.
Parker, Hilary. “Physical Side Effects of Oversleeping.” WebMD, 23 July 2008, www.webmd.com/sleep- disorders/physical-side-effects-oversleeping.
Johnson, Jon. Oversleeping: Risks, Prevention, and Causes. 9 Sept. 2020, www.medicalnewstoday.com/ articles/oversleeping#causes.
Pacheco, Danielle. “Sleep Inertia: How to Combat Morning Grogginess.” Sleep Foundation, 8 Sept. 2023, www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/sleep-inertia.
“Can Too Much Sleep Cause Depression? Here’s What to Know.” Healthline, 21 May 2021, www.healthline. com/health/depression/too-much-sleep-depression.
“Is Sleep Overrated?” The Healthy Choice Compounding Pharmacy, 19 Apr. 2017, www.thehealthychoice. net/is-sleep-overrated.
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