How excessive sleep impacts your metabolism

November 30, 2020 4 mins read
How excessive sleep impacts your metabolism

If you’re doubtful of the role sleep plays in your life, think back to how you felt when you missed out on some essential z’s. Did you feel fatigued? Irritable? Hungry for sugary carbs?

The importance of sleep can’t be emphasized enough. Your sleep patterns affect your metabolism, mood, energy levels and ability to learn and process information.

But as much as sleep is the elixir that “relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds,” as Shakespeare put it, there are harmful effects of sleeping too much.

How much sleep do you need?

Generally, you should be sleeping between 7-9 hours every night.

Going over the 9-hour mark, sleeping throughout the day or taking longer than usual naps is oversleeping. Also known as hypersomnia, excessive sleep can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even lead to death (see, sleep really is a life and death matter).

But how does oversleeping affect your body’s ability to process food?

How does excessive sleep impact your metabolism?

Oversleeping negatively impacts your health and has a knock-on effect on the metabolism which can lead to weight problems and metabolic syndrome.

Studies show that when you sleep for more than the recommended hours, you are 21% more likely to get obese over a period of 6 years. This is because excessive sleep can impact the production of key hormones (including insulin) that influence the regulation of appetite and how much energy our bodies produce and consume.

The concern behind the weight gain is that even when you live an active healthy lifestyle and you’re still clocking in too many z’s, you won’t lose weight. Excessive sleep has such an adverse impact on how your body breakdowns and stores fat that it would take permanently changing your sleeping patterns to reverse weight gain.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke. The term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body’s normal functioning. Usually, the metabolism which is the rate at which you burn fat is also classified under the biochemical processes.

A study conducted in Sweden looked at the health, medical histories and sleep patterns of 130,000 men and women. The data extracted from the study was able to show how sleeping more than 10 hours can result in metabolic syndrome and other serious health defects.

People with metabolic syndrome tend to have at least three of the following symptoms which characterise the disorder: excess fat on their waistline, high blood pressure, low levels of good cholesterol, high levels of sugar in their blood and rising triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood).

The study found that 29% of men had metabolic syndrome compared to 25% of women.

How to prevent excessive sleep

Consistency is key. For you to enjoy the benefits of a healthy sleep schedule, you’ll have to make some lifestyle changes and steer your sleeping patterns in the right direction. Here’s how to do that.

  • Are you on any medications that cause you to feel excessively sleepy? Ask your doctor to recommend a drug that lessens drowsiness or consider stopping the medication altogether (with your doctor’s consent of course).
  • Keep a sleep diary. Make notes of how often you feel drowsy and fatigued. Pencil in the times you sleep and wake-up so you can put an end to any unhealthy patterns.
  • Keep your afternoon naps short and snappy. Naps should be about 30 minutes to an hour. Going over that could negatively affect your metabolic rate.
  • Stay active on your off days. With the holidays coming up, schedule fun events where you and your family can keep moving instead of lazying around.
  • Invest in a sleep app! These smart applications track your sleep habits so you don’t oversleep.
  • Don’t overthink it. The last thing you want is to be stressed and worried about oversleeping so set realistic targets for yourself and follow them.
  • Have an accountability partner. Ask a close friend or your partner to check in on you. By having them gently remind you about your efforts to create new sleep habits, you’ll feel supported.
  • Eat better and avoid foods that could prevent you from sleeping properly. Opt for a diet that can slowly release energy into your system. Whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meats can contribute to you staying awake for longer.

Excessive sleep is bound to happen now and again but don’t let it become something you have trouble shaking off. Sleeping too much can do more harm than good and the metabolic-related side effects are detrimental to your health.

Prioritize a consistent sleep pattern so that you can put your wellbeing first. Your physical, mental and emotional stability relies heavily on high-quality sleep. So by making sure you’re sleeping enough and not a wink more, you’ll have a firm grip on the two H’s – health and happiness.