Sleep: why we’re still tired even after (too) much sleep

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Contrary to what you might think, sleeping too long is not synonymous with getting plenty of rest. On the contrary, when we sleep too much, we feel tired and listless and often have headaches. What is the reason for this? We have the explanation.

What a treat to be able to sleep in on the weekend after a hard week at work. How about ten, eleven, maybe even twelve hours of beauty sleep?

Common misconception
If you find yourself with numb limbs, tired eyes, and a headache the following day, it’s probably because you’ve had just a little too much sleep.

This condition is called “sleep drunkenness,” and it feels like a hangover after partying. But how does it happen?

What is the circadian rhythm?
If you want to try to counteract your lack of sleep with an extra portion of sleep or to catch up on it, then you will probably upset your inner clock, or rather your circadian rhythm.

This is controlled by the so-called nucleus suprachiasmatic, a core area of the brain located in the hypothalamus.

Functions of the core area

This brain area is responsible for numerous bodily and behavioral functions, such as regulating hunger, reproductive instinct, and heat balance.

The functioning of the thousands of neurons in the nucleus suprachiasmatic is related to the light our eyes perceive. When the optic nerves sense light in the morning, the hypothalamus cells send chemical signals to the rest of the organism to wake up.

Too much sleep disturbs your internal clock.
When you wake up after a “normal” night’s sleep, which is about seven to eight hours, your body temperature increases, your brain becomes active, and your organs start operating.

After a few hours, your cognitive and physical abilities are at their best. But what happens when we sleep too long? Even if you don’t go to sleep until midnight and get up at eleven, your cells already start their daily routine between seven and eight.

Sleeping too long is harmful to your health.

This completely disrupts your circadian rhythm. You feel confused, just like you do when you have jet lag. But that’s not all: not only are you exhausted, but your health can also suffer in the long run.

Several studies confirm this thesis. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found that too much sleep, just like too little, can lead to memory problems.

In addition, the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even depression increases. People who sleep too little are even more affected by these dangers.

Tips for restful sleep
In a blog post from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Howard LeWine gives some tips on optimizing your nightly sleep, so you’re refreshed after seven or eight hours.

Consider an evening routine: take a not-too-hot bath an hour before bedtime. And avoid watching TV or working on your laptop in bed.

If you can’t fall asleep, get up, go to another room and find something relaxing to do, such as reading. But don’t get up later in the morning to compensate for this lack of sleep.

It all comes down to the right kind of exercise.
If you can, do some exercise in the morning. In the evening, you should prefer stretching exercises and avoid extreme workouts to relax muscles and mind.

Don’t go to sleep hungry or with a full belly. If you still feel a little hungry when you go to bed, you may have a light snack.

Caffeine and alcohol are taboo.

You should also avoid caffeine after 2:00 pm. And contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not help you fall asleep. It is better to avoid drinking after dinner.

Generally, the more comfortable your bed and the quieter and darker your room, the better you sleep. By the way, too long naps during the day are strictly forbidden. Instead, opt for 20- to 30-minute power naps around lunchtime.

Sleep disorders caused by illness
If these methods don’t work for you and you can’t manage to sleep less than eight hours, you should seek advice from a doctor. You may be suffering from narcolepsy, also called hypersomnia.

This is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by extreme fatigue. This neurobiological disorder prevents the body from regulating feelings of fatigue, making you want to sleep more and more or fall asleep at inappropriate moments.

Idiopathic hypersomnia could also be the cause. This rare disorder makes itself felt by a permanent feeling of tiredness. The sleep of affected persons is not restful, even if it is long.

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