This is what happens to your body when you sleep more than usual
Have you been rolling casually out of bed at noon? Taking three-hour naps? Or going to sleep before the sun fully sets? If so, you’re not alone. While some folks are lying awake a night, many of us are sleeping more than usual right now due to quarantine—and it can easily get to the point where we start wondering if it’s a problem.
Typically, the body needs about seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Barring sleep issues and late-night work schedules, you might slide into bed at 11 p.m., wake up at 8 a.m., and be ready for your day. But now that the pandemic has changed everyone’s daily routine, there’s often no reason to go to bed at a reasonable hour, wake up at a specified time, or steer yourself away from the couch when the desire for a nap calls. And to some extent, that’s okay.
There are both positives and negatives when it comes to catching a few more z’s these days. But it is something you’ll want to pay attention to all the same. Here’s what experts have to say about the matter so that you can tweak your sleep schedule, if necessary, and keep yourself healthy until the quarantine is over.
1. Your immune system gets a boost.
If you were a bit sleep-deprived prior to the pandemic, meaning you weren’t getting those seven hours per night, the extra rest can be a good thing, especially for your immune system. “Sleep enhances the body’s ability to respond to infectious viruses or bacteria,” sleep expert Dr. Patricia Celan tells HelloGiggles. In fact, research has shown that people who get more than seven hours of sleep a night are less likely to get sick from the common cold, she says. And that’s always a good thing.
So if you feel the need to catch up with a nap, have at it. Or, better yet, aim to do your sleeping at the same time each night so your body can fall into a healthy pattern. You’ll likely feel a whole lot better.
2. Your mood and memory will improve.
If you were sleep-deprived, you might also notice that the extra rest has made you feel better mentally. “Sleep is restorative for the brain, so getting more sleep helps to improve your ability to concentrate, make optimal decisions, and improve your memory,” Dr. Celan says. “This is why pulling all-nighters before exams is detrimental. Sleeping helps consolidate material and makes it easier to access in your memory bank than it would be if you stayed awake until the exam.”
If you weren’t sleeping well, and now are sleeping more, you can expect to have an easier time regulating your mood as well. And this can come in handy if you haven’t been feelin’ like yourself lately. “If you find that you’re exhausted and snapping too easily,” Dr. Celan says, “you may become a happier person as a result of more sleep in general.”
Keep in mind, though, that sleeping the day away can be a sign of underlying issues like depression, sleep expert Dr. Jeff Rodgers, DMD, D-ABDSM, D-ASBA, tells HelloGiggles. “Many people are experiencing anxiety and depression because of the current situation, which can cause people to sleep more,” he says. “Additionally, even without clinical anxiety and depression being a factor, this time is causing stress on everyone. Humans aren’t meant to be isolated; we need contact to maintain optimal health.”
If you suspect this is why you can’t get out of bed, reach out to someone for support and company, like a friend, family member, or a therapist.
3. It increases your risk of certain health issues.
While a little extra shut-eye has many benefits, once you start sleeping for 10-plus hours a day, this sleep pattern can actually become a bad thing. “Over-sleeping worsens cognition, leading to more memory lapses,” Dr. Celan says.
But that’s not all. It can also lead to inflammation in the body and contribute to various health conditions like diabetes and heart disease over time. A study by The Nurses’ Health, which involved nearly 72,000 women, showed that women who slept nine to 11 hours per night were 38% more likely to have coronary heart disease in comparison to women who sleep around eight hours.
Ultimately, when it comes to sleep, Dr. Celan says, “Your goal should be to get the ‘just right’ amount of sleep. Not too much or too little.”
If you or someone you care about is struggling and experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone who can help. You can also chat with a counselor online here. All services are free and available 24/7.