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Long Sleeper

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What is it?

Long sleepers regularly sleep more than the average member of their age group. Their nightly length of sleep tends to be 10 to 12 hours. This sleep is very normal and of a good quality. It is simply much longer than most people need.

A long sleeper’s main complaint is that there is not enough time during the day to be awake. The disorder begins in childhood. It is a life-long pattern of needing a lot of sleep. It is not caused by a sudden change in medical or mental conditions. It is a very stable, consistent pattern of sleep.

Many long sleepers have to sleep less during the week due to the demands of work or school. They can function well on about nine hours of sleep per night during the week. Then they can catch up with 12 to 15 hours of sleep on weekends and holidays.

A long sleeper who does not get enough sleep will feel sleepy during the day. This need for long hours of sleep can disrupt relationships with family and friends. It can be hard to keep up with social events and job or school schedules. But as long as they get enough sleep, long sleepers will feel alert and well rested during the day.

Others may tell long sleepers to use stimulants in order to stay awake longer. This only keeps them from getting the sleep that they really do need. It will only cause them more problems.

Who gets it?

About 2% of men and 1.5% of women report sleeping at least 10 hours per night. Your personality may raise your chance of being a long sleeper. People who tend to be shy and introverted are more likely to be long sleepers. This is also true of people who often worry or seem depressed.

How do I know if I have it?

1. Do you sleep for 10 hours or more on a regular basis?

2. Are you very tired during the day if you don’t get this much sleep?

3. Have you had this sleep pattern since you were a child?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you may be a long sleeper.

It is also important to know if there is something else that is causing your sleep problems. They may be a result of one of the following:

  • Another sleep disorder
  • A medical condition
  • Medication use
  • A mental disorder
  • Substance abuse

It can be hard to know if a child is a long sleeper. All kids need more sleep than adults. A child may be a long sleeper if he or she regularly sleeps for at least two hours more than is normal at that age.

Do I need to see a sleep specialist?

You may not need help if you are able to get enough sleep to feel alert and well rested during the day. Talk with a family doctor about your pattern of long sleeping. You may need to see a sleep specialist if your need for sleep is affecting the quality of your daily life.

Sleeping for a long period of time can affect your work schedule and your relationships at home. People who require a long sleep time can become sleep deprived. This lack of sleep can add up and cause problem sleepiness. If you are often sleepy, then you may benefit from seeing a sleep specialist.

There is also a chance that your need to sleep for a long amount of time is caused by a medical condition or by depression. Your doctor or a counselor can help you treat these problems if they are present.

What will the doctor need to know?

First, the doctor will need to know when your long sleeping started. He will also want to know what else has been going on in your life. Share with him about any sources of stress that you are dealing with.

The doctor will need to know your complete medical history. Be sure to inform him of any past or present drug and medication use. Also tell him if you have ever had any other sleep disorder.

You will also want to keep a very careful and detailed sleep diary for two weeks. The sleep diary will help the doctor see your sleeping patterns. This information gives the doctor clues about what is causing your problem and how to correct it.

Will I need to take any tests?

No tests are needed for a doctor to detect that you are a long sleeper. Your doctor may have you do an overnight sleep study if he thinks that another sleep disorder is making you sleep longer. This study is called a polysomnogram.

The polysomnogram will chart your brain waves, heart beat, and breathing as you sleep. It will also record how your arms and legs move. This will show if there are other disorders, such as sleep apnea, that are causing your sleep problems.

There are other sleep disorders that cause sleepiness. They can be confused with being a long sleeper. The sleep doctor may have you do an overnight sleep study followed by a daytime nap study. This can help show if you have another disorder that causes sleepiness.

How is it treated?

Long sleepers do not need any treatment. Their sleep is very normal when they are able to sleep for the full length of time that they need. They simply need to make sure that they get enough sleep on a regular basis. If a medical condition or depression is the cause of the long sleeping, then those conditions will need to be treated.

Reviewed by Sharon L. Schutte-Rodin, MD
Updated May 18, 2006

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