Getting enough sleep is vital for good health. However, some people naturally sleep longer than the recommended 7-9 hours per night. These “long sleepers” often wonder if their extra shut-eye provides added health benefits or risks. Here we explore what science says about whether long sleepers live longer.
What is a long sleeper?
Long sleepers are people who consistently sleep more than 9 hours per night. While most adults average 6-8 hours of sleep per night, long sleepers need 10 or more hours to feel well-rested.
According to sleep studies, long sleepers comprise about 1-3% of the adult population. This sleep pattern tends to run in families and is likely influenced by genetics and biology rather than lifestyle factors.
Do long sleepers live longer lifespans?
Some research suggests long sleepers may have slightly shorter lifespans on average. A 2002 study followed over 1 million Americans for 14 years. It found that those sleeping 8 hours per night had the lowest mortality rate. Mortality risk increased with shorter and longer sleep durations:
|Sleep Duration||Increase in Mortality Risk|
However, there are a few important caveats to these findings:
- This study relied on self-reported sleep duration, which can be inaccurate.
- It was an observational study, so it does not prove cause and effect.
- The increased mortality was quite small until sleep exceeded 10 hours.
- Some long sleepers may have underlying health conditions affecting sleep.
Overall, there is no strong evidence that moderate long sleeping (9-10 hours) significantly impacts lifespan for otherwise healthy individuals. However, researchers are still investigating the mortality risks of excessive long sleep (11+ hours).
Do long sleepers have better health?
Although too much sleep may potentially shorten lifespans, most research shows long sleepers are just as healthy as average sleepers. For example:
- A study of over 1,700 adults found no major differences in self-reported health between those sleeping 7-8.5 hours versus >8.5 hours.
- Multiple studies reveal long sleepers have similar or lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and inflammation compared to shorter sleepers.
- One study tracked sleep and cognitive function in older adults over 14 years. Long sleepers showed equivalent or slightly slower cognitive decline versus short and average sleepers.
In most studies, the long sleepers reporting good health sleep 9-10 hours per night. There is some evidence that more extreme sleep (>11 hours) could be associated with adverse health effects in some individuals.
Long sleeper advantages
Although excessive long sleep may carry risks, there are some potential benefits to sleeping longer for certain individuals:
- Catching up on sleep debt – Longer sleep allows payback of accrued sleep debt if someone has short-term sleep deprivation.
- Brain benefits – Slow wave deep sleep is restorative and supports cognition, learning, and memory.
- Hormone regulation – Longer sleep provides more time for key hormone release, like testosterone and growth hormone.
- Reduced inflammation – Sleep decreases inflammatory chemicals linked to disease.
- Performance – Athletes may benefit from extra sleep for muscle recovery and athletic performance.
Health risks of too much sleep
Although most research shows 9-10 hours of sleep is harmless for long sleepers, there are some potential downsides of excessive long sleep:
- May be a symptom of underlying health condition – hypersomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, depression, hypothyroidism, etc.
- Linked to slightly higher inflammation and mortality rates in some studies.
- Associated with adverse metabolic effects – higher BMI, reduced insulin sensitivity, glucose intolerance.
- Impacts daily routine and productivity.
- Reduces physical activity, which has health benefits.
Overall, aim for 9-10 hours of sleep as a long sleeper. Seek medical advice if needing 11+ hours to feel rested or if extreme daytime sleepiness persists.
Tips for long sleepers
Long sleepers should take care to maintain healthy sleep habits. Here are some tips:
- Prioritize sleep consistency by waking up and going to bed at the same times daily.
- Limit light exposure and stimulating activities before bedtime.
- Avoid long naps and excessive caffeine, alcohol, and screens before bed.
- Rule out underlying health issues if you struggle to feel rested.
- Discuss sleep medication use with your doctor if applicable.
- Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom comfortable, cool, and free of noise/light pollution.
With good sleep hygiene, long sleepers can optimize their rest to promote health without oversleeping.
While most adults sleep 7-9 hours per night, some long sleepers need 10 hours or more to function optimally. Research suggests getting 9-10 hours as a long sleeper is harmless and may even provide some benefits like catching up on sleep debt, hormone regulation, better cognition, and athletic performance. However, excessive long sleep (11+ hours) may be linked to slightly higher mortality and adverse metabolic effects in some studies. Practicing good sleep habits can help long sleepers get optimal rest within a healthy range of 9-10 hours.