Too much sleep a warning

Doctors have known for years the perils of not getting enough sleep. It can lead to problems with cognitive function, mood disorders, even safety risks as it can inhibit a person’s ability to drive or operate machinery.

But what if someone is getting too much sleep and finding it difficult to crawl out of bed each morning? Experts say this can be a sign of other serious disorders.

“There are people who feel compelled to stay in bed because they are suffering from severe depression,” says Marcia Epstein, director of Lawrence-based Headquarters Counseling Center. “Maybe they haven’t thought of it, but they may have a problem.”

Symptoms of depression can also be manifested in an inability to sleep, Epstein says.

“It can be wanting to sleep lots or not sleeping at all,” she says. “It’s really a significant change in the sleep cycle. We look at those types of changes as a sign that someone needs some help.”

These symptoms can compound themselves over time, as the person becomes more and more aware of them, Epstein says.

“Certainly people have times when there is a high level of anxiety relating to sleep and that makes it harder to break your pattern and add to the severity,” she says. “It’s typically not something a person can control. The people we talk to are not lazy, they are in a lot of pain.”

When a person notices these changes in their internal clock, or circadian rhythm, Epstein says that they should seek help.

“It’s time to talk to somebody and let them know what’s going on, whether it’s a family member of friend or a professional. You should get someone to help,” she says. “If they don’t have any support, that’s why our center is here. We can start the conversation about what they’re feeling and how to get help.”

While it may be a symptom of depression, most sleep experts do not believe that there is such a thing as too much sleep.

“We don’t believe it’s possible to get too much sleep,” says Dr. Bob Whitman, director of the pulmonary function laboratory at the Kansas University Hospital. “When the body has had enough, it will wake you up. It won’t allow you to have too much. There’s no evidence of that whatsoever.”