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“All I want to do is stay in bed and sleep!”
Have you ever had a morning where you just didn’t want to get out of bed? Maybe you had a really nice dream that you weren’t ready to wake up from. Perhaps staying in the warm bed sounded much nicer than putting your feet on the cold floor. Or maybe you weren’t looking forward to the day, and just wanted a few more minutes of comfort. Everyone has had mornings like that.
For some people though, relying on the comfort of sleep may become a compulsion— or even feel like an addiction. Sleep is a vital life process, but getting too much can be as bad as not getting enough.
Addiction in any form is a difficult and painful problem that millions of Americans face each year. But is sleep addiction really something we need to worry about?
Is It Possible to be Addicted to Sleep?
Let me make this very clear from the beginning— no, sleep addiction isn’t an actual condition.
Unlike drug addiction or alcohol addiction, sleep doesn’t meet the criteria of addiction or substance use disorder. There are 11 criteria for addiction and substance use disorder. They are:
- Your usage or addiction has presented a danger to yourself or others.
- Your use or addiction has created conflict between yourself and others.
- You’ve neglected your responsibilities at school, work, or home.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms if you attempt to end your addiction.
- You’ve developed a tolerance— and need to use more to get the same effect.
- You’ve begun using larger amounts, or have been using the substance for longer amounts of time.
- You’ve tried to address your addiction more than once, but have been unsuccessful.
- You spend a lot of time partaking in your addiction.
- You’ve developed physical or psychological problems as a result of your addiction.
- You’ve given up activities you loved to focus on your addiction.
- You’ve experienced cravings for the subject of your addiction.
When you consider those criteria, sleeping doesn’t really fit in with some of them. You may feel like you crave sleep, or you might neglect personal relationships to sleep, but those alone don’t create an addiction. Remember— sleep is a necessary biological function you need to survive and be healthy. And while a rejuvenating night’s rest feels great, you can’t become addicted to it.
However, if you feel like you’re “addicted” to sleep or struggling to get enough rest, it could be a sign of another serious problem.
Feel Addicted to Sleeping? What May Be Causing It
Excessive daytime sleepiness is a major sign that something is wrong with your sleep. If your body is craving sleep, it’s a sign of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can be caused by:
- Poor sleep habits— like eating or drinking alcohol too close to bedtime, too much screen time before bed, et cetera.
- An irregular sleep schedule— especially if you work graveyard or at odd hours.
- Daytime behavior that could be sabotaging your sleep— like napping too late in the day.
Sleep disorders are another major cause of sleep deprivation. More specifically, some sleep disorders— known as hypersomnias— can contribute to excessive sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. These can include:
Unfortunately, treating sleep deprivation isn’t as simple as just getting more sleep. You can’t just make up your sleep debt by getting a few extra hours the next night. So it’s important to know what signs to look out for if there’s an underlying disorder sabotaging your sleep.
Signs of Hypersomnia
It’s not easy to tell if you’re suffering from a hypersomnia. That’s because it’s impossible to self-diagnose what’s happening to you while you’re sleeping. When you wake up and feel the side effects in the morning, you aren’t sure what the root of the problem is because you aren’t aware that anything happened.
Some signs you have an undiagnosed hypersomnia include:
- Difficulty waking up after a long sleep— and needing to nap during the day
- Cognitive impairment like brain fog or memory problems
- Daytime fatigue
What is Clinomania?
Like dysania, clinomania is a compulsion to stay in bed beyond your normal sleep schedule. However, like sleep addiction itself, neither of them are diagnosable conditions.
Difficulty waking up after sleep and needing to nap during the day can be a sign that you may not be getting the good quality sleep you need. Even if your sleep duration is just right— 7 to 9 hours for most adults— poor sleep quality can make you feel like you just need more sleep to feel rested.
There may be other reasons that people struggle to leave the warmth and comfort of their beds— something much more personal.
Sleep Addiction and Mental Health
We’ve all had days where we just didn’t want to get out of bed. But sleep issues like struggling to get out of bed or feeling addicted to sleep can be a significant sign of mental health problems.
Many people who suffer from mental health disorders like depression and anxiety find that they don’t get enough sleep— or that they can’t get out of bed in the morning. In fact, dependence on sleep can be a sign of depression.
One study from the Journal of Affective Disorders found that, among participants, insomnia was the most common sleep problem in those with depression. However, nearly half of the participants reported hypersomnia— or sleeping too much— as a symptom.
Mental health problems are a lot to cope with. People with depression may gravitate towards their beds as a safe place, where the negativity of the world can’t reach them. Then, when they sleep, they’re given further relief from that negativity.
If you’re struggling with mental illness or addiction, don’t suffer in silence. Help is available.
If you are feeling depressed or struggling with an addition, call 911 or the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1(800) 662-HELP (4357). They offer free support and resources if you are in crisis— 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Sleep Addiction and Prescription Sleep Aids
If you’re not getting enough sleep, a sleeping pill might seem like the solution to all your problems. However, prescription sleep aids aren’t as helpful as you may think.
Ironically, many prescription sleep aids actually cause insomnia after extended use. This is because your body develops a tolerance to these sleep aids, so you need to take higher doses to get the normal effect. You may even experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t keep up with your dosage.
It’s unfortunate, but many prescription sleep medications also come with potentially dangerous side effects. They may cause you to sleepwalk, or do other dangerous activities like cooking or even driving while you’re sleeping!
Now with that in mind, remember back to the 11 criteria for addiction. Sleep addiction may not be real— but sleeping pill addiction is.
Some potentially addictive sleep aids include:
- Zolpidem (Ambien)
- Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- Quetiapine (Seroquel)
- Benadryl. While Benadryl is not a sleep aid— it’s an antihistamine for treating allergies— many people use it to help them sleep because of its ability to make them drowsy.
If you take any of these prescriptions, talk to your doctor and ideally, to a sleep doctor. They can help you find alternative treatments to help you sleep. Never alter your dosage or stop taking your prescriptions without your doctor’s permission.
Nonaddictive Sleep Aids to Try If You Can’t Sleep
Natural sleep aids have become very popular in recent years. For good reason too— they can work very well, without the negative effects of prescription sleep aids. Here are a few natural, non-habit-forming sleep aids you can use to help you return to the healthy sleep you deserve.
- Melatonin. When you think of natural sleep aids, your mind probably goes to melatonin immediately. That’s because melatonin is an effective supplement— and your body produces it to help you sleep each night. But there are some important things to know before you start taking a melatonin supplement. Check out my article on the topic after you finish this one to learn more.
- Chamomile. This fragrant flower has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Chamomile tea can be especially helpful for encouraging sleep because of its relaxing properties.
- Valerian root. This root also has a long history of medicinal use. Whether it’s consumed in tea or in a supplement, valerian is effective for encouraging healthy sleep because it naturally reduces anxiety and boosts feelings of relaxation.
- Lavender. This aromatic purple flower is a staple of aromatherapy because of its calming properties that help you drift off to sleep more easily. You can also reap these benefits with a nice cup of lavender tea too.
- Sleep Doctor PM. Whether you’re having a hard time falling asleep or have woken up during the night, these unique formulas can help you return to the restful sleep you need. Just spray it under your tongue— then you’ll be off to sleep in no time, and without the morning grogginess you can get from other sleep aids.
When To Call Your Doctor
There are some days when it may be tempting to follow Rip Van Winkle’s example and sleep for 20 years— or just a few more hours. But excessive sleep can be just as harmful as not getting enough.
While sleep addiction isn’t an actual diagnosable condition, the need to sleep beyond your normal amount can be a sign of more serious problems. If your excessive daytime sleepiness has become noticeable or is affecting your day-to-day life, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist as soon as possible. They can help you get to the root of the issue and get the treatment you need to get a good night’s sleep.
Not sure where to find a sleep specialist near you? Check out this tool by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, FAASM
The Sleep Doctor