“Is it possible to be addicted to sleep? Asking for myself,” one person recently tweeted. It’s a feeling many can relate to.
When it becomes almost impossible to open your eyes in the morning, or you find yourself struggling to get through the day without a nap, you may start to wonder: Is sleep addiction a real thing?
Get the facts on excessive sleepiness and learn whether you can really become addicted to sleep, plus steps to take if you feel like you’re sleeping too much.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, the average adult requires at least 7 hours of sleep every night. This refers to actual sleep, not just time spent in bed.
When you consistently don’t feel rested after a 7-hour sleep and crave naps during the day, you may begin to feel like you have a sleep addiction.
However, excessive drowsiness could be a sign of another issue. For instance, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety or certain medications can have a similar effect.
An addiction is a brain disorder that involves compulsively craving a substance or behavior that may lead to the obsessive pursuit of a ”reward” or payoff.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), “addiction is most commonly associated with gambling, drugs, alcohol and smoking, but it’s possible to be addicted to just about anything.”
But can this apply to sleep?
According to Gregory Potter, one of the United Kingdom’s leading specialists in nutrition, sleep, circadian rhythms, and metabolism, probably not.
“Sleep addiction is not a medically recognized condition,” he says.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, people with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.
Sleep is a biological function and isn’t fundamentally harmful.
“To meet this definition, sleep would have to lead to harmful consequences, and this is very, very rarely the case,” Potter says. “The only exceptions would be instances such as someone doing something dangerous while sleepwalking.”
“Just like breathing, sleep is biologically necessary to survive,” she says. “Can someone be addicted to breathing? Never say never, but it’s extremely unlikely, and the same is true for sleeping.”
In short, you probably can’t be addicted to sleep.
Currently, no academic paper recognizes sleep as an addiction, Bodiu notes. However, she adds that excessive sleeping can be caused by other conditions.
“Hypersomnias are recognized sleep disorders characterized by long sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, or both,” Potter says. Excessive daytime sleepiness can also be caused by other conditions.
- Kleine-Levin syndrome
- idiopathic hypersomnia
- sleep apnea
- dysania, or the inability to get out of bed
It’s very possible to have one of these conditions and confuse it for a sleep addiction.
The term “clinomania” is also making its way around the internet. Like dysania, it refers to the compulsion to stay in bed, but it isn’t recognized as a diagnosable condition.
Even though sleep addiction isn’t recognized as a medical condition, there are signs to look out for that could indicate a sleep disorder such as hypersomnia.
Signs of hypersomnia include:
- difficulty waking up after a long sleep
- the need for naps
- memory difficulty
- brain fog
“Even though hypersomnia is not an addiction, those who have been diagnosed with it can suffer a wide range of side effects,” Bodiu says.
- low energy
- frequent loss of appetite
- suicidal ideation
- memory loss
In some cases, hypersomnia can lead to other conditions like:
- clinical depression
You may also be excessively tired due to poor sleeping habits, a disrupted sleep schedule, or behaviors during the day.
Bodiu notes that if the body is craving sleep, it’s likely that you really need it.
“Your body wants as much sleep as it needs, naturally waking you up when it’s well rested,” she says. “The hormones involved in our sleep cycles identify when the body needs to repair, rejuvenate, and recharge and so in effect puts us into snooze mode.”
If you still want to nap after a full night’s sleep, Bodiu says it may point to an issue with sleep quality.
Another possible reason you feel addicted to sleep could be related to a mental health condition.
“People with certain mental health disorders spend lots of time in bed,” Potter says. “This is quite common in some forms of depression, for instance. Some people with psychiatric disorders also have hypersomnia.”
Research shows that a psychological dependence on sleep may be an indicator of depression.
Depression may lead to both insomnia and hypersomnia.
A 2017 study found that while insomnia was the most common sleep problem in people with depression, nearly half of the study’s participants reported hypersomnia as a symptom of their depression.
“Individuals [thinking or] talking about escaping from reality might be driven by deep dissatisfaction with their waking life, with a desire to shut out all negativity in a coma-like state,” Bodiu says.
If you experience thoughts or feelings like those mentioned above, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional and get support right away.
If you’re considering suicide, contact a suicide prevention hotline or call 911. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 if you’re located in the United States. It offers 24/7 support.
While most experts agree that a straightforward sleep addiction is not a medical condition, it is possible to develop an addiction to sleeping pills. This can lead to symptoms of hypersomnia.
“Sleeping pills can successfully treat short-term insomnia,” Bodiu says. “When used correctly under the direction of a medical professional, they are unlikely to have a serious negative impact.”
However, most medications run the risk of dependence.
In addition, you may not realize you’re dependent on a medication until you build a tolerance to the dosage or experience withdrawal symptoms from stopping use.
Signs and symptoms of sleeping pill addiction can include:
- memory problems
- fatigue and daytime drowsiness
- lack of focus
- coordination problems
- sleep disorders such as sleep walking
“Addiction usually happens over time, so sleeping pills should only be taken for short-term treatment,” Bodiu advises.
Depending on the type of drug and how long you take it, it may be safer to wean yourself off as opposed to stopping “cold turkey.”
In either case, always seek the support of a medical professional to help you through the process.
List of sleep aids with potential for addiction
Wondering if your sleep medication might have the potential for addiction? Here is a list of common sleep aids that can become addictive over time.
- diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
- zolpidem (Ambien or Edluar)
- zaleplon (Sonata)
- eszopiclone (Lunesta)
If you have concerns about the addictiveness of a medication you take or are considering taking, talk with a doctor to learn more.
Best nonaddictive sleep aids to try
If you’re looking for a sleep aid that doesn’t have the potential for addiction, several natural options can help you drift off:
- lavender capsules, teas, or essential oil in a diffuser
- lemon balm
However, it’s important to note that health professionals are becoming increasingly concerned about melatonin supplements due to mislabeling and prolonged use.
You can also try changing your sleep habits to help you manage insomnia and sleep disturbances. For example, avoid screens and caffeine before bed and get plenty of daylight during the day.
If your excessive sleepiness has become a noticeable pattern and is affecting your daily life, it’s important to talk with a doctor.
Since a sleep addiction isn’t a diagnosable condition, your fatigue may be due to hypersomnia, a mental health condition, or another health concern.
Even though a sleep addiction isn’t a recognized medical condition, there are a number of reasons why you may be struggling with oversleeping.
Hypersomnia is a medical condition that leads to excessive tiredness, and some mental health conditions can also lead to sleepiness.
If you take prescription sleep medication and have the desire to sleep during the day, you may be dealing with a sleeping pill addiction.
In any case, talk with your doctor to get support and find the solution that’s right for you.
Meg is a freelance journalist and features writer who covers culture, entertainment, lifestyle and health. Her writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Shondaland, Healthline, HelloGiggles, Reader’s Digest, Apartment Therapy, and more. T: @wordsbyMeg W: megwalters.co.uk