Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Epidemiology | Causes | Symptoms | Comorbidities and Complications | Diagnosis | Treatment
Long-sleeper syndrome is a rare sleeping abnormality in which someone has a predisposition to sleep for longer hours than what is accepted to be adequate.
Long sleepers require more hours of sleep to feel refreshed and well-rested, resulting in nocturnal sleep between 10-12 hours in most people with the condition. Anyone with long-sleeper syndrome typically sleeps over 8 hours a night.
Long-sleeper syndrome typically begins in childhood. Anyone with the condition would probably have it for life.
The abnormality in long-sleeper syndrome is in the length of sleep as the quality and structure of the sleep are typical. Many doctors argue that long sleeper syndrome is not a disorder but an extreme of the normal sleep process.
According to estimates, two percent (2%) of the general population have long sleeper syndrome.
Long-sleeper syndrome is more common in men than in women. Children sleep for longer hours than adults, so the incidence and prevalence of long sleeper syndrome among children is difficult to establish.
The exact cause of the long-sleeper syndrome is not known. It does not result from genetic, medical, or psychological abnormality. However, several risk factors are known to increase susceptibility to the condition.
These risk factors include:
● Alcohol use
● Sedentary lifestyle
● Socio-economic factors like unemployment, low-income status, long-term night shift work, single or divorced persons are more at risk of having long sleeper syndrome
● Medical conditions like diabetes, obesity, hyperthyroidism, seizure, high blood pressure, coronary heart diseases, cancer, etc
● Other sleep conditions like restless legs syndrome or obstructive sleep apnea
● Drugs like benzodiazepines
The symptoms of long-sleeper syndrome may be similar to those of insomnia. Anyone with the condition will often not get as much sleep as they desire. The symptoms of the long-sleeper syndrome include:
● Daytime Sleepiness: Someone with long sleeper syndrome will feel sleepy during the day because they have not had enough sleep to feel refreshed
● Frequent Lengthy Sleep: Anyone with long sleeper syndrome will often sleep more than 10 hours. It usually begins in childhood
● Daytime Tiredness
● Excessive Weekend Sleeping: Someone with long sleep syndrome will sleep for longer hours (up to 15 hours or more) on the weekend to catch up on the sleep debt accrued during the week
● Difficulty waking up: People with long-sleeper syndrome find it difficult to get up to an alarm
Comorbidities and Complications
Long-sleeper syndrome is associated with many other conditions that could complicate or occur alongside long sleeping. These conditions can be sleep-related, medical, or psychological.
In addition, some researchers have established a relationship between long sleeping and increased mortality among the general population. Complications of long sleeping include:
● Increased Sleep Fragmentation: Long sleeping has been associated with frequent sleep interruptions. Sleep fragmentation can lead to the sequelae of other outcomes, like reduced energy and daytime tiredness.
● Fatigue and Feelings of Exhaustion: Long sleeping is associated with fatigue and exhaustion. Fatigue can also predispose someone to sleep too long.
● Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Researchers have linked long-sleeping syndrome to obstructive sleep apnea. Anyone with sleep apnea will likely spend more time sleeping because of the fragmentation of sleep associated with the condition.
● Dysfunctional Immune Function: Long sleeping is associated with a dysfunction of the immune system. This dysfunction causes cytokines release, increasing the risk for mortality.
● Depression: Depression is associated with many sleep disorders. It can complicate long sleeping syndrome and be a risk factor for long sleeping.
● Coronary Heart Disease and Hypertension: Researchers have established a relationship between long-sleeping syndrome and heart diseases, such as coronary heart disease. Long sleeping at night may cause blood pressure dipping, increasing the risk of clot formation and subsequent coronary events.
● Disruption of Social Relationships: Long-sleeping syndrome could have harmful effects on the relationship of anyone who has the condition. Long sleeper syndrome can sometimes make it impossible to meet personal or career obligations.
● Increased Mortality Risk: Many researchers have established that anyone with the long-sleeper syndrome has an increased mortality risk compared to the general population.
Your doctor may suspect that you have long-sleeper syndrome if you have the symptoms; however, a diagnosis of long-sleeper syndrome will need your sleep pattern to be studied using a sleep diary.
In addition, you may be subjected to other sleep tests, like polysomnography to rule out other sleep disorders.
You may also require some medical tests if your doctor suspects that your long sleeping is due to some underlying medical condition.
The treatment of long-sleeper syndrome is not usually medical; however, if a medical condition is the cause of your long sleeping, prompt treatment of the medical condition will cause your sleeping pattern to improve. If a medical condition does not cause long sleeping, you do not need medical treatment.
Your doctor will advise you to give in to your urge to sleep. Depriving yourself of sleep might predispose to developing other sleep abnormalities and affect your daytime functioning.[2
However, satisfying your desire to sleep might affect your social and work obligations. So, you may need some help to organize your work and other duties. It will help optimize your sleep without slacking on your responsibilities.
Your doctor may recommend coping strategies for your condition. These may include:
● Go to Bed Early: Going to bed on time will make more time available to meet your sleep demands
● Take Afternoon Naps: Taking daytime naps might help reduce the time you need to sleep at night
● Don’t Consume Stimulating Drinks, like coffee, that affect your sleep pattern
Although the long-sleeper syndrome can have far-reaching social and career consequences, its outcome is favorable if appropriately managed by your doctor.
- Demetre, D. C. (2007, September 23). Long sleeper syndrome. Sciencebeta. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://sciencebeta.com/long-sleeper-syndrome/
- ASA Authors & ReviewersSleep Physician at American Sleep Association Reviewers and Writers Board-certified sleep M.D. physicians. (n.d.). Long Sleeping & Long Sleeper Syndrome. American Sleep Association. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-disorders/more-sleep-disorders/long-sleeping/
- Grandner, M. A., & Drummond, S. P. (2007). Who are the long sleepers? Towards an understanding of the mortality relationship. Sleep medicine reviews, 11(5), 341–360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2007.03.010
- Hershner, Shelley, MD and Saito, John, MD (2020, October). “Long Sleeper.” Sleep Education, https://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders/long-sleeper/