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Sleeping 12-18 Hours A Day

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I am a 16 year old female, and I sleep WAY too much. On average, I get 12-18 hours of sleep a day. It's not something I can control. If I try to stay awake and ignore the drowsiness,I will end up falling asleep standing, or while having conversations with people. I have a consistent sleep pattern. I sleep until 8 in the morning, take a nap again from 2-6, and then go to bed around 8. I sleep all night long. I don't eat as well as I should, I hardly get breakfast, and sometimes I don't eat lunch or dinner. It's not that I'm skipping meals on purpose, I'm just never hungry when I wake up, so it doesn't occur to me to eat. Yet, I still eat well. I eat a balanced meal, and avoid caffeine at all times. I drink plenty of water and eat tons of fruit and food with protein. I was diagnosed with mild depression in the past, and am taking medicine for it. I am no longer depressed with the initial diagnosis, I will be switching to a new medicine specifically for pre-menstrual depression, the current diagnosis. I need the excessive amount of sleep every day though, not just during my period or the week before. Doctors have tested me for thyroid problems, but I'm good. It seems that I'm constantly sick, and I've lost some weight. I still manage to get everything done, and sleeping didn't affect my grades or my performance at work, it's just... tiring. I'd like to be awake to see the world outside and to take advantage of it, but I'm too tired. Any suggestions?
Signed: Sleeping 12-18 Hours A Day

Dear Sleeping 12-18 Hours A Day,


It sounds like there is some kind of sleep disorder going on here since you are sleeping 12-18 hours per day, you can fall asleep during everyday activities, you sleep for a prolonged period of time at night, need extra sleep during the day, and do not seem refreshed after sleeping. Sleep disorders, in general, can be caused by many different factors, medical and/or psychological. TeenHealthFX suggests that you speak with your primary care physician or an adolescent medicine specialist so that you can be evaluated for any medical conditions or lifestyle choices that might be contributing to your need to sleep so much. You can also consider going to a sleep clinic for an evaluation. If your doctor is unable to find anything physically wrong with you, and there is nothing that needs to be changed in your day-to-day routines, then FX suggests that you consult with a mental health professional to see if there are any emotional issues that could be contributing to how much you sleep. FX has listed some possibilities of medical and psychological causes of excessive sleep below:


Possible Medical Causes:

·         Hypersomnia

·         Obstructive sleep apnea. A disorder that stops people from breathing momentarily during sleep. Because it disrupts the normal sleep cycle, it can create a desire for more sleep.

·         Narcolepsy

·         Medication side-effects

·         Malnutrition

·         Being overweight

·         A head injury or neurological disease, such as multiple sclerosis

·         Genetics (having a relative with hypersomnia)


Possible Psychological Causes:

·         Depressive Disorders

·         Stress

·         Anxiety Disorders


Possible Lifestyle Causes:

·         Drug and alcohol abuse, including abuse of prescription medications and over-the-counters medications

·         Not including a sufficient amount of calories, nutrients and vitamins into your daily diet


It is important to address this issue with a doctor and/or mental health professional as excessive sleeping can have some detrimental effects on a person’s physical health. Research has connected a tendency to oversleep as contributing to such health issues as:

·         Diabetes

·         Headaches

·         Obesity

·         Back pain

·         Depression

·         Heart disease


There are many different kinds of sleep disorders and various underlying causes. In general, call your doctor to set up an appointment if you experience any of the following:

·         Your sleep does not improve with self-help techniques, such as establishing good sleep hygiene, cutting down on caffeine, exercising, and using relaxation techniques.

·         You think your sleep problems may be related to an underlying condition, such as depression or heart failure.

·         You snore loudly or make snorting or gasping noises while you sleep.

·         You fall asleep doing normal activities, such as talking.

·         You consistently do not feel refreshed when you wake up and are constantly fatigued. Sleep disorders are among the many possible causes for fatigue.

·         You suspect your medication is causing your sleep problems.


If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

You can look up sleep centers through the below listed websites:

·         The American Academy of Sleep Medicine


·         National Sleep Foundation

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX