A “long sleeper” is an individual who sleeps longer than average, but feels well and functions without impairment.2 Long sleep is different from idiopathic hypersomnia, where a person sleeps long hours but still does not feel refreshed.3 Long sleepers are adults who typically sleep more than 9 hours when not previously sleep-deprived, and children who sleep 2 hours more than the age-appropriate norm.4 About 2 percent of men and 1.5 percent of women in the United States are considered to be long sleepers.5
Long sleepers may have an inherently different circadian clock than do short sleepers (one that encodes a longer-than-usual biological night).6 Compared to normal sleepers, long sleepers have similar absolute amounts of slow-wave sleep (SWS), but significantly more stage 1, stage 2, and REM sleep.7
Long sleepers are more likely to be introverted, worried, and depressed, compared to normal sleepers — although the differences are small.8 Furthermore, compared to normal sleepers, long sleepers experience a greater incidence of sleep problems (i.e., difficulty falling asleep; awakening more often during the night and awakening too early and not feeling refreshed) and also have greater daytime sleepiness.9
Long sleepers who are restricted to less than 10 hours of sleep for a few nights show signs of sleep deprivation.10 To date, there is no suggested therapy for long sleepers. These patients should make time for their increased sleep needs, however.
2 Thorpy MJ, “Classifications of Sleep Disorders,” In Kryger M, Roth T, Dement W (ed.), Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine (5th Edition), St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders, page 687.
3 Aeschbach D, Cajochen C, Landolt H, Borbely AA. Homeostatic sleep regulation in habitual short sleepers and long sleepers. Am J Physiol. 1996;270:R41-53.
4 Hirshkowitz H, Whiton K, Albert SM, National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: final report, Sleep Health 2015; 1: 233–243. doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2015.10.004.
5 American Academy of Sleep Medicine. International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 3rd edition: Diagnostic and Coding Manual. Darien, I: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2014.
6 Aeschbach D, Sher L, Postolache TT, Matthews JR, Jackson MA, Wehr TA. A longer biological night in long sleepers than in short sleepers. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003;88:26-30.
7 Aeschbach D, Cajochen C, Landolt H, Borbely AA. Homeostatic sleep regulation in habitual short sleepers and long sleepers. Am J Physiol. 1996;270:R41-53.
8 Hartmann E, Baekeland F, Zwilling GR. Psychological differences between long and short sleepers. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1972;26:463-468.
9 Grandner MA, Kripke DF. Self-reported sleep complaints with long and short sleep: a nationally representative sample. Psychosom Med. 2004;66:239-241.
10 Aeschbach D, Cajochen C, Landolt H, Borbely AA. Homeostatic sleep regulation in habitual short sleepers and long sleepers. Am J Physiol. 1996;270:R41-53.