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Can a person become dependent on sleeping (more than they otherwise physically need) in a way that fits the definition of addiction, in the same way some psychology professionals may describe a person as being addicted to other standard needs, such as food, work, exercise?

If so, is there a way to determine whether the "need" for more sleep is due to actual physical needs or due to an addictive response?

Have there been any studies on this topic?

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There is something called Hypersomnia, which is the opposite of insomnia. I don't think it is an addiction as much as it is a disorder. There is also Narcolepsy, where people tend to sleep a lot, but only because they are not sleeping very well in the first place –  user473 Mar 7 '12 at 14:00
    
Thank you SOO much Marie for sharing your struggles. I have the same problem as you have described. I'm 26 and I do all the same things. I don't always have to be asleep as long as I'm laying down and resting. It's not the sleep itself that I get pleasure from but I feel euphoric when I'm lying down and drifting to sleep. –  user2831 Mar 17 '13 at 20:56
    
There is no "sleep addiction". Excessive sleepiness is a disease called hypersomnia. Sleeping to avoid "facing the day" is a symptom of depression. –  user1196 Mar 19 '13 at 6:59
    
Sleep is as necessary as breathing. Would you call absolute necessity an addiction? Otherwise I agree to @what@. –  sleepy Mar 19 '13 at 10:04
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3 Answers 3

Not aware of any studies on this topic. I think this is a tricky question because of the nature of sleeping.

Hypersomnia does not fit in with physiological nor psychological dependence because of the following (from the proposed DSM-V revision, but similar enough to the DSM-IV-TR) symptom:

"The sleep periods are non-restorative (unrefreshing) or so prolonged in length that this causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning."

Now, sleep would not fit in with the class of substance-related disorders. I cannot see one having impaired control over or compulsive use of sleep. Can one really derive that much pleasure, and thus, a reward response from sleep? Would one have a tendency to keep increasing the dose, to chase "a high"? Abrupt cessation of sleep after excessive "use" may trigger negative feelings but if one were to, say, give the sleep-craving individual stimulant medication, I doubt serious withdrawal effects will take place.

The only proposed behavioral addiction for the DSM-V (at least I think at this point) is Gambling Disorder, or pathological gambling. The proposed criteria are as follows.

A. Persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. is preoccupied with gambling (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble
  2. needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement
  3. has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling
  4. is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
  5. gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)
  6. [Not relevant.]
  7. lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling
  8. has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling
  9. [Not relevant.]

Can a psychological dependence on sleep fit in with the above criteria if one were to mold it to pertain to "pathological" sleeping?

I could not think of analogous "Sleep Addiction" criteria to match that of Gambling Addiction's A-6/A-9 symptom points, but from the above, it appears that a psychological dependence /can/ apply to a dependence on sleep(ing). From this loose argument alone.

  1. Preoccupied with sleep. [Sure.]
  2. Needs get an increasing amount of hours of sleep to achieve the same response. [Eh. I was thinking "resorts to increasing doses of sedatives to achieve longer periods of sleep" but felt that ventured into substance abuse territory.]
  3. Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop (ha) [excessive] sleep. [Sure, why not.]
  4. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down on sleep. [Can see this happening.]
  5. Sleeps as a way of avoiding problems or of relieving dysphoric mood. [Most definitely, this symptom reminds me of some subtypes of Major Depressive Disorder. But I digress.]
  6. Lies to family members, others, to conceal the extent of excessive sleep. [Why not.]
  7. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of excessive sleep. [Can easily see this.]

If I can interject my own opinion on the matter, I just cannot see anyone developing a physical need for sleep. Our basic biological or evolutionary make-up does not allow for that, I feel. But I know little about, say, narcolepsy - but to my knowledge they find their excessive sleepiness unwanted and detrimental. Nor can I see potential for one to become psychologically dependent or addicted to sleep. I just can't see someone deriving pleasure from more and more sleep.

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I like the comparison to gambling, but I would suggest moving the sleep based example to the front of the question (for us TL;DR folks) and then explaining it and the gambling example it was based on after-the-fold. Also, links would be nice! –  Artem Kaznatcheev Mar 17 '12 at 20:29
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"Nor can I see potential for one to become psychologically dependent or addicted to sleep."

I believe someone can become "psychologically dependent on sleep".

I am 47 and have used sleep for 40 years to escape from life. I typically sleep 4-6 hours too much each day. I don't really physically need this sleep, since I then am often awake the next night for oversleeping that day, or I get a very strange tingling feeling in my body when I am forcing myself to sleep more and my body simply can't sleep any more. Also, I wake up after a normal 8hrs, feel like I can't face the day and force myself to go back to sleep with more breaks of waking up and forcing myself back to sleep for the next 4-5 hours.

My sleep gets in the way of living a full day and being productive. When I finish my day, I am frustrated that I lost so many hours to sleep.

I have tried everything for the last 25 years to address this. I have tried 7 years of psychotherapy, personal will power, all kinds of sleep and activity schedules, full physical examinations, talking with a sleep specialist, etc.

I always seem to eventually drift back into using sleep as a way of getting out of life.

I am generally an intelligent, capable person, have a college degree, reached a decent level professionally, travelled around the world, etc. I look like a normal person but the sleep problem makes functioning difficult.

I have had some childhood trauma, depression, anxiety which I have worked with extensively with psychotherapy.

Sleep feels like an addiction to me because . I crave it several times a day and am looking forward to how I can sneak it in. . I don't seem to be able to control it with will power for very long. . If I have a successful period, I seem to always eventually slip back into it. . I only have short periods when this isn't a problem. . When I am under stress it is at it's worse. . If I have any free or unstructured time, I can't control how much I sleep excessively. . When my time is heavily scheduled, I really struggle with keeping a full schedule and crave the time off when I can sleep for hours. . If I know I'll have a few hours in between activities free, I will find ways to sneak in some sleep. . I am embarrassed about this, don't tell the people around me the extent of the problems and devise ways to sneak in sleep without people knowing. . If I am anxious, I use sleep as a way to reboot my system, calm myself down or get another perspective. . After I have chosen excessive sleep over being up, I struggle with self-recriminations about how much of my life I have wasted, how I didn't accomplish the things I wanted, why it was not good for me, how most of my day was gone, etc.

The upside is my addition only hurts me.

For me, sleep addiction (and perhaps food addiction for others) are different than gambling, alcohol, smoking, drugs. Sleep is something you must do each day to live. I have no problem with total abstinence of things that aren't good for me (like drugs, etc). However, I really struggle day after day with getting up out of sleep.

I have researched this and I have not found any studies on "sleep addiction". However, in medical sleep science journals and among a few psychiatric journals there are recent studies on "delayed sleep phase syndrome" and "non- 24 hour sleep phase syndrome", whereby people who appear to sleep excessively simply have a malfunction of how melantonin is secreted in the system (perhaps due to the recent advent of the electric lightbulb) and do not sleep when most humans sleep. Studies are showing that a much larger percentage of the population unknowingly struggle with this disorder in isolation all their lives. This is turning out to be the be the biggest sleep disorder affecting the most number of people, even above insomnia and apnea. This is very little understood and has only been discovered and documented in science journals since 1981. DSPS is a recognized disability in the government disability system.

It seems that there is a huge gulf between the studies and expertise of medical sleep science and that of psychology/psychiatric studies on the sleep difficulties and the use of excessive sleep as a psychological coping mechanism.

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I downvoted this answer... which I hated to do, because it was really interesting! However, it's lacking any scientific references. DO you have any you can provide? have you researched your condition yourself and can you provide links to studies? I think you have some great content here and it just needs a little bit more. Thanks! –  Josh Gitlin Apr 27 '12 at 11:52
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Yes, I have researched it. No there aren't any studies. Too bad I am downgraded, doesn't someone have to be the first to start somewhere? This has been considered an "invisible disability" (see invisibledisabilities.org) which people don't want to admit to. Your posting guidelines state personal experiences can be submitted. Too bad I can't get help or have an intelligent forum to discuss this. –  Marie Apr 30 '12 at 13:09
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Please don't be offended Marie. I downvoted you because it wasn't clear that there were no studies that you could reference, and because good answers on this site reference studies, not only personal experience. Now, that having been said, I will happily remove my downvote if you can edit your question... perhaps just add a note saying "I have researched this but couldn't find any relevant studies" –  Josh Gitlin Apr 30 '12 at 18:58
    
Also, please be aware of a few things: 1. This site isn't a "forum" in the traditional sense. Our goal is to provide objective answers to objective questions. So answers based on personal experience may tend to be downvoted. We're better suited to Q&A than discussion. 2. our community is still trying to decide as a whole who we are and what the rules are here. If you feel we're going in the wrong direction, please start a new discussion on Meta. I want to be sure you know I am not trying to be rude, just trying to help! –  Josh Gitlin Apr 30 '12 at 19:23
    
Just because there aren't any professional studies done on the subject of sleep addiction does not mean that it isn't a science. Galileo was ridiculed and jailed for his "science." And the first doctors to suggest airborne germs were invisible to the human eye yet present on a microscopic scale were also derided. This forum is functionally inept if one can't explore what is thought to be the scientific fringe. A question doesn't always have to be answered with an answer. Marie I up-voted your response because it was detailed, in-depth and scientifically apt, even if it failed to include actual –  user2730 Feb 20 '13 at 22:55
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According to Dr Piotr Wozniak, no.

Oversleeping

To summarize what Dr Wozniak says, people need sleep to optimize memory. While there is an evolutionary benefit to overeating (conserving fat for the future), there is none to oversleeping.

Sleepiness is a combination of

  1. a circadian component (the hours you usually sleep)
  2. a homeostatic component (e.g. staying awake too long, learning too much).

What causes oversleeping is people who often sleep while they are tired before their bedtime, and the circadian component launches hormones that keep you asleep.

For example, if your usual bedtime is about 10 PM, your usual wake time is around 4-6 AM, which is when the circadian sleepiness wears off. If you are extremely tired and fall asleep at 6 PM, your circadian sleepiness hormones kick in at about 10 PM, leaving you sleepy until around 4-6 AM. You will fall asleep for about 12 hours and feel like you've slept for only 6, which is what many people interpret as oversleeping.

If you happen to sleep at 4 PM that day and sleep off the homeostatic component, you'll lack enough 'sleepiness' to fall asleep when the circadian part kicks in, and you'll get insomnia.

Thus, early sleepers will either get insomnia or oversleep, depending on how different from their usual circadian rhythm it is. Eventually, people's circadian rhythm will adjust to the new cycle, but people who keep adjusting their cycles and travel often (e.g. 2 AM one week, 6 PM the next) will often face oversleeping issues.

Can sleep become addictive?

I'm no expert on how addiction works, so someone should correct me on this if mistaken.

Addiction is a habitual psychological or physiological dependence on a practice that is beyond voluntary control. Quite often, it occurs when you have a reward at the end of a cue.

E.g. someone starts drinking or smoking when they get stressed out. As they repeat this, they gain a psychological addiction to drinking or smoking every time they are stressed. The reward of nicotine/alcohol triggers and enforces the habit loop. After enough of the substance in the system, they become physiologically addicted to alcohol or nicotine.

Or someone begins gambling every time they are bored and have money in their pocket. The reward of getting money enforces a habit loop, creating psychological addiction. The cue of being bored and having money triggers the addiction, the reward of getting money enforces it.

Being unable to retrieve these rewards creates craving and thus, psychological addiction.

However, with sleep is difficult to do as a reaction to anything. One can easily overeat as a response to stress, but one cannot easily sleep as a response to stress.

There's little euphoria associated to sleeping; when you wake up, you'd normally feel a little drowsy instead of 'satisfied'. While someone lacking sleep can have a craving for sleep, it's difficult to form a habit loop of sleeping as a reaction to anything.

So, I'd argue that while very rare circumstances would make one addicted to sleep, it'd have to be a deliberately developed habit. The most likely case would be a craving to sleep whenever one opens a textbook. A 'craving' to sleep at night is quite normal, much like the 'craving' to eat several times a day caused by low blood sugar levels.

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