Can You Be Addicted To Sleep?

I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake. - Ernest Hemmingway

If you asked Ernest Hemmingway and a couple of the guys who we used to serve with whether or not you can be addicted to sleeping, they’d reply with an emphatic “Are you crazy? Of course you can be addicted to sleeping”, but if you were to ask any medical professional the same question, they would probably snort with derision and call you crazy for even thinking about, let alone asking the question.

Biology 101 And Sleep

According to the American Psychological Association, the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, and the American Medical Association, there’s no such thing as sleep addiction. None of the aforementioned professional bodies recognizes sleep addiction as an actual disorder, and there’s a very simple reason why they don’t. Sleep, they argue, is a biological necessity and as such it’s impossible for an individual to be addicted to it.

The basis of the medical profession’s assertion is fundamentally correct, as it’s impossible to become addicted to breathing, as they are basic requirements, just like sleep, that we need to live. But, that’s where we assumed that their argument fell down or at least encountered a bump in the road, as it is possible for an individual to become addicted to eating, and if someone can become addicted to eating, which is by definition a biological necessity than surely it’s possible for a person to become addicted to sleeping, which is also a biological necessity? Apparently, that’s not how it works.

Biology 101 And Sleep, woman sleeping deep

The Biological Addiction Issue

We were wrong when we assumed that people could become addicted to eating, as it isn’t the actual act of eating that a person can become addicted to, it’s food. And food addiction is a deeply complex issue that has multiple psychological triggers and causes.

So, it isn’t the actual biological impulse that forms the basis of the addiction, it’s the thing associated with it, which further validates the original assertion that as it’s impossible to become addicted to a biological necessity, it’s physically impossible to become addicted to sleep and, or sleeping.

What Is Addiction?

Before we go any further, it’s important to understand what addiction is. Defined as a brain disorder that is characterized by compulsive behavior that seeks reward from stimuli despite the risk of adverse or physically dangerous consequences, addiction can manifest itself as either physical or behavioral dependence.

We wanted to define and explain what addiction actually was, and is, in order to better quantify the idea that being in “love” with something, or claiming to be “addicted” to it isn’t the same as actually being addicted to something. True, love can and does “reward” those in its thrall, whatever the object of their affection is, with a rush of endorphins, but love and addiction aren’t the same things.

Simply saying that you must be, or you think you are addicted to sleeping because you enjoy it, doesn’t mean that you’re addicted to it, but there might be a root cause or reason why you or anyone else think you might be addicted to sleeping.

The Neurological Path To Sleep “Addiction”

While most of us are undoubtedly aware of neurological conditions such as Narcolepsy, which can cause the sufferer to fall into a deep sleep at any given moment, there is another disorder that is sometimes referred to as “sleeping addiction” in lay circles.

Hypersomnia is a neurological disorder that is the reverse and polar opposite of insomnia can cause the individual suffering from it to sleep for an excessive amount of time, to appear drowsy and physically tired during the day, and to be plagued by a general lack of awareness.

Fatigue at work due sleep-wake disorder, woman with fatigue at work

Characterized as a sleep-wake disorder, it can have a devastating effect on the personal and professional life of the person suffering from it, and, once properly diagnosed, can be treated with a combination of drug and physical therapy.

It Might Be Your Bed That You’re “Addicted” To

Clinomania is a disorder that’s distinguished by an overriding compulsion to stay in, and do everything from, bed. Wrongly referred to as an “addiction” to bed, Clinomania is often confused by those suffering from it as a sleep disorder, because of the association between sleep and bed, but it rarely, if ever, has anything to do with sleep.

The only way to treat Clinomania is with dissociation therapy, wherein the sufferer undergoes a rigorous program of physical and mental exercises that are designed to reprogram their brain and reinforce the idea that a bed is for sleeping and shouldn’t be seen in any other everyday capacity.

Sleep “Addiction” - Cause And Reason

There are a number of reasons why an individual or you might assume that they’re suffering from sleep addiction, and a major contributing factor could be undiagnosed depression. A reluctance to get out of bed, or wake up accompanied by physical lethargy and fatigue could be caused by clinical depression. If these symptoms do appear and seem to lie at the heart of the problem, it’s important to speak to a doctor and be absolutely honest, as it can be controlled and alleviated with a combination of drug therapy and counseling.

Believe it or not, another common cause of so-called “sleep addiction” is sleep deprivation, which can be caused by an individual “burning the candle at both ends”, stress or an inability to sleep that is itself caused by insomnia.

If it’s the latter, again speak to a doctor about the symptoms and see what they suggest, but if it’s either of the other two, it’s crucial to identify the underlying reasons why the individual in question might feel inclined to push themselves harder than they should be and what is causing the stress. In both cases, the individual needs to reevaluate their priorities and learn new behaviors that can help them to remove the things that are damaging them psychologically, from their immediate sphere of influence and life.

With patience and a little time and understanding, it’s possible to treat “sleep addiction” and help the person who believes that they’re suffering from it to develop new, healthy sleep patterns.