“Why Do I Get Depressed At Night?” Understanding How Sleep And Your Mood Are Related
By: Jon Jaehnig
Updated July 07, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Audrey Kelly, LMFT
Have you ever asked yourself, "Why Do I Get Depressed at Night?" Possibly while lying awake in bed, maybe in the early hours of the morning?
It's almost as though sleep and mood are related. It turns out that they are - in several different ways.
Sleep and Depression
Sometimes, when you're depressed, all you want to do is sleep. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like you can do anything but sleep. Sometimes you might be able to sleep, just not at night.
You might be wondering, "What's wrong with me?"
Sleep, Depression, And You
It's not just you. Sleep and your mood are very closely related. Understanding how they are related can help you to improve both to live a happier and healthier life.
Unfortunately, everyone is different, and there are several different ways your mood and sleep are related. Which reason or combination of reasons are problems that might take some time?
What Is Depression
Many people say that they are feeling depressed when they're just feeling "down." Everyone feels down sometimes, but depression is a serious condition.
Depression is different for everyone who experiences it, but there are a few more common symptoms than others. These include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, lack of energy, apathy, problems maintaining a healthy weight, and - you guessed it - abnormal sleeping patterns.
Of course, to be diagnosed, symptoms must persist for at least a couple of weeks. However, exceptions are sometimes made in the face of traumatic events like a death in the family. Depression can also be caused by other significant events like moving, ending a relationship, or losing a job. Sometimes it can even seem to come out of nowhere.
If you think that you have depression, talk to your healthcare provider right away, no matter how long you've been feeling this way. Even if it hasn't been a couple of weeks yet, talking to your healthcare provider as soon as possible can help you both establish when symptoms start so that you can address these as soon as possible. We'll talk more about addressing depression toward the end of this article.
That Doesn't Invalidate Your Feelings
It's very important to understand the difference between feeling depressed and having depression. That doesn't mean that your feelings aren't important unless a doctor says so. Life is hard, and sometimes it seems like it can be too much. That's true whether you have depression or not. Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't allowed to feel sad or overwhelmed - or anything else - without a doctor's permission.
If you feel depressed, you feel depressed, and if you have trouble sleeping, you have trouble sleeping. If you feel depressed and you have trouble sleeping, you're in the right place.
The Relationship Between Sleep and Mood
Now that we've gotten all of that out of the way, it's time to get down to the meat and potatoes. How are sleep and mood-related?
It turns out that there are several ways they are related.
Everything that happens in your body - from how it functions to how you feel - results from a complex interplay of chemical reactions in your body. That doesn't mean that what you feel isn't real and that you're some automaton.
It means that sometimes the chemical balances that are your life can go haywire, sometimes for no reason at all, which can make life much harder and much less pleasant for you. On the other hand, sometimes life is hard and unpleasant, and that can cause the delicate chemical balances that are your life to go haywire. This can, and often does, lead to a vicious feedback loop, regardless of where the problem started.
A common theme throughout this article will be the interplay between your emotional experience and your physical needs.
The good news is that just like one of these systems falling out of sync can throw off the other; focusing on improving one of these systems can pull the other back into line.
Sleep and Mood: Energy
You've been there before: a young cousin's birthday party, or maybe a niece's or nephew’s. Maybe you have young children of your own. An infant or a toddler starts screaming. "She's just cranky because she didn't get her nap," explains a grownup. Well, this can happen to grownups too.
Sleep isn't a time when we're not doing anything. The brain is busy converting memories from short-term to long-term. Your muscles and skin are busy repairing the wear and tear that they sustain every day. Your organs are bust cleaning your blood, extracting nutrients from your food.
When you don't get enough sleep, these processes don't happen like they're supposed to. When this doesn't happen like it's supposed to, you wake up - if you ever fell asleep - feeling hazy and tired. Then, you're unable to face the day, which was probably already going to be rough. This is the first of those vicious circles that we were talking about. When you can't sleep, you have trouble meeting your obligations. When you have trouble meeting your obligations, you can't sleep.
What to Do
If you can fall asleep, doing so might be one way to break up the cycle.
Sometimes, we treat sleep like a luxury, but, as discussed above, it's more like an investment. Reschedule things, cancel commitments if you can, take time off if you need to. When you need sleep, you need to sleep.
If you still feel guilty, think about how much more productive you'll be once you've rested long enough for your body to catch up with everything that it goes through.
Sleep and Mood: Rest
You go to bed. You turn out the light. You close your eyes. It hits you. You have a long day at work tomorrow. That will leave you little time to do all the errands and chores that you have to do - never mind your friend or partner who has been complaining that you've been neglecting them lately. Someone's got to pay the bills, right?
So, why do all these things come to mind as soon as you try to relax?
As terribly paradoxical as it sounds, one big reason is that you're trying to relax. When you're at work, you're worrying about work. When you're running errands and doing chores, you're worrying about the errands that you're running and the chores that you're doing. When you're paying the bills, you're worried about paying the bills. When you're trying to sleep, your mind is free to worry about everything.
What to Do?
One of the best ways to prevent your worries from ganging upon you is to have a "buffer" time before bed. Don't check emails - don't even look at your phone or computer - don't think about work, don't do anything. Try listening to soft music, doing some gentle yoga, or reading a book.
If those things don't work, try a mental activity like progressive muscle relaxation. In this form of meditation, you breathe in and imagine the breath moving through your body to your toes. Focus on how your toes feel, then exhale and imagine the breath moving out of your toes through your body and out of your mouth. Repeat this step moving up your body. I bet you’d be asleep before you're done.
Sleep and Mood: Chemicals
As mentioned above, your mood and physical function are largely linked to chemical reactions in your brain and body. For better or worse, the same chemical or group of chemicals often controls emotional and physical functions. This means that any chemical imbalance can be double trouble. One of these chemicals is called serotonin.
Serotonin helps to regulate your mood and keep you happy. Low serotonin is often found in people with depression. Whether depression causes low serotonin or low serotonin causes depression is still a topic of debate, but likely it's some combination of both answers.
However, serotonin doesn't only regulate your mood. It also regulates your sleep patterns.
Several things can cause serotonin imbalances. Some people's bodies don't create enough of it. Other people don't have enough active receptors in their bodies, or their bodies flush out the chemical before their receptors get the chance to use it. Some drugs can also damage receptors.
What to Do About It
Unfortunately, chemical imbalances aren't usually things that you can power through. You and a healthcare provider will need to work together to determine whether this is your problem and, if so, what causes it. Only then will you and your healthcare provider be able to fix it.
One of the most common solutions is a class of drugs called Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs. These drugs help keep serotonin in your body longer than it otherwise would so that your body has enough time to use it. It might seem like it would make more sense to give you serotonin, but this can lead your receptors to develop an intolerance - and that would lead to addiction and other problems.
As mentioned above, if you think that depression is causing your problem, the best thing to do is to talk to your healthcare provider to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. This can help you to get the care that you need. But what about the care that you and your relationships need?
You might have depression because of the recent end of a relationship or problems in your current relationship. In another possible vicious cycle, your depression might be causing or worsening problems between you and your partner. No matter which one of these is the case for you, a relationship counselor can help you get the help you and your relationship need.
For more information about how you and your relationship can benefit from relationship counseling over the Internet connection, visit https://www.regain.us/start/.
Living Your Best Life
Whether your sleeping problem started with your depression or your depression started with your sleeping problem, finding and addressing the cause may be enough to fix both problems. Hopefully, the tips above will help, but if they aren't enough, the help that you need is out there.
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