• Depression is characterized by feelings of intense sadness and comes with many harmful symptoms, which include disrupted sleeping patterns.
  • Individuals who struggle with depression also struggle with sleep disruptions because depression is shown to disturb our circadian rhythm.
  • This circadian rhythm disturbance goes on to impact one’s emotional wellbeing as well as everyday functioning.
  • Fortunately, steps can be taken to get a better night’s sleep: starting with declaring your bed a place for sleeping and nothing else.
  • Additionally, you should follow a bedtime routine and resist “forcing” yourself to sleep; if you’re having a tough time falling asleep, ease into it with some relaxation techniques.

Depression is characterized by feelings of intense sadness and hopelessness. Those who suffer from major depressive disorder (MDD) often experience a loss of interest in once-beloved activities, significant impairment in day-to-day functioning, and a range of other harmful symptoms, like severe sleep disruption…which triggers a dangerous ripple effect.

Why Do I Wake Up Depressed?

Some individuals who struggle with depression report feeling worse in the mornings. This is because depression is associated with disruptions in our circadian rhythm, or the cycle of our physical, mental, and behavioral changes. Sleeping at night and being awake during the daytime–a diurnal cycle–is an important example of this rhythm, as we rely on this pattern to function normally in our everyday lives. And when our body clock gets thrown off, we experience chronodisruption, which can affect our emotional wellbeing.

“One reason many feel more severe depression in the morning is that depression has been shown to disturb the circadian rhythm,” Sarah Epstein, a marriage and family therapist, explains. “A person’s circadian rhythm impacts energy level, mood, and thinking. So, a person with depression gets poor sleep and their normal circadian cycle suffers, causing all sorts of depressive symptoms like fatigue, anger, frustration, and irritability.”

Disruptions to Your Circadian Rhythm Have Harmful Ramifications

While it starts with disruption in one’s circadian rhythm, it doesn’t stop there. As Epstein explained above, depression is associated with sleep disruptions which then further throw off an individual’s circadian rhythm. This disturbance then creates other damaging and inconvenient effects, such as those related to one’s emotional wellbeing. For example, the individual might experience fatigue, anger, or irritability. 

Amanda Porter, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, explains how sleep disturbances affect day-to-day feelings and functioning:

“Poor sleep leads to morning somnolence, which contributes to poor outlook on the day, fatigue, lack of joy, and feeling less fulfilled. Sadly, often people with depression are waking up with their family, which is often a key stressor. Morning time can be highly stressful, with getting kids off to school and facing the morning commute. Often, people with depression will consume an energy drink or coffee to get their day started, get a boost of energy, and get out of their ‘funk’. However, this then plays into the vicious cycle of sleep disruption the following night.”

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep When You’re Depressed: 3 Tips

Let’s do our best to stop this harmful cycle. The good news is that if you’re depressed and your sleep quality is suffering, you can make a few simple changes to get a good night’s sleep again. First, drop those energy drinks and pour out your pot of coffee. Now, try crawling into bed only when you’re ready for sleep, follow a bedtime routine, and ease yourself (rather than forcing yourself) asleep:

1) Declare your bed your sleeping place. While beds were made for sleeping, most of us don’t strictly use them for sleeping: We watch Netflix in bed, we read in bed, we talk on the phone in bed, we scroll through social media in bed, we do everything we possibly can from the comfort of our bed. I know, it’s cozy! But what if I told you that you could get a better night’s sleep if you declare your bed your sleeping place—in which you utilize it strictly for sleeping. That’s right, doing so will help you to sleep soundly at night, as your brain starts to associate your bed with sleep instead of a place for various activities.

2) Follow a bedtime routine. Take some time to put together a relaxing, beneficial bedtime routine. This might include taking a warm shower, journaling, reading your book, or spending a few minutes cuddling with your pup. Once you start employing this routine, your brain will start to associate it with bedtime (just as your brain does with your bed and sleep), and signal to your body that it’s time to wind down.

3) Ease (don’t force) yourself to sleep. If you plop down on your pillow and can’t fall asleep, don’t try to force it. You can’t force yourself to sleep—in fact, if you try to force yourself to sleep, you’ll probably stay awake for longer! Instead, you should do what you can to ease into it. Practice some relaxing exercises like meditation or even counting sheep. Focus on your breathing and get the most out of your wind-down time. Soon enough, those racing thoughts will slow and you’ll drift off.