- Common symptoms of depression include fatigue, poor mood, and insomnia. But why does depression make you tired?
- There a variety of factors that contribute to depression’s ability to make you tired: Increased inflammation, overthinking, and even the effects of some antidepressant medications can make you extra sleepy—or unable to sleep well.
- However, other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, ADHD, autism, bipolar disorders, and eating disorders can make someone tired, as well.
- Treatment options for depression-related fatigue typically involve one or more of the following: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), brain stimulation therapy, and medication options such as SSRIs.
It’s normal to feel exhausted at the end of a long day—or after working out, traveling, or even some vigorous spring cleaning. But what about when we’re depressed? Could depression actually affect our energy levels?
Can Depression Make You Suddenly Tired?
Mental health professionals typically agree that it can. Remember, depression symptoms can include:
- Hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- Insomnia (sleeping too little)
- Anxious thoughts
- Increased inflammation in the brain and body
These all can help explain why depression makes you tired. Depression, like other mental health conditions that affect your mood, can drain your energy, leaving you feeling sluggish, hopeless, and fatigued, even on a full night’s rest.
Other mental health issues, and even certain treatments, can lead to fatigue. So, if you’re feeling constantly tired and down all the time, something other than depression could be contributing.
Why Do People Sleep So Much When They Are Depressed?
There are a few reasons people sleep a lot when they’re depressed, primarily involving:
- Certain effects of some antidepressants: Medications that treat depression can have fatigue as a side effect, especially when starting the medication. These side effects typically wear off as someone’s body and mind begin to adjust to the medication.
- Decreased interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities: The person who is unstimulated or bored may find sleep more appealing, or they may sleep to avoid reality.
- Poor diet while depressed: Many highly processed western foods (junk food) or premade meals, have high caloric content but are low in nutrients and can cause mental and physical inflammation. But because these foods can be made and consumed quickly, they’re often appealing to someone who is depressed—they’re tired, and cooking a healthy, homemade meal isn’t always appealing.
Diets that are high in red and processed meat and inflammatory foods may increase depression symptoms (such as fatigue), creating a cycle of tiredness. And while diet isn’t everything, a 2005 study found “mental health problems, gut problems and arthritis were most predictive of high fatigue levels,” suggesting mental health and diet are closely linked.
There is also a positive correlation between sleep apnea and depression, indicating that we’re more likely to feel depressed (and tired) when we’re not sleeping enough.
Why Does Mental Illness Make You So Tired?
Sometimes, it’s not always depression that causes long-term fatigue and sleeping issues. That’s why if your sleeping issues persist, it’s important to talk with a mental health professional to understand what’s really going on.
The following are sets of symptoms associated with other diagnoses that can cause surges of hormones, or overstimulation that can leave one feeling tired. For example:
- Anxiety disorders can cause hypervigilance, and excessive worrying, a state of increased physical and mental alertness. When this state passes, fatigue can set in.
- ADHD can cause hyperactivity, sustained periods of increased energy. Like hypervigilance, this state will pass and often leaves the person with ADHD exhausted.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurodivergent conditions may affect the way someone’s senses work. This can mean improved hearing, vision, or smell—but this can be overwhelming, as the brain receives more stimulation than it’s designed to handle at once.
- Bipolar disorders can induce manic and hypomanic states, which are commonly known to affect someone’s energy in drastic ways.
- Eating disorders or OCD-related compulsions and obsessions can also lead to dysfunctional, repetitive behaviors that can drain someone’s energy rapidly.
The truth is that many things, both mental health-related and not, can affect the quality of our sleep, and our ability to maintain our energy levels.
Why Do We Feel Sleepy When We Are Sad?
Okay: So maybe you aren’t depressed, but you are sad and it’s making you sleepy or want to go to/stay in bed. Now you want to know why. After all, not everyone who is sad is depressed—and not everyone who has difficulty sleeping has a mental health condition.
With this in mind, some of the primary reasons we’d rather go to bed early when we’re sad include:
- Stress: Stressful life events can affect the likelihood of a person developing a depressive disorder. Neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are also affected by stress and they are necessary for regulating mood and energy. Stress can cause inflammation leading to hypersomnia and fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt: Sometimes people use sleep as a way to deal with things (coping skill). If sleep is consistently used as a way to cope with feelings of worthlessness, excessive or inappropriate guilt rather than confronting the problem directly it could be considered an unhealthy coping skill.
- Energy spent overthinking: When we’re sad, it’s typically because some part of our reality isn’t going the way we want it to. We might spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about how to “fix” something—something that we’re better off accepting, instead.
That being said, you might be feeling depressed because you’re fatigued, and if untreated, there’s a chance that your fatigue could develop into a depressive disorder over time. Sleep is the body’s defense against disease, exhaustion, and stress. There’s nothing wrong with going to bed early, but if the cycle of sadness and sleepiness persist for longer than two weeks, it’s best to talk with a mental health professional.
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Depression Treatment Options and Other Solutions for Sleep-Related Issues
If you’re wondering if depression is making you tired, there are many treatment options for depression symptoms and fatigue-related issues. Below are some of the most effective options:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) a form of talk therapy, is the most common. Your therapist will help you recognize depressive thought patterns and how your mood influences your decisions and behavior. It may take only a few weeks to resolve the symptoms of depression, but for others, continuing therapy for several months or sometimes years is comforting and beneficial.
- Antidepressants, the class of medication mentioned before, can help adjust the chemical imbalances in the brain that could be causing your depression. Again, some antidepressants have side effects but are typically mild and will often improve with time. If they don’t, your psychiatric provider will work with you to find another solution, dosage, or time of day for you to take your medication.
- Brain stimulation therapy can help people who have severe depression or depression with psychosis. For people who are unable to sleep for long periods of time, psychosis can develop. There are several types of brain stimulation therapies—typically these options involve seeking treatment from a specialized provider.
Additionally try getting enough exercise, avoiding junk food, practicing better sleep hygiene, avoiding caffeine up to two hours before bed, limiting your alcohol consumption (alcohol is a central nervous system depressant), and avoiding social isolation, if possible.