• Morning depression isn’t an official condition but is characterized by feelings of intense sadness in the early hours of the day, possibly caused by disrupted sleeping patterns.
  • Individuals who struggle with morning depression may 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 well-being 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 the relaxation techniques listed below.

Depression is characterized by intense feelings of 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 symptoms, such as changes to sleep and appetite.  

These factors, most notably sleep disruption, can create what we might call morning depression—where the early hours of one’s day are characterized by low energy, poor mood, and feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. However, morning depression is not a true mental health condition, and should only be used to describe depressive symptoms that are felt most intensely (or appear) in the early hours of one’s day. 

Feeling the symptoms of depression in the morning chronically—the feeling of being numb and confused—may seem overwhelming, especially if it’s occurring as the result of hormone changes in your body or your sleep-wake cycle being disrupted. Thankfully there are treatment options to prevent morning depression from worsening. 

Why Do I Feel Depressed in the Morning?

Some individuals who struggle with depression report feeling worse in the mornings. For some this may be related to disruptions in our circadian rhythm, or the cycle of complex physical, mental, and behavioral changes our body naturally moves through as the day progresses. 

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.

What Does it Mean When You Wake Up and Feel Sad?

Waking up feeling sad may be a sign that you are experiencing morning depression. Feeling worse in the morning could also be related to: 

  • Hormone changes in your body, specific high cortisol levels
  • Not getting enough rest 
  • Substance use
  • Chronic stress
  • Significant life transitions, such as loss of employment, a breakup, and more

Morning depression can hit hard in the morning as your body adjusts to changes in body hormones in the morning or could be the result of your present depressive diagnosis getting worse.

It can be challenging to feel sad or down in the morning. However, due to hormone regulation and sleep-wake cycles, it can occur for some people. If you are waking up and crying, or having panic attacks every morning, seeking mental health services could offer relief, as some people with certain forms of depression may experience worse symptoms in the morning. 

What Can Be Done about Morning Depression?

Morning depression is treated like any other form of depression: With therapy to learn coping skills and behavior techniques, and with medication management for added support, if necessary. A mental health professional who is experienced in treating morning depression will also assist the individual to:  

  • Make healthy lifestyle changes such as excluding alcohol and caffeine
  • Improve their sleep schedule and sleep hygiene 
  • Implement stress-reduction tactics to use outside of therapy
  • Exercise more often and more effectively
  • Understand the root causes of morning depression

Reaching out for help from a therapist or psychiatric professional can help you make sense of what you’re experiencing.

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How Do I Break My Morning Anxiety Cycle?

Beyond a professional’s help, morning depression and its anxiety cycle may be broken by using behavioral techniques such as making a daily schedule, reducing workload or daily responsibilities, getting enough sleep, and developing an exercise routine, and limiting stimulating substances like caffeine.

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. Try crawling into bed only when you’re ready for sleep, follow a bedtime routine, and ease yourself (rather than forcing yourself) asleep:

  • 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. But instead, you could get a better night’s sleep if you declare your bed your sleeping place—utilized strictly for sleeping. Doing may help you to sleep soundly at night, as your brain starts to associate your bed with sleep instead of a place for various activities.
  • 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 pupOnce 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.
  • 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 progressive muscle relaxation. 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.

Morning depression is not be included in the DSM-5, but it’s a common experience for those suffering from known depressive disorders. Though it can be tempting to sweep under the rug, it’s important to keep in mind that battling each morning with fatigue, sadness, and anxiety shouldn’t be normalized—and that morning depression can be treated.