Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
People may recognize depression as a mood disorder that affects a person’s mental and physical health while interfering with daily activities. Depression affects millions of people every year, and it affects people differently. Some experience symptoms at night, making it difficult to fall asleep. Others may experience additional symptoms and not realize they have something known as nighttime depression. It is when people experience symptoms of depression at night. Here is what to know about this form of depression and how to help yourself cope.
Symptoms to Know
A person experiencing depression at night may experience many of the same symptoms others with depression experience regularly. Some symptoms vary from person to person. It is common to share feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. Others may feel isolated, agitated, restlessness, memory problems, low mood, and fatigue. Some may experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
At night, some symptoms may worsen, making sleep more difficult. Lack of rest for some people could lead to depression symptoms worsening. Since depression affects people differently, it is important to learn about different symptoms, including those considered hard to detect.
A person may find it challenging to complete their nighttime routine. They may lack interest in doing self-care tasks like teeth brushing or taking a bath. Some lack an appetite or may notice changes in their weight. A person could feel anxious, sad, or feel like crying without reason.
What Causes Symptoms?
A person may experience depression at night for different reasons. It is possible factors such as stress, genetics, trauma, or the environment may contribute to the development of symptoms. More research is needed to understand why some people experience worse symptoms at night more than others. People may feel frustrated at night while trying to fall asleep, even if they feel tired from activities during the day.
Some health experts believe a person may find it more challenging to distract themselves from symptoms due to a lack of stimulation leading to rumination. Rumination is commonly experienced in people with mental health concerns. It occurs when a person worries about problems repeatedly without a solution. Sometimes a person may frequently think about an outcome they wished had happened or focus on adverse events. Ruminating often occurs when you don’t have distractions when you’re alone.
Some people could be at risk of developing symptoms of depression at night. People with a history of trauma, chronic stress, family history, mental health concerns, health conditions like heart disease, mental health disorders such as anxiety, history of substance abuse, pessimism, or low self-esteem. A person is more likely to experience such symptoms if they ruminate or have insomnia.
In some cases, a medical condition could be linked to the problem. Some develop other behavioral problems when dealing with feelings of worry, fear, and anxiety. Other things to consider may include light exposure, disruptions of your body’s sleep clock, or circadian rhythm. Light exposure before bed may affect your eyes, but the outcome varies by age. A disruption to your body’s sleep clock may happen if you change work shifts and become more or less exposed to light or natural light. Such disruption may be behind why symptoms worsen.
What Are Treatment Options?
Treatment may include finding ways to manage depression symptoms. Understanding how symptoms affect you gives insight on possible options to consider for treatment. It is common for people to use a combination of methods to achieve a favorable outcome. People have found cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as a helpful tool for dealing with related symptoms. Techniques learned through therapy help people with rumination.
Depending on the severity of symptoms and how they affect you at night, medication could help. Some medications help calm anxiety symptoms. Sometimes it takes time before getting results from antidepressants. New options available on the market provide promise to people who didn’t respond to previous medication options. If you are taking medication for a preexisting condition or have questions about the potential side effects of antidepressants, talk to your doctor.
Treatment options for depression symptoms that occur at night will vary. Talking to your doctor and being clear about your symptoms helps find a good match in methods. Ask about different options available, including support groups for people with depression. Besides working with a therapist or counselor and your doctor, you can do things at home, such as lifestyle changes to encourage better results and gain more benefits from your treatment.
You have many options to consider to help yourself manage depression symptoms, including night time concerns. Along with following your treatment plan created by your doctor, you can practice self-care techniques to help yourself feel better. As you start to feel better and find it easier to sleep at night, continue your treatment regimen.
If you have symptoms but don’t have a treatment plan, contact your doctor for an appointment to discuss your concerns. Upon making a diagnosis, your doctor will review treatment options with you and determine your next step. Your doctor may offer additional insight into coping with your symptoms and how you can get to sleep at night. To help yourself get to sleep at night, consider the following tips:
- Unwind before bed. Consider a routine that helps your body wind down for bed about an hour or two before going to sleep. It may include relaxing music, soaking in the tub, a cup of warm tea, and turning off electronics. A bedtime routine encourages your body to gain restful sleep.
- Go to bed when you feel exhausted. You have little time to think about things keeping negative thoughts at bay.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleep and rest only. Leave out stressful tasks or doing work in the bedroom. Make your sleep space inviting and calm. You could consider turning off the television or having no technology stimulation at all.
- Practice relaxation techniques. These techniques help reduce stress, anxiety and encourage the body to calm down naturally. You can choose to do various activities that help you calm down, such as reading, painting, meditation, yoga, etc.
- Turn off bright screens. Try to have dim lights around instead of about a couple of hours before bedtime. This will also encourage a darker room, which may help you sleep longer.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large meals before bed. These may disrupt your ability to fall asleep naturally and, in some cases, make depression symptoms worse. Large meals may also lead to indigestion and upset stomach, making it harder for your body to calm down.
- Try not to take a nap during the day. Sometimes taking a nap for too long makes it harder to fall asleep when bedtime. If you take a nap, it helps to do so earlier in the day with a limit of 20 minutes.
- Change your bedding. Look for ways to make your bed more comfortable. Some purchase a new mattress or buy a mattress pad. Others may consider changing their bedroom décor to give the room a comfy look and feel.
Ways to Help Yourself Cope
Dealing with depression at night includes acknowledging your symptoms and getting help to manage them. It helps to focus on ways to help break negative thinking patterns contributing to your rumination. Such thoughts occupy much-needed space you can fill with positivity. Here are ways to curb your nighttime symptoms.
- Have Positive Thoughts Nearby. You can get as creative as you want with this to help you feel good and calm when it’s time for bed. You can take a picture, artwork, use bible verses, and so on to help you establish positive thoughts. You can write in a journal, pray, meditate, or draw. Doing this leaves little to no time for negativity to come into your adequate space.
- Stop Ruminating on Events. Look for ways to remedy your situation, if possible. Instead of questioning yourself about why it is happening to you, consider replacing your thoughts with something leaning toward hope and action. Think about the problem and consider ways you can overcome it. Consider reaching out to a friend to help with brainstorming solutions. You won’t feel helpless, and you regain control of your symptoms and your life.
- Build Your Self-Esteem and Self-Worth. Think about things you are good at and compliments people gave you. Consider picking a new hobby or learn a new skill. Doing what you enjoy not only helps you feel better about yourself; it is a great way to invest time and energy into personal assets you possess.
People with depression may experience symptoms that worsen at night. Sometimes these feelings occur when you’re not distracted doing something productive. Symptoms could worsen if insomnia from depression is a concern. Understanding the cause of your symptoms helps determine treatment. Getting plenty of rest at night, a treatment plan by your doctor, and practicing self-help strategies may help manage your symptoms long-term. To find out if you may be suffering from depression, take our quick online test.