Why do depressed people sleep so much? The answers may surprise you.
Let me come off clean and say right now that some depression sufferers struggle with a different type of sleeping problems, not dissimilar to those that anxiety sufferers experience.
That being said, we will not be addressing any of the medical ramifications of sleep on depression and vice versa.
This is a whole different monster for us to tackle at a later date.
No, here I’ll be talking about a psychological/neurological/mental urge that seems to be a recurring theme among depression sufferers – oversleeping.
Hypersomnia, otherwise dubbed as oversleeping, is directly related to depression.
In fact, about 40% of depression sufferers experience hypersomnia. Oddly enough this number drops down to only about 10% among older adults.
Either way, both statistics far exceed the average prevalence of hypersomnia.
With 1/10,000 of people suffering from hypersomnia, the percentage of sufferers among depressed people is crazy.
But why is that?
He didn’t want to wake up
A few years back I knew a person.
I couldn’t really say that we were friends per say, but I did know said person far better than I had any right to.
How so? Well, we both served together in the army.
Now, as a soldier, you get to interact with all kinds of people, even those who you wouldn’t be caught dead spending time with.
Kind of like having co-workers, only far more extreme considering that you spend all of your free time with them as well.
He and I were put on guard duty at some military factory nearby.
Pretty boring stuff, nothing unusual there.
There was a catch though.
It was a specialized factory. A place that hired civilian workers.
There were about 40 or so soldiers stationed there, with about 400-500 civilian workers.
The utilities there were off the charts when compared to any other facility that I have ever seen.
That one person I met there was this guy who had guard duty right before me.
In other words, when we were changing shifts I was to meet him and ask him if everything is alright.
And he interpreted that as telling me all about his problems.
We struck a conversation that ended up becoming quite personal and lengthy.
I never saw him outside of these regular meetings.
We didn’t share a room and I haven’t really seen him out of his, so that was that.
As I found out later from one of his roommates, he spent practically all day long sleeping.
I figured as much, honestly.
“There is nothing to wake up to”
Is what he said to me when I asked him about his sleeping habits.
People with depression don’t want to wake up, this is a major contributing factor to morning depression.
As he testified, he does not feel anything towards the future, and does not believe that anything will change for the better.
This is an absolutely terrible stance to take, yet many depressed people have similar thoughts on a daily basis.
I should know, I was/am one of them.
When it comes to therapy and self-help, taking action is the most important thing, arguably more so than even having the right kind of mindset.
Their lack of energy is synonymous with their lack of will to go on.
Note that I didn’t say willpower – It’s not that they can’t go on, it’s that they simply stopped trying.
This is one reason that depressed people spend a lot of their time sleeping.
Depression lowers your quality of sleep
One of depression’s many symptoms is fatigue.
I am talking about both physical and mental fatigue, in this case.
But why? Two words, brain activity.
You see, scientists assess one’s quality of sleep based on his brain activity during sleep, and how it works out in accordance with the stages of sleep.
One such stage is called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
It means that you are asleep and are dreaming, with your eyes moving around rapidly inside your sockets.
This is a standard stage of any sleeper’s sleeping cycle.
In fact, this is the final stage of the sleep cycle, and during that last stage, you hardly rest at all.
In other words, when you are dreaming your brain is fully active and is not resting.
So what’s the problem?
According to some studies, people who were diagnosed with depression experience REM sleep on a much greater scale when compared to people without depression.
This is problematic because such brain activity does not give the sleeper any time to rest, making them edgy and tired.
And then comes night time again, and again they experience low quality sleep.
Again and again and again.
This type of fatigue builds up consistently, adding up until the depression sufferer is dead tired practically all the time.
As such, they try to get some rest, but this doesn’t really work out for them.
Dreams can regulate your mood, but not when you are depressed
One important aspect of dreams is that they help us deal with our emotions.
Brain activity in the amygdala increases when we experience REM sleep, all the while brain activity around the prefrontal cortex seems to decrease.
But what does that mean?
Well, the prefrontal cortex is, to put it simply, responsible for our “logical” and “rational” way of thinking and dealing with problems.
All the while the amygdala is basically the brain’s “emotional center”, with it being the source of many of our emotions.
Dreams, therefore, may be used to contain negative emotions.
This is actually a theory that goes by the name of “The selective mood-regulatory theory of dreaming“.
If this theory were to be believed, then REM sleep is used, among other things, to “soften” the backlash of our “bad” emotions.
That’s a huge problem.
You see, people with depression experience a variety of dreams, more so than average, something which supports this theory.
After all, Depression sufferers have plenty of negative emotions.
Yet due to the unique conditioning of their REM sleep, they do not exhibit any of the “good mood” symptoms that are attributed to REM sleep.
Their eye movement seems far too irregular and random to be anything like normal REM sleep.
In other words, not only do depressed people have a low quality of sleep, but they also don’t get the typical emotional regulation benefit that should come alongside REM sleep.
Stress makes this problem much more complicated
Anyone who has ever read any of my articles discussing anxiety and depression should know that I believe that prolonged stress is the number one enemy of all anxiety and depression sufferers.
In my eyes, stress is the number one epidemic that the modern man encounters in his daily life.
With a good reason, too.
Yet in the case of depression, stress seems to be a particularly problematic topic.
You see, not only ca stress be causing depression, but it can actually contribute to hypersomnia.
Stress can make you very fatigued and add to your sleeping problems.
Furthermore, stress is also noted to decrease your quality of sleep and affect the activity in your amygdala.
To put it simply, it arguments all of the problems that we have discussed thus far.
The fact that stress is a major cause of depression makes it even more difficult to deal with.
So what can be done next?
Aside from the more “emotional”, “personal” and “easy to understand” thoughts about depression, there is also a strong scientific basis to suggest that depression is a major cause for oversleeping.
Yet this information doesn’t really help anyone solve this particular problem.
I mean, knowing exactly why do depressed people are so tired all the time is all well and good, but it is hardly beneficial.
Many people enjoy discussing the science behind certain things.
They can sit for hours and just immerse themselves in theory.
I am not one of those people.
As such, I do have actionable advice to give you.
Overcome your depression and stop being so stressed.
Seems highly unhelpful, yet when you put it into perspective it’s really the only way to go.
Depression is the source of this problem, and as such, overcoming might also be the solution.
The best place to learn how to treat your depression is the Destroy Depression System, A program that you should definitely check out.
In the meantime, you might want to try and improve your quality of sleep. After all, it is one major cause for oversleeping that you can certainly do something about.
I actually wrote an article on how to increase your quality of sleep, so feel free to check it out.
Now, here’s a quick question for you: Are you sleeping well?
Just a follow-up to my article, to help you determine your next course of action.
You are more than welcome to share your thoughts in the comment section below, I make sure to read every single one of them.
If you got any question then email me, I’ll be glad to answer those as well.