Excessive Sleep and Depression: What’s the Connection and What Can You Do?

Do you struggle with depression issues and excessive sleeping? Me too. I am pretty open about the fact that I have depression. I was diagnosed over ten years ago, but what I didn’t realize until very recently is that I actually have atypical depression, which causes excessive sleepiness. The majority of those dealing with depression have problems with insomnia, not oversleeping, and neither problem would be fun to have. If you are struggling with depression and excessive sleep issues, read on to learn what you can do.

There are many reasons people may sleep excessively, but for many of us, oversleeping is related to depression. Most people with depression tend to suffer from insomnia rather than excessive sleeping. However, around 15% of those with depression deal with oversleeping, or hypersomnia. So even though it’s ‘atypical depression,’ it’s still pretty common.

Does depression cause excessive sleeping?

No one knows for sure if depression helps cause sleeping problems like excessive sleeping or insomnia, or if it’s the other way around and the sleeping problems contribute to depression. But it is clear that sleep and depression are related. What that means is that you should try to get the right amount of sleep because good sleep will help stave off depression. And you also need to treat your depression so that you can ensure that your sleep habits don’t get disrupted (among other things).

Side-effects of oversleeping

Sleeping too much can’t be a bad thing, right? Wrong. Just like everything else, too much of a good thing can spell trouble. Chronic oversleeping is linked to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Not only that, there are a couple of physical effects you may experience if you sleep excessively: you can experience headaches, back pain, irritability, and (ironically) fatigue. Excessive sleeping can be just as detrimental as insomnia to your physical and mental health.

What to do for excessive sleeping and depression

If you are currently experiencing excessive sleeping, depression could easily be part of the problem. I speak from personal experience when I say that neither depression nor excessive sleeping are fun or welcome in my life. If you find yourself in this situation, here are three things that you need to remember:

  1. You’re not alone. There are other people who understand what you are going through.
  2. Help is available, so please seek it out.
  3. Your depression will go away, even if it doesn’t feel like it now.

There are many things you can do in order to treat your depression and excessive sleep issues, but probably the most important is to see a qualified physician to ensure that you indeed do have depression and to find a good treatment plan. But there are many things you can and should do on your own both to treat and to prevent depression. And you’ll probably find that the things that help with depression will also help regulate your sleep as well.

Here are a few:

  • Exercise. In the midst of a depression, you won’t feel like exercising, but exercise can help lift your mood and change your body’s chemistry. It doesn’t have to be super intense – a walk around the block will help.
  • Get sunlight. If you’re like me, when you’re depressed, you just want to hide in bed all day. But sunlight is vital to the body and to your health. Plus, it just feels good to feel a breeze and some sunlight on your face. It’s especially beneficial to get sunlight in the morning, but going outside is good any time.
  • Do something social. No, you don’t have to go to a party or hit the bar on the weekend if you’re not up for it. But humans are social beings; it’s something we need. So go to lunch with a friend, call somebody on the phone to chat, or invite someone over. Spend time with people you like. It helps, I promise.

If you want to accomplish all three of the above at the same time, you might consider picking up paddle boarding or Kayaking. Yes, it sounds weird at first but getting out in the open air on the water can be liberating for the spirit. You’ll also get plenty of sunlight (remember to wear sunscreen) and if you take the family along on the trip or join up with a racing team, you’ll get your socializing in.

Picking up hobbies like kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding, camping, marathon running, team sports, or anything else that mixes exercise, socializing, and the outdoors can really boost your mood. Plus, if you join a race or a competition you’ll give yourself goals and objectives to keep your mind occupied.

Here’s a really crazy idea, pick up stand up paddle board yoga and throw some zen, balance, and meditation into the mix. Interested? Here’s an article that gives some great advice on which paddle boards are good for first timers.

  • Stop eating sugar. You may be used to eating sweets when you’re depressed, and there’s a reason for it – it’s like a hit of serotonin, which many people with depression are low on. But the sugar high only lasts a little while and then you crash. It’s better to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Taking fish oil or cod liver oil is widely recommended by many doctors. Our brains need Omega-3 fatty acids to function correctly, and unless you eat a lot of fish, you probably aren’t getting enough of this vital substance. Some research has found that Omega-3 fatty acids help heal depression.
  • Cognitive therapy. Talking about your problems with a therapist can be very helpful. Some studies have shown that therapy is just as effective as taking prescription medications for depression.
  • Prescription medications. Many people need to take a medication for their depression, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Be sure to take your medication as directed and report any problems you may have. Every medication reacts differently with different people, so you may have to work with your doctor to find the one that works best for you.
  • Go to bed at a decent hour and try to get up at a reasonable time. Going to bed really late and getting up late can lead to a vicious cycle of sleepiness and excessive sleeping. This can add to your depression. Try to create a habit of sleeping at the right time.
  • Avoid naps during the day. This is easier said than done when you’re feeling excessively sleepy, but try to stay awake during the day. You can use exercise as a way to perk yourself up if you need to.

Depression is such a difficult condition to deal with. Not only does it cause several physical symptoms, it also makes you feel so bad about yourself and causes you to believe that nothing you do will make a difference. And of course that isn’t true. There’s a lot you can do to help you move forward past the depression, though sometimes you may feel that you are simply unable to do those things.

If you are unable to take steps toward feeling better, you should definitely see a doctor, who can recommend treatments that will help you. You don’t have to live with excessive sleeping and depression; you can get free of this cycle and feel better again.

About Holli Ronquillo

I'm a freelance writer, mom, wife, and sleep connoisseur (not necessarily in that order). When I'm not sleeping or chasing a toddler around, I'm usually writing or reading.

Comments

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