Nighttime depression includes symptoms of depression that carry on or increase during the evening. This may occur for any number of reasons, such as having a stressful day, a person’s chronotype, or even too much light exposure. The impacts of nighttime depression can further affect an individual’s morning and throughout their day, continuing the cycle of distress.
What Is Nighttime Depression?
Nighttime depression includes typical symptoms of depression such as sadness, loneliness, or sleep disturbances. When a person struggles with a depressive disorder, their daily lives are greatly impacted in numerous ways, and intense feelings of distress can easily carry over into the evening. Unfortunately, this can lead to bouts of insomnia, which can only further negatively affect someone’s ability to function.1
Symptoms of depression at night may include:
- Racing thoughts
- Thoughts of fears
- Feeling lonely
- Feeling hopeless
What Causes Depression at Night?
Depression at night may be caused by a variety of reasons, but is often related to events that transpired throughout a person’s day. Additionally, experiencing increased nighttime depression may be the result of circadian rhythm disturbances or even too much screen time before bed.
Possible causes of depression at night include:
Rumination refers to one being overwhelmed by thoughts about responsibilities, past events, or other stressors. When someone has time to let their brains wander before bed, they are more likely to experience racing thoughts that can contribute to rumination. Becoming focused on negative thoughts can increase one’s sadness, as they feel unable to deal with or control these aspects of their life.
Experiencing burnout or chronic, toxic stress will impact a person’s ability to decompress and relax in the evening. If one is constantly dealing with these conditions, they may begin to feel hopeless or helpless. When nighttime rolls around, they may think about the next day ahead as just being “more of the same old.” Thus, having too much stress can contribute to symptoms of depression at night.
Disrupted Circadian Rhythm
When a person’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, so are their sleep patterns. When this occurs, one may struggle to fall asleep at night. As is the case with ruminating thoughts, experiencing insomnia allows more time to focus on negative emotions that one may be dealing with.
Chronotypes are an individual’s natural sleep pattern, including when they typically fall asleep and for how long. Research suggests that those who have an “evening typology” may be more likely to experience depression.2
Nighttime Light Exposure
Many people do not recognize just how much screen time can impact them. Being exposed to artificial light, both before and while sleeping, can disrupt one’s circadian rhythm. Sleep has many impacts on mental health, and experiencing a disturbance in one’s natural nighttime patterns may increase symptoms of depression.3
6 Tips for Coping With Depression at Night
As is the case with any mental health condition, you should focus on identifying healthy coping mechanisms that work best for you. This might mean trying out a variety of methods, and it may take time to do so. However, there are many ways to cope with depression at night, whether you do so on your own or with the support of a professional.
Below are six tips for coping with depression at night:
1. Adjust Your Nighttime Routine
Your symptoms of depression at night may stem from your nighttime routine. To improve this, start by noting the times when you typically fall asleep, as well as how much sleep you can get. Eliminate screen time, blue light exposure, and eating at least one hour before bedtime. This allows your brain to pass into relaxation and rest mode, providing you with a much needed improvement in sleep quality and mood come morning.
2. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Developing stress management skills often includes practicing relaxation techniques. This may look like incorporating meditation for depression, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindful breathing throughout the day and in the evening. All of these methods can help you feel more calm, grounded, and in control of your emotions.
3. Try Journaling
Using a journal offers you a place to brain dumb racing thoughts. Doing so means that you can relieve your brain of these negative emotions, freeing up space for positive ones. If you are experiencing depression at night, try grabbing a blank page of paper and writing down anything that comes to your mind. There are many journal prompts for depression available, too, if you are struggling with getting started.
4. Practice Positive Self-Talk
Depression at night often stems from how one feels about themselves. Humans soak up everything said to them like a sponge–including the things we say to ourselves! It’s no wonder then that negative self-talk will have a lasting impact on us. Throughout the day, and especially before going to bed, reflect on positive things about yourself.
5. Limit Alcohol & Caffeine Intake
Limit how much alcohol and caffeine you drink–not just before bed, but also in general. Consuming too much of either beverage can make it more difficult for your body to enter a more grounded, calm state.
6. Stay Physically Active
There are many mental health benefits of exercise, and finding ways to incorporate this into one’s life can greatly improve their overall well-being. This can look like signing up for a gym or just taking a daily walk. Whether you choose to be active in the morning, afternoon, or evening, doing so can have a positive impact on your life.
When to Seek Professional Help
If your depression at night has begun to negatively impact your life, it may be time to seek professional support. Therapy offers you a space to address and overcome your evening feelings of sadness or hopelessness. There are also many online therapy options if you would prefer tele-health. Finding the right therapist who specializes in depression is important, as they will help you determine which therapy for depression will best suit your needs.4
Treatment options for depression at night may include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT for depression is beneficial as it shows a person how their thoughts affect their behaviors. Clients work to identify their negative thought patterns at night so they can address them in healthy ways.
- Medication: There are a variety of medications for depression that can be helpful for managing nighttime depressive symptoms. These work by balancing the neurotransmitters that affect one’s moods and emotions.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT incorporates mindfulness activities into sessions, which can help a person learn how to decompress and reduce overwhelming feelings they have before bed.
- Group therapy: Connecting with others in a group therapy setting is helpful when it comes to navigating nighttime depression. Learning tips for coping from others and finding a sense of community can help you experience symptom relief.
- Interpersonal therapy: Conflict in relationships may impact a person’s ability to fall asleep as they struggle with negative thoughts. Interpersonal therapy can help one gain insight into how to address these issues, which may reduce sadness at night.
In My Experience
Depression at night can be challenging, but there are ways to overcome it. Remember, there is no “one size fits all” form of treatment, and it may be the case that your symptoms require a variety of different approaches. Taking the time to determine what works best for you will not only help you feel better at night, but also throughout your day-to-day life.
For Further Reading
- How to Calm Anxiety at Night: 15 Tips
- Depression & Sleep: Understanding the Connection
- Headspace App Review
- 15 Best Depression Podcasts
- Anxiety and Depression Support | HealthUnlocked
- Books About Depression