Several things can cause nighttime depression, such as being unable to sleep due to insomnia. Depending on the cause, possible treatments could involve psychotherapy or antidepressant medication.
Depression is a common mental health condition that can lead to low mood and feelings of hopelessness. In some people, these symptoms can worsen at night.
Keep reading to learn more about the causes of nighttime depression, some potential risk factors, and some possible treatment options.
The symptoms of depression include:
- feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- a persistently low mood
- loss of interest in hobbies or activities that used to be pleasurable
- difficulty concentrating or remembering
- suicidal thoughts
- feelings of isolation
- feelings of emptiness
At night, some of these symptoms can become worse, making it harder to sleep. In turn, this could worsen insomnia and fatigue the next day, which can further worsen the depression a person in experiencing.
There are also some symptoms of depression that may be harder to spot. Read about them here.
The causes of depression are likely to be a combination of factors relating to genetics and the environment, such as experiencing trauma or chronic stress. It is less clear why these symptoms may worsen at night.
People who experience insomnia as a symptom of depression may feel frustrated about their inability to sleep. The frustration likely peaks at night, when a person is unable to sleep despite feelings of fatigue and exhaustion during the day.
Being unable to sleep could worsen depression symptoms such as irritability or low mood.
It is also possible that the lack of stimulation at night makes it more difficult for someone to distract themselves from their symptoms. This could give rise to rumination.
Rumination is a common feature of several mental health conditions. It occurs when a person repeatedly goes over a negative thought or problem without finding any solution. This can increase feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.
There are several possible risk factors for depression, including:
- a family history of mental health problems
- past trauma
- chronic stress
- long-term physical health conditions, such as heart disease
- other mental health problems, particularly anxiety disorders
- low self-esteem or pessimism
- heavy alcohol or drug use
Factors that increase the risk of nighttime depression could include experiencing symptoms such as insomnia or rumination.
People with depression are more likely to have other behavioral problems and mental health conditions.
For example, a study of 1,783 people in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 75% of those with depression also had an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. People with anxiety disorders tend to experience overwhelming feelings of fear and worry.
People with depression are also more likely to have problems with substance abuse. A review of 115 studies found that people with illicit drug use disorder were significantly more likely to experience depression.
Research is increasingly showing that people with depression are also at greater risk of physical health complications.
For example, according to one study that used data from over 3 million people, those with depression have a 72% higher risk of heart disease than those without depression. They were also more likely to die at a younger age.
The best way to deal with nighttime depression is to seek treatment for the depression itself.
There are several ways to treat depression. Finding the best way to deal with the symptoms may involve trial and error and take some time. For some people, a combination of different methods might be the most beneficial.
Different types of psychotherapy are available for depression. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy can help people with depression identify and change their negative thought patterns.
There are also many antidepressant medications available. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are common drugs for treating the symptoms of depression.
Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the use of esketamine for treating depression. This is a new class of drug that can help people with cases of depression that do not respond to other treatments.
Other strategies for dealing with the symptoms of depression include making lifestyle changes. For example, one review of 25 trials found that exercise interventions were effective for people with depression. Other trials have found that eating a healthful diet can also reduce symptoms.
For people experiencing nighttime depression, getting a good night’s sleep will also help — though this can be difficult. Some tips for getting a good night’s sleep include:
- doing something relaxing before bed, such as reading a book
- not napping during the day
- going to bed and waking up around the same time every day
- exercise regularly
- making sure that the bed is comfortable
- restricting bright lights within an hour of bedtime
- not consuming caffeine in the evening
- avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals near bedtime
Depression is a common mental health condition with a number of symptoms that can worsen at night.
Increased feelings of depression at night could be the result of people having fewer distractions.
Depression can lead to insomnia, which can increase frustration at night, further worsening the underlying depression.
Treating nighttime depression usually involves treating the root cause of the depression itself.
Although it may be difficult, the best way to treat nighttime depression is often to get a good night’s sleep. There are a number of things a person can try in order to achieve this, including restricting bright lights in the bedroom and avoiding caffeine before bed.