Depression isn’t a made-up description for feeling “kind of down”. It’s a real and serious mood disorder that is estimated to chronically affect between 5-10% of Americans. When night falls, many sufferers feel even worse — and now there appears to be an explanation why.
Depression is different for everyone, and it manifests itself in different ways. It can be persistent, or it can be occasional. It can be relatively mild — think a case of “the blues” — or, it can be so inescapable that it leads to suicide.
De-stigmatizing depression and making sure that people know they’re totally normal for experiencing these feelings is an important goal of the health community in 2018. One of the ways we can do that is to look at the various mechanisms through which depression manifests itself, and examine why it does what it does.
For many depression sufferers, they find that their symptoms are even worse at night. If you have depression and you’ve noticed this, experts are beginning to realize that there are tangible reasons for why this is. For example, lack of distraction can be a huge factor. During the day you might be surrounded by places, people, and tasks that keep your mind more or less occupied. At night, particularly if you live alone or spend a lot of time alone, the distractions dissipate and your depression can come to the forefront.
Furthermore, your circadian rhythm — the biological structure that regulates sleep and wakefulness — can be disrupted by too much screen time, and disruptions in this rhythm have been shown to exacerbate depression and reduce sleep quality.
If you’re suffering from depression, you’re not alone. What’s important is that you don’t try to “white knuckle” your way through these feelings, and that you actively seek treatment. Many depression sufferers don’t even realize the amount of options and resources out there for them that can make a serious difference in their quality of life.
The first and best way to begin combating depression at night or any time of the day is to seek help from a medical professional. Whether it’s through therapy, medication, or a combination of the two, there are certain cases of clinical depression that simply can’t be alleviated without help.
Beyond that, you should make sure that you give yourself enough downtime before trying to fall asleep. Never go from an activity like television watching or something stimulating directly to bed. Your brain doesn’t know how to reconcile the difference in stimulus, and that can lead to insomnia and worsening of depression symptoms. Also, work to establish a lifestyle that avoids substances like caffeine, drugs, and alcohol — as these things can make you feel even worse.
Finally, consider replacing harmful substances with proactive lifestyle choices like yoga, martial arts, sports, or fitness. These things create positive chemical changes in your body and mind that can help to “reset” your depression from the inside out.
And remember — someone is always ready to listen if you need help.
The national suicide prevention lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.