Oversleeping, Depression and how Psychotherapy can help
Updated: Nov 17
Oversleeping and Depression
People experiencing depression may often oversleep. Oversleeping can be understood as having more than nine hours of sleep within 24 hours, inclusive of naps. Oversleeping is linked to depression as sleeping may become an unconscious means of coping with feelings of meaninglessness, hopelessness or loss. When you are depressed, you may feel there is nothing worth waking up for or you may feel that being unconscious is preferable to waking up to a painful reality.
What is oversleeping and why does it make you more tired?
Ironically, oversleeping creates more feelings of fatigue throughout the day, leading to drowsiness, a lack of mental clarity, headaches and napping. There are a number of reasons why oversleeping leads to feeling more tired including the possibility of waking up during your final, deepest REM cycle which produces high levels of melatonin and therefore leads to grogginess.
Oversleeping also impacts your circadian rhythm, which is a biological, internal ‘body clock’ which tells your body when to rise and sleep. This is controlled by the part of the brain called the hypothalamus which also regulates hunger, thirst and sweat. When you oversleep, you disturb your circadian rhythm and so your body may have been ‘awake’ many hours prior to your waking following oversleeping.
The exhausting cycle of oversleeping and depression
Depression may cause the desire to oversleep as a means of escaping a painful reality upon waking. Oversleeping also exacerbates the feelings symptoms of depression which are characterized by persistent feelings of hopelessness, frustration and a lack of interest in daily activities. This occurs because the drowsiness induced from oversleeping can create similar feelings of disengagement and feeling “at a distance” from the world.
Oversleeping can also induce feelings of shame, as individuals may criticize themselves as being “lazy” or “unproductive”. Feeling negatively towards yourself is already a key experience in depression, and therefore oversleeping can injure self-esteem and lead to more desire to withdraw from life.
What can I do?
Oversleeping can create a negative feedback loop with depression and should be addressed to reduce the intensity of symptoms of depression. Adults should sleep between 7-8 solid hours of sleep, whilst teens benefit from 8-10. A good rule of thumb to figure out what works for you, is to find the amount of sleep which allow for consistent alertness throughout the day – particularly look out for sustained energy following a meal.
To address oversleeping, the following guidelines are recommendable -
1. Create a sleep schedule.
Begin waking up and falling asleep at the same time everyday.
Even on weekends, do not exceed 9 hours of sleep.
Use apps to support a sleep schedule – such as the inbuilt function in Apple Health.
2. Utilise the sun.
Our bodies take evolutionary cues from daylight and nightfall to sleep. Your optic nerve senses sunlight in the morning and releases chemicals including cortisol to begin to wake you up. In compliment, nightfall induces melatonin production which brings on sleepiness. One way to utilize this natural cycle, is to sleep with blinds open or partially open. Alternatively, getting outside and allowing light to enter your eyes in the morning will kick start your circadian cycle and support feeling sleepy later in the day.
3. Avoid Caffeine
Most people believe the myth that caffeine gives you energy, but caffeine actually works through blocking your adenosine receptors, which prevents feelings of fatigue. Adenosine otherwise accumulates throughout the day and leads to increasing feelings of fatigue by bedtime. People have different sensitivity to caffeine and metabolic rates, so for some people not drinking caffeine 6 hours prior to sleep is enough to ensure sleepiness, whereas more sensitive people may benefit from giving up caffeine all together or not drinking coffee past midday.
4. See a therapist.
Addressing oversleeping and depression may take some extra support from a psychotherapist or psychologist. As the biological effects of oversleeping may be impacting your symptoms of depression, fixing your sleep will help you to begin feeling better. Nonetheless, sleep aside, depression is a debilitating experience which deserves support and understanding. An experienced therapist can help you to understand why you are feeling the way you are feeling and lead to lasting change.
How can psychotherapy help with depression?
Psychotherapy offers effective treatments for depression which resolve both acute and long-term experiences of low mood. The reasons for depression vary from person to person, although there are some common factors including loss and developmental environments which were harshly critical. At The Spring Clinic, our psychotherapists take the time to understand the unique causal factors to experiences of low mood, lack of motivation, meaninglessness and low self-esteem. Making sense of person’s unique experience of depression is a key part of psychotherapy, as through the collaborative conversations and reflections upon history, clients gain insight into the reasons for the unhappiness and naturally, change begins to be possible.