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Depression and oversleeping: what's the link?

For many hardworking Americans, more sleep is the ultimate dream.


We rise to the sound of the alarm, and delight in the ability to hit the snooze button.


We look forward to days off where no alarm is needed, and we can blissfully stay in bed until long after typical breakfast hours.


We drool over high-thread-count sheets, supportive pillows, luxury beds.


Yes, many of us want and need that extra rest, a lovely little gift to ourselves when we’ve been so overworked and overtired.


But sometimes, too much sleep is a sign of something more sinister. It could possibly be a sign of a mental health disorder, like depression.


While most of us link insomnia to depression, hypersomnia is a symptom too, affecting about 15% of people with depression. It’s more typically linked to those with atypical depression, which is the type that sees a person’s mood change and lift in response to positive events, even if only temporarily.


When Danny, 35, was first diagnosed with depression, she had told her therapist it wasn’t possible. “I’d always heard about people with depression and anxiety being unable to sleep, but for me, I could sleep anywhere, anytime,” she remarks. “I actually thought it was a kind of talent – my head would hit any pillow and boom, I’d be out.”


What Danny didn’t realize for some time was that she was using sleep as a kind of escape. She’d been dealing with toxicity at work for a number of years, was in an unstable relationship, and worried about her ailing grandfather’s health, for whom she was a caregiver.


In other circumstances, the oversleeping is a symptom of something else, like sleep apnea, which is a sleep disorder often co-occurring with depression.  It could be a poor sleep schedule, like the kind individuals who travel often or who work shifts at a job need to manage.


Oversleeping doesn’t cause depression, but it could certainly make symptoms of depression feel much worse, because their energy levels are so poor or because they feel as though they’ve missed out on something during their sleep. Oversleeping can actually have a negative impact on other areas of health, like weight, cognitivism and the heart.


If you know you have depression and are also aware you’ve been oversleeping, professionals suggest seeking medical assistance for your sleep challenges. Because sleep can become habitual (and one that’s hard to break), you may need your hand held during this time while you get back on a healthier sleep system.


Some tips on how to improve poor sleep habits include the following:


1. Leave the alarm clock away from your bed. Try plugging in your alarm clock (or your phone if that’s what you use) in a place where you’ll have to actually get up from your bed to turn it off. While not foolproof, it’s more likely that you’ll stay up if your body is up already. At the very least, it’s a bit more activity to get up and turn it off rather than staying in bed and rolling back over after smacking the snooze button once or twice.


2. Use a timer for your bedroom light, or invest in an alarm clock that lights up like the sun, rather than make sound. Bright light prevents us from wanting to stay asleep. Again, at the very least, it makes it harder to stay asleep. Light helps turn off your body’s production of melatonin (the chemical our bodies need to sleep) so no wonder it’s your best friend when trying to stay awake.



3. Wake up early every day – even the weekends. Habits are hard to break, but even harder to make! If you’ve got a weekday schedule when you must be up a certain time, don’t let Saturdays or Sundays stop you from keeping it.

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