Morning depression is also known as ‘diurnal variation of depressive symptoms’ or ‘diurnal mood variation’.
Symptoms of morning depression
People with morning depression often have severe symptoms in the morning, such as feelings of deep sadness and gloom, and trouble waking up, getting out of bed and a profound lack of energy. However, they feel better as the day goes on.
Morning depression is not a separate diagnosis but your doctor or therapist may ask you about sleep patterns and mood changes throughout your day:
- Are your symptoms generally worse in the morning or in the evening?
- Do you have trouble getting out of bed or getting started in the morning?
- Do your moods change dramatically during the day?
- Do you have trouble concentrating more than usual?
- Do you find pleasure in the activities that you usually enjoy?
- Have your daily routines changed recently?
- What, if anything, improves your mood?
Possible causes of morning depression
Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia)
There is a direct link between mood and blood sugar balance. While you sleep, your blood sugar levels progressively drop. The reason for this is that you haven’t eaten anything in the past few hours. Many people don’t eat before they sleep, so all those hours add up.
This relates significantly to low blood sugar levels. People tend to eat so much processed sugar that it causes a major drop in blood sugar levels, which leads to depression and anxiety. When foods of this kind are eaten at night before one sleeps, the negative effect of hypoglycaemia is increased. The conclusion is to eat healthy.
If your sleep is not stable and you wake up in the middle of the night several times or have difficulty letting go of your scattered thoughts, it is definitely going to influence how depressed you are when waking up. Bad sleep can cause morning depression, grumpiness, anger, stress and anxiety.
“Waking up is coming back from a world of dreams under comfortable sheets to a world of reality – many times, a reality that you do not want to be in, a reality that you don’t enjoy”.
The depression involved in waking up in the morning may occur because you are not happy about your life in certain areas.
Therefore, opening your eyes and coming back to reality is difficult because all of the things you are not happy about are popping up rapidly all at once!
Treatments for morning depression
Here are some of the treatments that can help ease morning depression.
Unlike other symptoms of depression, morning depression doesn’t respond well to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are commonly prescribed antidepressants that can help ease symptoms of major depression.
However, serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may be helpful for people with morning depression.
Talk therapies — such as counselling and psychotherapy — can also treat morning depression. Medication and talk therapy are especially effective when combined. These therapies can help you address any issues that may contribute to your depression and may be making your symptoms worse. Issues might include conflicts in a romantic relationship, problems in the workplace, or negative thought patterns.
Light therapy, also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy, can also help treat people with morning depression. With this type of therapy, you sit or work near a light therapy box. The box emits bright light that mimics natural outdoor light.
The exposure to light is believed to affect brain chemicals linked to mood. Although generally recognized as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder, some people with morning depression may find this approach helpful.
There are also things that you can do yourself to help reduce your symptoms of morning depression:
- Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
- Eat meals at regular times and make sure that you eat breakfast
- Refrain from taking long naps
- Create an environment that promotes sleep, such as a dark, silent, cool room
- Avoid substances that can prevent a good night’s sleep, such as caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
- Exercise more often, but avoid strenuous exercise for at least 4 hours before bedtime
- Start your day with doing something that makes you feel good and have a good stretch when you wake up
Taking these steps can help stabilize your circadian rhythm so that your body makes the correct hormones at the right time. And that should help improve your mood and other symptoms.
You can also try using self-dialogue:
“I feel very overwhelmed right now because I have just woken up and all of the things that I fear are emerging right away, all at once. I realize that it can be scary and a bit stressful, but all is well. I can take care of everything. I’m on top of things and later on I will feel much better. However, I will not get better if I surrender to my excuses and ignore life. I should just face it and trust myself that I’m going to manage everything the right way. All is well.”