Tend to feel low from the moment you get up in the morning? Does the day ahead already seem hopeless and bleak? Even if it's not Monday?

If you feel most down at the start of each day, you might be experiencing morning depression.

What is morning depression?

Morning depression, more technically known as diurnal mood variation, refers to symptoms of depression that are more intense earlier in the day than in the afternoon or evening.

While it’s not uncommon for many people to experience natural shifts in mood throughout the day, people with morning depression feel particularly worse upon waking up. The intensity typically lessens as the day continues.

While not a clinical diagnosis on its own, it is considered one of the many ways general depression can manifest. And it is a helpful short hand to explain what you might be going through to friends and mental health professionals.

What does it feel like?

As a form of depression, the common signs you can expect are:

Why do I wake up feeling depressed?

Since depression has no singular cause, the exact reason some people feel worse in the morning is not entirely clear.

Research does however suggest that it could be linked to a disrupted circadian rhythm, which is often reported in people with depression, along with disrupted sleep.

Your circadian rhythm is a part of your body’s 24-hour internal clock that helps to carry out essential functions. It runs on a sleep-wake cycle by responding to light changes in our environments. To prepare our body, hormones are released at certain times of the day, hence why we feel alert during the day and sleepy at night.

When your circadian rhythm becomes disrupted, it can negatively affect your daily function and mood. An example is jet lag. Another is morning depression, where you struggle to wake up in the morning and feel frustrated as a result.

So what can I do?

There could be things in your routine that are throwing off your internal clock. Steps towards improving this can include:

  1. Be consistent with your sleeping schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help reset your circadian rhythm. Once you’ve got a routine going, try sticking to it as best as possible.
  2. Avoid stimulants in the evening. Drinking any caffeine and alcohol can significantly disrupt your sleep. It’s recommended that you refrain from any after the afternoon. And note that screen time can also be stimulating. Try to get off your phone and computer for a good hour before bedtime.
  3. Try not to take long naps. Having a brief one during the day can be refreshing, especially if you need some extra added rest. However, taking longer naps can make it hard to fall and stay asleep during the night.

Exercise has also now been shown to help with depression. So working some in, even if it's just a walk around the neighbourhood, is a great idea. But if you suffer morning depression, you might want to try to fit your exercise in earlier in the day, and definitely not near bedtime.

Is morning depression something that can be treated?

According to research, light therapy has been proven to reduce depressive symptoms. It involves using a special light box or lamp, which then mimics exposure to sunlight. It’s mostly recommended for those living with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression brought on by the change of seasons, but it can also be used for non-seasonal depression.

Additionally, taking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are often an effective treatment. It will help you to identify the root cause of any negative thoughts or experiences behind your morning depression, and help you feel better about yourself and more able to face each day.

Time to stop starting each day depressed? Find an affordable therapist who deals with depression now and get to the root of your low moods.

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