Is it possible that social media has created, named, and is broadcasting a new quasi-medical condition?
Thousands of tweets, posts, memes, and reposts are now dedicated to the subject of “depression naps.”
And in the hip, often irreverent world of Twitter and Facebook, the practice has taken on an “everybody’s doing it” persona.
“3 depression naps in one day and it’s not even 5,” posted Sinsoaked.
“I think I cashed in all of my depression naps,” added @teenytrees.
“I spend my day having depression naps,” added @alunktothepast.
“I have depression so all my naps are justified, k?” commented @katiekatemmett.
Who exactly is napping?
The idea of “depression naps” got its start on social media, and is widely tossed about by teens and young adults.
To understand who is using social media the most, it’s helpful to look at a Nielsen study that analyzed data from 9,000 smartphone and 2,300 tablet users across the United States.
The study found that Gen Xers spend more time on social media than millennials. But not by much.
Gen Xers are tweeting, checking Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social media outlets an average of 6 hours and 58 minutes per week, about 40 minutes more than millennials spend on social media.
Baby boomers, on the other hand, clock in at 4 hours and 8 minutes per week.
“Depression napping and depression sleeping are not clinical terms,” Jennifer Martin, PhD, FAASM, president of the American Sleep Medicine Foundation, said. “Hypersomnia [excessive daytime sleeping] occurs in a subset of depressed patients. It could be that the depression itself has a different underlying biology. Hypersomnia is more common, for example, in patients with seasonal vs. nonseasonal depression.”
A serious subject
With all the social media snark, sarcasm, and humor surrounding depression naps, and the lack of qualified medical corroboration, it would be easy to dismiss nap-related cyber blurbs as excuses for not handling life’s challenges effectively.
Devastated by a recent breakup? Suffering brain fog? Can’t get that work project going?
Take a nap. Call it a depression nap and, voila, immediate legitimacy.
However, these dismissive, jokey depression nap posts could also be covering risky behavior and underlying medical issues.
Sleep experts and research institutions recognize and validate the connection between sleep and depression, noting that insufficient sleep negatively impacts cognitive performance, mood, immune function, cardiovascular condition, weight, and metabolism.
Martin added that napping is not universally good or bad, and noted that some cultures regularly break for afternoon siestas.
“Naps can be good if they are a part of a person’s sleep plan, but bad if they make up for insufficient sleep at night,” she said.
Research by the Sleep Foundation indicates that depression and sleep problems can go hand-in-hand. Their studies indicate that insomnia is common among people with depression, and people with insomnia have a tenfold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well.
In turn, people who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, as well as those who have restless nights, are more at risk of developing depression.
Social media and depression
With the rapid and insistent rise of the use of social media, scientists are delving into the possible link between frequent or excessive social media use and depression.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine measured the amount of time per day that 1,788 adults between the ages of 19 and 32 engaged on social media.
They found that the more time spent on social media, the higher the likelihood a person would develop sleep problems and depression.
“A sleep specialist can help people with depression determine whether insomnia or another sleep disorder is contributing to their feelings of daytime sleepiness and need to nap,” Martin said. “Sleepiness can also be caused by sleep apnea, which also is common in people with depression.”
Since the rate of social media use has grown rapidly in recent years, and studies indicate a strong association between social media use and sleep disturbances, the subject is likely to be studied more thoroughly in the future.
At that point, if depression napping has been observed by professionals in clinical situations, not just as a social media trend, it may come under scrutiny as well.
For the time being, it appears that depression napping is a social affliction in search of a medical explanation.
If you’re using napping to avoid being productive, you should evaluate the situation and take steps to change it.
Deborah Serani, PsyD, psychologist and author of “Living with Depression,” suggested you ask yourself what you are avoiding and how often napping happens.
“If it’s chronic behavior,” she said, “then we start to worry.”
If you’re addicted to social media, Michael J. Breus, PhD, also known as the Sleep Doctor, recommended that you charge your mobile device outside the bedroom so you won’t hear it buzz in the middle of the night.
He also recommended cutting off your social media use an hour before bedtime, and not to check your social media feeds in the middle of the night.
If you are taking an excessive number of naps and are concerned that you might be depressed, turn to a sleep specialist for evaluation and treatment, not your Twitter feed.