Overview

Depression is a mood disorder accompanied by emotional and physical symptoms that interfere with your daily life. It’s estimated that 16 million U.S. adults experienced depression in the past year alone.

Everyone experiences depression differently. Some people experience significant increases in their depression symptoms at night. They may experience more symptoms, or their symptoms may increase in severity. Nighttime depression can also create or worsen insomnia, by keeping you awake longer or making it more difficult to fall asleep.

Here’s what you need to know and some tips on how to cope:

Symptoms of depression at night

Experiencing depression at night may have a number of different symptoms for different people. Some people may experience an increase in the severity of their depression symptoms. Others may experience increased feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and emptiness at night.

Racing thoughts and agitation may also occur, which can lead to difficulty sleeping. For more information on symptoms of depression, check out a thorough list here.

What causes depression at night?

There are a number of causes that can contribute to increased depression at night.

One commonly suggested reason for the increase is the lack of distractions. During the day, it’s a little easier for some people — especially those with mild or moderate depression — to keep themselves busy. Work, school, or social activities act as a distraction during the day. But at night, when you settle down to sleep, there’s nothing but you and your thoughts.

Researchers have looked into other things that could be increasing our nighttime depression symptoms. According to 2013 research on animals, bright lights (especially blue and white) at night can not only keep us awake, but may also increase symptoms of depression. In the study, even having a TV on in a dark room increased the animal’s cortisol levels and created changes in their hippocampus, both of which can increase depressive symptoms.

It’s also thought that if your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your depression may be triggered or your symptoms could increase in severity. One 2009 study found that increased artificial light can significantly disrupt our circadian rhythm, causing or increasing mood disorders like depression.

Tips for coping

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can cope with depression that occurs or increases in severity at night. For depression symptoms, regardless of the time of day they show up, you should maintain the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor. This includes taking your medications, even when you feel fine.

If your symptoms of depression are new for you or you’re currently not being treated, you should make an appointment to see a doctor. They can give you a diagnosis and help you to find treatment that works for you.

To manage your nighttime depression, you may consider trying some of these tips to help improve your symptoms from worsening at night:

  • Unwind at least two hours before bed. This lets your body start to slow down and get ready for sleep. Good sleep is important for overall health and well-being.
  • Keep work and anything stressful outside of the bedroom. This can help to make your sleeping space more calming and positive. Consider making your bedroom a screen-free room if you can.
  • Practice stress-relieving activities. Calming activities that relieve stress like painting or mindful baking can help you cope with your depression at night. Yoga and meditation can also help you relieve stress before bed.
  • Avoid bright screens. Try not to look at any bright screens for at least two hours before bed, and dim the lights as much as possible.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake. Both of these can increase symptoms of depression. Caffeine too late in the day can also disrupt your sleep.