Does Depression Make You Feel Tired? Reasons and How to Cope

Depression has many signs and symptoms, and being very tired is one of them. Learn what's happening and how to deal with it.

Key takeaways:

What is depression?

If you’ve wondered why you wake up so tired, despite getting hours of sleep, it could be due to depression. Depression is a serious mental illness that affects how someone thinks, feels, and acts. Commonly known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression, it is a mental health condition that can make it hard to function in daily life.

Depression is not to be confused with bouts of sadness. Sadness is a normal emotion that all humans experience. It is brought on by events that hurt or frustrate us, and it eventually fades away with time. However, depression is a serious mental health illness that lasts for at least two weeks on a regular basis.

Why depression makes you tired?

Did you know that staying in bed all day could be a sign of clinical depression? Tiredness and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms of depression. In fact, it occurs in about 90% of people with clinical depression.

Many researchers say one reason people may feel more tired with depression is due to how the brain works. Depression affects things called neurotransmitters, which are messengers that send messages from your brain to the rest of your body. When someone has depression, their neurotransmitters may be underactive or defective in some way.

However, a few other factors may lead to tiredness and depression fatigue as well. Those factors include:

Stress levels

High levels of stress can cause depression fatigue. This is because stress directly affects serotonin and dopamine levels. These neurotransmitters are mood and energy regulators, and when they are not working properly, they can lead to increased tiredness in people with depression.

Lack of sleep

People with depression often have trouble falling or staying asleep, which can lead to frequent tiredness. About three in four people with depression have insomnia, a sleep disorder.

Also, about 40% of young adults and 10% of older adults with depression have hypersomnia, a medical condition that causes you to feel very tired during the day (called excessive daytime sleepiness) or sleep longer than usual at night.

Recent studies show that depression and sleep problems are so closely linked that a diagnosis of depression without sleep problems should be made with caution.

Medication

Antidepressants work by balancing serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals in the brain control your mood and energy levels. However, some antidepressants have side effects that might cause excess tiredness or fatigue.

Am I depressed or just tired?

Sometimes it can be tough to know whether you’re only sleepy or tired due to depression. A recent CDC report found that one in three adults in the United States don’t get enough sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend at least seven hours of sleep a night to stay healthy and avoid chronic illnesses, including depression. Lack of sleep, or sleep deprivation, and depression fatigue share a lot of similarities. Both can cause irritability, or loss of energy and lack of motivation. They can also make it hard to focus.

However, tiredness is often a sign of a deeper issue. Your fatigue may be more than a lack of sleep if it's paired with feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or both, lack of motivation, or thoughts of suicide.

Coping with tiredness caused by depression

Because depression fatigue can be caused by a variety of factors, it’s best to consider several solutions. Here are six of the most useful ways to combat depression fatigue.

  1. Prioritize self-care. Self-care is the act of taking care of your mind, emotions, and body. Self-care means actively managing depression as best you can.
  2. Eat a balanced diet. Eating a high protein, balanced diet with a fair amount of fruits and vegetables can help increase energy levels and even improve your overall mood.
  3. Get some sun. Getting the right amount of sunlight and vitamin D can raise serotonin, which helps with mood and concentration.
  4. Get active. Consistent exercise has been shown to help decrease insomnia.
  5. Consider changing medications. While some antidepressants cause sleep issues, others do not have those side effects. Consult your doctor about other options.
  6. Go to therapy. Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” has been shown to improve physical and mental health. It also aids in treating emotional and behavioral problems. There are several types of therapy, so make sure to do your research on what might be best for you.

What other symptoms can depression cause?

About one in every 15 people deals with depression each year. Depression is a common, though treatable, mental illness that can make everyday life more difficult to manage. A mental health professional will diagnose someone with depression if they have at least five of the nine criteria given by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), including:

  • Depressed mood.
  • Fatigue, sluggishness, or lack of energy.
  • Significant and unplanned weight loss or gain, changes in appetite (increased or decreased). Feelings of restlessness or slowing down.
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping.
  • Significant decreased interest or pleasure in daily activities.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
  • Diminished ability to think, focus, be creative, or make decisions.
  • Thoughts of dying or suicide.

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