At some point in our lives, most people suffer from low mood, deep sadness, or depression that continues longer than a case of “the blues”. So what is night time depression?
The grief of bereavement, relationship breakdowns, job redundancies and other life changing events, can bring an emotional adjustment, and feelings of despair. We may use the term “depression” at these times. However, we may be able to continue to function and go about our daily lives despite the negative emotions.
This form of distress is hard to distinguish from clinical depression, but it is different.
What is depression?
The usual definition of a major depressive disorder is overwhelming feelings of sadness, which affect the way we think and act. It can be mild to severe. In a nutshell, the level of despondency interferes with the individual’s ability to carry out normal daily tasks.
The symptoms include consistent low mood or periodic bouts of despair, loss of interest in things that previously gave pleasure, poor appetite, constant fatigue, inability to concentrate and sleeplessness.
People with depression can also show their low mood in their body language, with constant hand-wringing, slower walking and a reluctance to speak. They may want to be on their own all the time and find any social interaction hard to sustain. The person with depression may feel worthless, guilty, ashamed, and may even contemplate suicide.
The general rule of thumb is that a mixture of these symptoms must be present for longer than two weeks for a diagnosis of depression to be given.
An estimated one in every 15 adults (6.7%) in the USA have depression in any given year. Also, one in six people (16.6%) will have clinical depression at some point in their life.
It can happen at any age, though research shows that you are most susceptible to this mental health disorder in your late teens to mid-20s. It appears to be most prominent in women, but there is a suggestion that the evidence for this is skewed, as men are more reluctant to report the condition.
The cause of depression is often hard to isolate. It does not have to be triggered by a major setback, loss or trauma. It can appear even when on the surface, life is good.
It is believed to be linked to biochemistry, genetics, personality traits and environmental factors (such as previous abuse, neglect or trauma).
Depression is the most treatable mental disorder and can be counteracted using specially formulated medications (anti-depressants) that work on brain chemistry. Talking therapies tackle the other co-related factors. Physicians also often recommend lifestyle changes to help alleviate the condition, such as walking in daylight, other forms of exercise and careful diet.
So, is it possible to become more depressed at certain points in the day? Could you suffer from depression that worsens or even appears in the evening?
Night time depression
As mentioned, depression can be difficult to measure and define. It can “hit us” at any time.
However, for many people, it is far more noticeable at night time. This may actually give the impression that it is isolated to the dark hours. However, for most it would appear that though coping strategies get people through the day, the depression is actually always there.
Lying in bed at night, sadness and grief can seem overwhelming. The darkness and quiet can feel oppressive and the person’s mind goes into “overdrive”.
During the day, it may be possible to mask symptoms and operate automatically but the process of laying down at night can leave you vulnerable to having to deal with pent up emotions.
There is more time to think at night and far fewer distractions to “take our mind” off negative emotions.
Night time depression is particularly debilitating. It interferes with sleep patterns, which increases fatigue and further reduces our ability to recover.
As night time depression, insomnia, and sleep deprivation are closely tied, physicians sometimes prescribe medications and therapies to induce better sleep patterns. Human beings need a certain amount of REM sleep each night, to make sure both body and minds are “recharged” properly.
Is depression always worse at night?
For some people with depression, no time of day is a good time. Some even actively seek out their bed and stay there for considerable periods of time.
Other people get through the night by sleeping and find that their worst time is actually when they first wake up. The morning routine of getting up and facing the day can seem too difficult to contemplate.
For other people, afternoons and evenings are when depression catches up with them. There is a phenomenon observed in people with Alzheimer’s Disease commonly referred to as “sundowning”. There is no discernible cause, but confusion and other symptoms can worsen in the late afternoon and early evening.
All part of the mystery that still exists in understanding the human mind.
Could “screen fatigue” create night time depression?
There is a body of opinion that the growing incident of people using electronic items – particularly mobile devices – at the end of the day is not only interfering with healthy sleep patterns but is also suppressing mood and stimulating depression.