Over the months that I have been writing for My Depression Connection I have noticed a definite trend of members who talk about feeling more depressed and/or anxious in the morning hours than any other time of day. So I decided to do a little research to find if this were a common phenomenon for people who suffer from depression and what one can do about it.
In fact I did find many references in the literature for morning depression by its formal name of diurnal mood variation. Diurnal mood variation is described as a symptom of generally more severe depression where one's mood is worse at certain times of day. For many people this time of day is the morning hours where one feels the worst and then they may feel better as the day goes on. It is unclear what causes diurnal mood variation but some think it has to do with a disruption to biological circadian rhythms or our body's natural body clock. For some people it may be biologically easier to feel better later in the day.
It is postulated that people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD also have a disruption of their biological circadian rhythms. A cluster of nerves in the brain located on the on the hypothalamus are responsible for our biological clock. What affects our biological clock? Light is definitely one factor and this is why some folk feel off kilter or even depressed as the winter approaches giving us less daylight. If your biological clock is offset this can affect the secretion of melatonin which induces sleep. People with a disturbance to their body clock may suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder or have sleep problems. You may read more about how disruptions to our body clock affect our mental health by reading this article by Patrick C. Marino entitled, "Biological Rhythms as a Basis for Mood Disorders."
Getting back to the topic of morning depression, I have my own personal thoughts about why some people feel worse in the mornings based upon both the description of our circadian rhythms and also from my own experience. Here are some of my guesses as to why some people suffer from morning depression.
- Once the seasons change, especially from summer to winter there is a period of time when it is likely you will wake up in darkness and if you work, you will also return home in darkness. For all the people working in sunless cubes, you may totally miss any light at all. Many studies have shown that a lack of light can make you feel depressed and also mess with your biological clock.
- In the mornings your blood sugar may be low. You have not eaten in many hours. And if you are a person who skips breakfast then you are increasing the odds for feeling crummy due to a lack of energy.
- Many people who suffer from depression also suffer from sleep problems. If you have not gotten a good night's sleep then you are going to wake up feeling tired and miserable.
- Sleep can be a refuge for those of us who suffer from depression. Waking up disrupts that peaceful feeling as the pressures and anxieties of the day come flooding into our consciousness. It is so to speak, a "rude awakening." Some days when I wake up, my worries feel like I am being pelted by rocks. They seem all the more magnified because of the sharp contrast between sleep and wakefulness.
- When you are depressed, the beginning of the day can seem overwhelming. There is so much time ahead for things to potentially go wrong. There are days when I wake up and think, "Please help me to survive this day." Those are the days you have to literally push yourself to get out of that bed.