The Sleepy Hollow of Depression

For some reason, when thinking of this post, I thought about the film Sleepy Hollow.

When I was younger, I used to think I was just a kid that likes to take naps. I remember like clockwork coming home from school at 3 p.m. or whatever it was, and going straight to the darkness of the basement to take a nap until dinner time around five or six. Rinse and repeat day after day. Heck, it’s a cliche about budding teenagers that they sleep … and sleep … and sleep. It’s normal, right? But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve wondered if the dark cloud of depression moved in like a roommate I didn’t know was there — a roommate whose name I didn’t know or would recognize yet.

According to the Sleep Foundation (just the first resource I found on Google; there are numerous resources on this), sleep issues, whether trouble staying asleep at night, sleepiness during the day (raises hand), and sleeping too much (I both sleep too much and too little — that is, I often sleep less than six hours at night, but might take one, two, even three short naps throughout the day, or short of that, I’ll drink a lot of caffeine), are a sign of depression. The fun part of it, according to the Foundation? It’s a cycle: Sleep issues are a symptom of depression, but also, sleep issues exacerbate depression. Oof, right?

The reason I was even thinking about this is the bittersweet part of it, is that for me at least, sleep can also be a palate cleanser for depression. For example, last night, I hit one of my usual random downward spirals, where I basically spiral until I wear my brain out on negative thoughts and fall asleep. When I wake up, I’m not “better” in the full meaning of that word, obviously, but sleep was like a gateway out of the spiral. The cliche of “sleep on it” really works in that way.

In this way, sleep is both one of my favorite and least favorite aspects of depression. My favorite because if I want to “escape” from the world and the depression onslaught, I go to sleep. But least favorite because it’s exhausting … to be exhausted all of the time and not sleep normal. Granted, it’s not just depression, but diet and exercise that can adversely harm sleep cycles, although depression is tied into all of this. You can’t separate any of it.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

The hard thing for me is I know the right steps to take — the Foundation has the usual suggestions for ensuring good “sleep hygiene,” such as maintaining a routine, controlling your sleep environment, and so forth — but the problem with that? Depression calls you to the bed at all hours; it’s indent in the mattress awaits. Alas. What a befuddling problem. But it’s not unsolvable. The solution is to work on mitigating depression itself, so you can end the cycle of sleep-depression-sleep.

One thing I’m glad I don’t have is the insomnia part of sleep issues. I’ve always been able to sleep eventually.

What about you? Do you have sleep issues? Is it depression or something else?

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