What Are Depression Naps?

Depression naps refer to excessive sleeping as a way to cope with low mood, anxiety, or stress. 

The use of the term has grown thanks to social media posts that often make light of the behavior. However, experts suggest that such sleeping patterns, technically known as hypersomnia, can be a serious symptom of depression.

This article discusses how sleep and depression are connected, the characteristics of depression naps, and why depression can lead to excessive napping. It also explores treatments and coping strategies that can help.

Sleep and Mental Health

To many people, it won’t come as a surprise that sleep and mental health are closely intertwined. Sleeping for extensive amounts of time is commonly associated with diagnoses of depression, which is usually accompanied by several other symptoms and identifying factors.

In fact, several studies have shown that between 65% to 90% of adult patients with major depression have experienced sleep dysfunction in some form. Taking a 'depression nap' by napping for long periods on a daily basis is one example.

According to Alex Dimitriu, MD, a psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in Menlo Park, California, depression naps refer to taking a nap when you’re feeling low, in an effort to boost your mood. But it might not necessarily indicate a serious problem.

“It is important to realize there is a very big difference between feeling tired, sleepy, sad, and depressed,” Dr. Dimitriu says. “A lot of times it can be hard to know your own feelings, and too often in my work, people with fatigue end up thinking they are depressed.”

Characteristics, Traits, and Symptoms

Just like feelings of depression can lead people to want to sleep all the time, being in a general state of sleep deprivation—whether it comes from caring for young kids, dealing with long work hours and work-related stress, or other personal reasons—can also contribute to feelings of depression.

When it comes to distinguishing fatigue from sleepiness from depression, it helps to understand each one in more detail. It pays to recognize that getting an adequate seven to eight hours of sleep per night would likely benefit all three issues, Dr. Dimitriu says. 

Sleepiness

Sleepiness is usually the easiest to identify. You can do so by asking yourself if you would be able to fall asleep right now.

If sleep deprivation is the true issue, taking steps to clean up your sleep hygiene and prioritizing sleep as crucial for your health and well being can truly make a difference.

Fatigue

Fatigue, meanwhile, is different from regular sleepiness. Signs of fatigue include low energy, reduced motivation, and drive, but not necessarily a desire to sleep, Dr. Dimitriu says.

With fatigue, your body may physically feel tired, which can also be a sign of another underlying health issue. This highlights the importance of keeping up with regular doctors’ visits and keeping your provider updated on any and all concerns.

Depression

Finally, depression is marked chiefly by low mood and loss of interest in pleasure on most days for two weeks, Dr. Dimitriu says. Additional symptoms can include:

  • Decreased energy
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Low appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide.

Alex Dimitriu, MD

It’s worth noting that depressed people can also have an increased need for sleep, as well as symptoms of fatigue, like low energy and low motivation.

— Alex Dimitriu, MD

If you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s key to seek professional help to navigate the path forward appropriately.

Identifying Depression Naps

It can be hard to pinpoint whether a napping habit is truly a symptom of depression, or if you’re just exhausted, Dr. Dimitriu says. The first step is to confirm whether basic human needs are being met, such as getting enough sleep for at least a week, eating healthy, some socialization, and exercise

Working too much and playing too little can also cause burnout or depression, which are often used interchangeably, adding further confusion.

"If someone experiences low mood on more days than not, with a loss of interest in pleasure or lack of joy, it may be time to speak to a professional,” Dr. Dimitriu says. “However, thoughts of death or suicide are an immediate red flag that professional help is needed.”

Causes of Depression Napping

The desire to nap can be brought on by sheer exhaustion and underlying mental health issues. Sleep plays a vital role in mental health, but it is also essential to recognize that this relationship is bidirectional. Mental health also impact sleep.

Depression is often tied to insomnia, so if you’re chronically sleep deprived, it makes sense that you would experience feeling low and exhausted all at the same time.

However, people who are depressed also often find themselves feeling alert at the same time and not able to sleep during the day, which adds to the importance of seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treatment for Depression Naps

If you’ve sought professional help for underlying depression, your provider can help you determine the appropriate treatment path, such as regular therapy sessions, prescription medication, or both.

If the problem is tied more to your sleep patterns, seeking help from an expert can also help you to improve your sleep hygiene and develop better sleeping habits and patterns.

In order to improve your sleep habits and ensure that you are getting the rest you need, you should:

  • Create a restful nighttime routine
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment
  • Avoid electronic devices before bedtime 
  • Skip heavy meals in the late evening
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Limit caffeine intake, particularly later in the day
  • Get regular physical exercise

Sometimes simple steps like going to bed at the same time every night or refraining from using mobile devices in bed can make a huge difference in restoring a healthy sleep routine.

Coping

Once you’ve appropriately identified what you’re experiencing, you can determine if you need to take action to adjust your routine and habits. You may need to limit how often you nap, or you might need to increase your activity level during the day.

Naps, if kept to about 30 minutes long and not too close to bedtime, can be a nice way to recharge and reframe thinking, Dr. Dimitriu says. As long as they don't interfere with nighttime sleep or result from not getting enough sleep at night, they can be healthy and restorative.

Alex Dimitriu, MD

In a sleep-deprived society, fatigue is all too often the cause of low mood, low motivation, and increased anxiety and impulsivity. In these cases, sleeping more often will help.

— Alex Dimitriu, MD

A Word From Verywell

If you’ve felt a bit blue, short naps aren’t a harmful thing—in fact, they can be restorative and help you feel refreshed and better able to maintain productivity during the remainder of your day. As long as you’ve sought professional help where necessary to rule out underlying mental health conditions, an occasional nap can be effective for boosting your mood.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Emilia Benton
Emilia Benton is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been published by Women's Health, SHAPE, Prevention, and more.