Why Does Depression Make You Tired?

Tuesday, May 23 2023

You’re feeling exhausted, but you have so much on your to-do list today. Even the simplest tasks like getting out of bed or taking a shower feel impossible. If this sounds like you, you might be experiencing fatigue brought on by depression

Fatigue is experienced by roughly 90% of people living with depression, but how do they find a way to overcome fatigue so they could get back to doing the things they enjoy? 

Read on to learn more about depression, its symptoms, why it makes you feel tired, and how to manage fatigue. 

What is depression? 

Depression is a mental health condition that leads to persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, mood and energy changes, and loss of interest in activities. Depression is much more than feeling sad or blue, and left untreated, can increase in severity. It is also relatively common. In fact, roughly 16% or 1 in 6 US adults will experience depression at least once in their lifetime. 

Depression can present slightly differently by person, type, and severity, but here are some of the common symptoms: 

Symptoms of depression  

  • Low energy 
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness 
  • Irritability 
  • Changes in sleep 
  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty with concentration and decision-making 
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies 
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide  
  • Physical ailments like a stomach ache or headache 

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also find free resources here.

Why does depression make you tired? 

There are several reasons that depression can make you feel tired. In a lot of ways, depression and low energy levels are closely associated, meaning that they often accompany one another, and symptoms of one can provoke symptoms in the other. 

Here are a few reasons why depression might be making you feel tired: 

Sleep changes  

Roughly 80% of those living with depression report experiencing insomnia, a condition that makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and experience quality sleep. 

Additionally, some people living with depression experience quite the opposite, often oversleeping, which can lead to fatigue as well. 

Diet and exercise changes

One of the symptoms of depression is a change in diet, which can manifest as a loss of appetite or an overwhelming desire to eat foods with little to no nutritional value, like candy or other artificially sweetened foods. Consuming large amounts of foods high in fat or sugar can cause tiredness, as can skipping meals. 

Additionally, depression can limit one's motivation or interest in activities they once enjoyed, like exercise. Depression can also cause feelings of self-consciousness, making it even harder for someone living with it to pursue an activity like exercising. As a result, your brain and body miss out on the boost of energy that you can receive from exercise. 

Increased stress levels  

Stress and depression are closely linked, meaning one can worsen the other. 

When someone is living with chronic stress, their amygdala, the part of the brain that manages emotional responses such as anxiety, fear, and stress, works overtime. This increased brain activity can lead to feelings of exhaustion.   

3 ways to manage your symptoms

Managing fatigue brought on by depression can be a very difficult task at first. You may have little to no motivation, making the task feel even more unreasonable or just not worth the effort. But, choosing to pursue symptom management can make a major difference in your life. Here are a few tips to help you better manage fatigue associated with depression. 

1. Prioritize exercise 

Regular physical activity can help to reduce fatigue and improve sleep. For adults, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that you engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, like a brisk walk weekly, and two days of strength training. 

This may feel daunting right now, but it’s okay to work your way up to the recommended amount of exercise. Start with a 30-minute walk every day and you might find it becomes easier over time as your energy levels start to increase. It can also help to improve your quality of sleep. 

2. Manage your sleep habits 

Adjusting your sleep habits may make a major difference in your fatigue. Here are a few tips for improving your sleep habits: 

  • Make your bedroom your chill space 

Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and a comfortable temperature for you.  

  • Keep it consistent 

Pick a bedtime and wake-up time and stick to that schedule, even on weekends. 

  • Remove the distractions 

The blue light that comes from screens can make it very difficult to fall and stay asleep. Remove electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. 

Remember: There may be additional physiological conditions that may be impacting your sleep, like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. If sleep issues persist while you are engaging in these tips, you may benefit from seeking medical support. 

3. Talk to a professional 

The best way to manage symptoms of depression is with the help of a professional. Whether this is your primary care doctor, a talk therapist, or both, talking to someone in a space free of judgment and stigma can help you work through your symptoms and build new tools to manage them. 

Management of fatigue brought on by depression can look different for everyone and you may have to try a few different practices to find what works for you. It’s important to not be too hard on yourself if one practice does not work for you. In time, you will find the right means of managing your symptoms. 

Help is out there

At times, depression may make you feel like healing isn’t possible and that no one is out there that can help. But that’s not true. With the help of a mental health professional and a personalized treatment plan, many of those living with depression experience relief from their symptoms. 

If you feel that talk therapy might be right for you, SonderMind can connect you with a licensed mental health professional that can help you manage symptoms of depression and other mental health concerns.

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