Can’t stop napping? Living with depression can mean many things, including the urge to take “depression naps.”

Life can be exhausting — or at least it often feels that way when you live with depression.

If you’re one of the millions of people living with this mental health condition, the fatigue you experience throughout the day might encourage you to take what’s known as a “depression nap.“

Many people take naps. Naps can provide a beneficial pick-me-up during a long day.

If you live with depression, however, sleeping all day might mean something else.

The term “depression nap“ was made popular by social media. Thousands of tweets, memes, posts, and reposts are dedicated to this topic.

But is it really a thing?

Fatigue, or feeling tired, is a common occurrence when you live with depression. In fact, more than 90% of people with depression report feeling fatigue.

You might feel compelled to take a nap as a result.

There are also other reasons you might take naps when you live with depression.

Excessive daytime sleepiness, aka hypersomnolence, is a symptom commonly associated with depression and other mood disorders.

It’s one component of hypersomnia, a type of sleep disturbance, which can lead to prolonged nighttime sleep sessions as well as the irresistible urge to sleep all day.

While you might feel inclined to take naps regularly, sleep disturbance with depression could be more closely associated with insomnia, or the inability to sleep.

A 2018 study of people experiencing a major depressive episode found that:

  • 48.5% reported insomnia
  • 13.7% reported hypersomnia
  • 30.2% reported both

The exact relationship between sleep and depression is considered complex and multidirectional. It’s not clear whether sleeping too much is the cause of depression, or if depression is caused by sleeping too much.

A 2020 review suggests that sleep is regulated by many of the same mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of depression.

This could mean that living with depression naturally comes with a chance of sleep disturbance — and sleep disturbance might naturally come with a chance of depression.

A 2017 study supports this cause-and-effect relationship, showing that daytime napping might increase the chances of experiencing depression.

What’s more, medical conditions that result in sleep disturbance, such as obstructive sleep apnea, might be more common among people also living with depression, according to a 2017 study.

While it’s unclear which comes first, sleep disturbance or depression, research exists on both sides of the debate.

If you’re feeling the urge to nap regularly during the day, consider examining your nighttime sleep habits. Experiencing nighttime insomnia, for example, could make you excessively sleepy during the day.

While the benefits of daytime napping for depression are currently being researched, some insight has been gained about why you might want to indulge your nap urges.

Memory

Napping may have important memory-processing benefits.

According to a 2021 study, napping can be beneficial for memory recall in people, regardless of depression status.

Researchers also noted that people with higher depression scores had superior recall ability after a nap, compared with those with lower depression scores.

Emotional information processing

The benefits of depression napping might extend to the severity of certain depression features, as well.

When you’re living with depression, for example, it might feel like everywhere you look, all you see is negativity and sadness.

This bleak outlook and its progression might be helped by naps.

In a 2019 study examining emotional information processing in depression, researchers found that napping was beneficial as a way of interrupting a person’s hyper-focus on sad faces versus happy ones.

Escape

In addition to the science behind depression napping benefits, some might simply find relief in daytime napping.

This “sleeping to escape life“ could be a way to temporarily stop the swirl of negative thoughts related to depression.

Just as there might be benefits to depression napping, there might also be undesirable consequences.

According to a 2014 survey, sleeping too much comes with a higher chance of experiencing psychiatric disorders, as well as an increased chance of higher body mass index (BMI).

If your naps are becoming more frequent or you‘re concerned, consider reaching out to a healthcare or mental health professional.

They can help if, at any time, you feel as though you:

  • can’t control your sleepiness
  • are tired without a “reason“
  • can’t perform daily tasks
  • feel unsafe during activities (driving)
  • are chronically sleeping more than you ever have
  • feel as though your nighttime sleeping quality has diminished

Help is available now

A 2017 review indicates that hypersomnia has been closely associated with suicidal ideation and nonfatal suicide attempts in both adolescents and adults.

If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now. You can:

It’s still unclear whether depression naps are helpful, harmful, or maybe a little of both.

If these sleep sessions are an unwelcome addition to your day, the first step toward relief could be speaking with a mental health professional.

Treating symptoms of fatigue and insomnia might require treating depression.

When you’re able to manage your depression symptoms, you might find that “depression naps“ are a thing of the past.

While you work with your medical team to find a treatment plan that fits your needs, practicing good sleep hygiene can help you get the best possible quality of sleep.

Sleep hygiene practices include:

  • maintaining a sleep-wake schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same time every day)
  • staying away from electronics 30 minutes before bedtime
  • using your bed only for sleeping and intimacy
  • getting up for a quiet activity if you can’t sleep
  • creating a pre-bed relaxation routine
  • keeping your bedroom comfortable and quiet
  • avoiding heavy foods, alcohol, and caffeine before bedtime
  • limiting food before bed to light snacks

Some people with hypersomnia might find it beneficial to work with a service animal.

Service animals can be trained to wake you up in response to an alarm. They can also interact with you to keep you awake when daytime sleepiness feels irresistible.

In addition to proactive sleep habits, speaking with a support network about depression and depression naps is another option.

Online support groups, local groups, and telephone support lines can offer new ways to learn coping strategies from those who share your experience.

Depression naps might be a phrase made popular on social media, but they could be a very real thing for many people living with depression.

Regardless of whether too much sleep is contributing to depression or if depression is contributing to too much sleep, help is available.

You don’t have to let depression naps steal away hours from your day.

By speaking with a mental health professional, you can start to treat the underlying cause of your depression naps — depression.