Steps to take if you're waking up depressed

If you're waking up depressed in the morning, explore why this may be happening and the steps you can take to improve how you're feeling.

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If you're waking up depressed in the morning and find it a real struggle to get started with the day, we'll explore possible reasons why this may be happening. We'll also look at what you can do to feel better, and the professional help that you can access to support you.

Why am I waking up depressed?

Feeling more depressed in the morning can be a symptom of chronic depression

There are many different types of depression. A symptom of clinical depression, mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), is diurnal mood variation, which is sometimes referred to as ‘morning depression’.

Diurnal mood variation is where you experience more intense symptoms in the morning and find that they gradually improve throughout the day.

A person with diurnal mood variation or ‘morning depression’, who finds that they wake up depressed is also likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning
  • Having difficulties completing their usual morning tasks and activities
  • Being more irritable in the mornings
  • Having no drive or motivation to get started with the day ahead

Struggling in the morning is a symptom of other forms of depression too

Depression can cause a person to experience the following:

  • Exhaustion
  • Little to no energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • A feeling of emptiness
  • Intense sadness
  • Extreme tiredness and lethargy
  • Poor sleep or insomnia

The intense tiredness, emptiness and hopelessness that are common symptoms of depression may be causing you to wake up depressed and struggle to get going in the morning.

What to do when you're waking up depressed

Take it one step at a time in the mornings

If you wake up depressed, the idea of working your way through the day can feel like a real struggle. Rather than thinking about the day in its entirety, focus on the first thing that you need to do, which could be making a cup of tea, feeding your pet or taking a shower. Whatever it is, keep it simple, otherwise you may feel overwhelmed and like you don't want to do anything at all.

Once you've finished the task, take a minute to recognise the big step that you've taken and use this to motivate yourself to do another simple task, which could be pouring yourself a bowl of cereal, brushing your teeth or opening the curtains. Breaking the morning down into easy-to-manage steps can stop it from becoming overwhelming.

Make small changes to your routine

Even the smallest tasks can seem impossible when you’re depressed and finding motivation when depressed can be incredibly challenging. If you find that you’re waking up depressed, it’s a good idea to try and prepare as much as you can the night before, so you don't have to do so much in the mornings. For example, have your outfit laid out ready for the next day, so you don’t have to worry about this when you wake up.

You may also want to think about adjusting your schedule in the day, if possible. If you're waking up depressed and feel that your depression symptoms are worse in the morning, try to be flexible with yourself. Set big chores, work tasks or other activities for later in the day, when you may have a little more energy. It may also be beneficial to speak to your manager at work so they're aware of your situation and can provide the right level of support, which could include starting the working day slightly later.

Get professional support for depression

Regardless of whether or not you already have an official diagnosis of depression, it's recommended that you reach out for an assessment and professional support if you're concerned about the fact that you're waking up depressed. It's important to do this if you're experiencing other depression symptoms too.

You may want to book an appointment with your local GP, who will be able to provide an initial assessment and access to specialist care and support.

You can also visit a consultant psychiatrist at one of our Priory hospitals located throughout the UK. They can provide you with an assessment and put together a treatment plan for managing your depression, which can include therapy, a residential programme and medication if needed.

The types of therapy used to treat depression at Priory include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) for depression, one-to-one therapy and group therapy.

A new treatment - repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) – is also available at Priory Wellbeing Centre Harley Street, where areas of your brain linked to mood control are stimulated.

Page clinically reviewed by Debbie Longsdale (Dip. in counselling children, PGDip. in Counselling Adolescents and Young People, Prof.Dip. in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Prof.Dip. in Integrative Therapeutic Counselling), Priory Therapy Services Director.

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