When you're feeling depressed, you feel like you want to sleep all the time, but you just can't sleep when you lie down in bed.
Depression has an awful way of keeping you in that unpleasant state where you're not awake enough or energetic enough to do what you want, but you're not quite tired enough to sleep.
We have three things you can try to help yourself sleep more naturally. These aren't cures for depression, just ways to help your body deal with fatigue and tiredness.
What Depression Does To Your Brain
Depression affects and is affected by the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. In a report by the Harvard Health Publishing, depression has many intermixed issues, including brain chemistry, physical health, and external factors.
When your hormones start changing, it's not just a single one, but all of them. Dopamine and serotonin have a direct impact on melatonin in your brain, significantly decreasing production. Since melatonin is one of the primary hormones to let you sleep, not having enough can make falling asleep much more difficult.
Insulin, especially if you snack at night, can cause a lull in dopamine and melatonin production. Avoiding nighttime snacks helps that.
There's another hormone that affects your brain as well – cortisol.
We've talked about this hormone before and its interaction with stress. The more research done on this hormone, the more we realized how intertwined it is in our lives and how much it affects us.
Cortisol is a response to stress, the more stress we feel, the more cortisol is produced. In healthy people, cortisol will peak in the morning, shortly after waking, and decrease significantly through the afternoon and evening.
But, it will also surge if somebody feels particularly stressed or threatened.
Cortisol does a number on the other neurotransmitters. It helps serotonin reuptake, decreasing the amount of serotonin in your body. That's why SSRI drugs help depression, they help keep more serotonin in your body.
It also affects dopamine in two ways. First, it depletes our natural dopamine, decreasing the overall amount. But it also stimulates a very short-term burst of dopamine release during stressful situations. Much like a hit of heroin or sugar, this sudden release of dopamine during stress can actually feel good and make a person want more of the stressful situation. But, like the drugs and sugar, it's a harmful loop, further depleting dopamine with every hit.
The last hormone we're going to talk about is brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This hormone helps control memory and mood and gets suppressed under the influence of cortisol. The reduction in this hormone decreases memory and the desire to do things.
Three Steps You Can Take Right Now To Help You Sleep Better
That's a lot of stuff for your brain to keep track of and why depression is such a complicated issue. Because of all the different ways depression hits somebody, one medication may work while another one may not.
If you are feeling depressed, we do recommend being seen by a doctor because long-term or severe depression can cause long-term health problems.
While you're seeking out medical help, there's a couple of natural things to do to help your body reduce its stress and start balancing your hormones.
Because melatonin is depressed under stressful situations and during the depression, supplementing melatonin can help get you some sleep. Low-level melatonin is natural and safe for most people and can provide a more natural sleep.
Supplementing helps your body by providing a natural dose for sleep. Basically, it replaces what your body is not producing and that can help rebalance everything else.
Cut Way Back on Sugar
Sugar is a complicated issue because carbohydrates are our primary energy source, but too much sugar impairs the body.
If you eat too much sugar, your body feels stress and produces more cortisol. More sugar will encourage more cortisol production, which can leave you feeling depressed. Plus, sugar gives you a small dopamine rush – followed by a crash – which exasperates the lows you feel in between each rush. The constant mood swings can make you feel out of control and fatigued.
The easiest way to do this is cut wheat products, such as bread and pasta, processed foods, and focus on a diet rich and fruits and vegetables.
Strategic Naps – Or none at all
If you're having trouble sleeping at night, sleeping during the day is not compensation, it's only throwing your cycle off more.
However, research has showed that a short, 15 to 20-minute nap in the middle of the day can help alleviate some fatigue and help your body adjust to a more regular sleeping schedule.
These are very short naps, designed only to help your body reset and relax. Longer naps put your mind into a state of true sleep, making it harder to wake up and function during the day. Keep it short to get the most benefit.
Depression is not easy, nor should it be ignored. Seeking out medical treatment will help make you feel much better and taking a couple of natural steps to give your body what it needs can take you much farther to returning to normal.