Sleeping is our body’s way of healing but frequent or long “depression naps” can also be a sign of worsening depression. Understanding the difference between a nap that is for your health and one that is detrimental to it is important. Much like what we did recently in the Pornography & Depression piece; in this article, we’ll go through the difference between healthy naps and depression naps along with some tips for improving your sleep.

What are depression naps?

A depression nap is primarily taken to avoid or self-treat depressive symptoms. Depression is a single term that applies to a wide range of effects and severity. One manifestation of depression is the phenomenon of depression naps. Extensive amounts of sleep are often a mechanism of avoidance. 

Typically, people take these naps thinking they can wake up refreshed and better only to sleep longer than they should and wake up more fatigued. The problem here may be mistaking depression for regular sleepiness. 

There is a big difference between the two feelings but not always in how we actually feel them. It is common for people with fatigue to think they have depression and the opposite is true as well. 

Why are depression naps common?

Depression naps are a possible side effect of any person’s depression. It is often forgotten how exhausting depression can really get. It is common for people experiencing depression to have the misconception that a nap will help.

Once we are in bed, getting out can feel impossible. As a result, the snooze button may be repeatedly pressed or the alarm disregarded altogether. This is where quick, healthy naps often turn to damaging, hours-long events.

Nobody sets out to take a nap that will hurt their mental health. In fact, depression naps are often the result of people trying to take care of themselves. 

Are all naps bad for you in general?

Not at all! Napping can be a perfectly healthy activity. Sometimes, it can even help in times of depression or anxiety. The real issue is in the overuse of napping. 

Telling the difference between problematic and helpful habits can be difficult at times. First, confirm that all your basic needs are being met. Healthy eating, socialization, exercise, and nighttime sleep are important for an energetic day.

Working too hard or frequently and having too little relaxation can also lead to depression and burnout. This makes the distinction even more difficult to make. 

3 healthy sleeping habits to adopt

Keeping a regular nighttime routine for your sleep is one of the best decisions you can make for yourself. If you are able to get all the sleep you need at night, the problems associated with daytime naps are likely avoidable. Still, there is nothing wrong with taking a nap from time to time.

When doing so, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to go about it, however. Luckily, there are a few tips for keeping healthy nap habits. Remembering them is as easy as the acronym “SEE.” This stands for Short, Early, and Environment.  

  • Short – Keep your naps as short as possible. Aim for 10-30 minutes and remember that the longer you nap, the harder it will be to get up.
  • Early – Naps should not happen after 3 pm as they can interfere with the sleep you get at night. Your nighttime sleep is always more important than sleep throughout the day and the ultimate goal is not to need a nap in the daytime.
  • Environment – Always sleep in restful environments with a comfortable climate.

Once you have woken from your nap, make sure to take things easy and give yourself time to return to activities. 

When should you nap optimally?

We are very fortunate that our bodies can “power down” whatever part of the day we desire. If we could never nap in the daytime, there would be some truly miserable days. If you are experiencing fatigue or sleepiness, a nap may be a great way to address it.

There is no reason to continue suffering just because of the potential for unhealthy sleep patterns. If you find yourself tired in the daytime, set aside some time to take a nap. 

Napping is also a really good preventative tool. In other words, if you know you will not be able to get enough sleep, you can nap the day before. This is particularly useful for night shifts at work or other such concerns. 

Finally, planned naps as a part of a daily routine is a perfectly acceptable way to take naps as well. As long as the amount of time taken is reasonable, it’s perfectly acceptable to nap every day in planned sessions.

Each of these examples sits in contrast to the typical depression nap which is usually taken instinctively or impulsively. Intention plays a heavy role in determining whether a nap is a healthy or unhealthy choice.

Conclusion

Better understanding the links between depression and excessive napping carries a lot of advantages. One of the biggest of these is the ability to notice a depressive episode that you may not have even known you were in the midst of. 

A common drawback of depression is that we don’t always know we have it when we’re experiencing it. If you’re interested, we wrote a similar piece on how dark circles under your eyes are a sign of depression. Keeping track of our naps and noting when they get too frequent can help to flag the issue, making it easier to address. Better understanding that the times when we are napping for longer periods could point to this elusive condition is huge.

If the problem is a lack of energy, a long nap seldom actually helps. Usually, naps leave us with sleep fatigue and grogginess that takes over the rest of the day. 

FAQs

Is napping a coping mechanism?

There is no hard-and-fast answer to this. Sometimes sleeping is a normal way to take care of yourself and catch up on some much-needed sleep. Like many things in life, this comes down to the way people go about it as opposed to the activity itself.

Does napping make you more depressed?

Excessive napping can worsen depression and enable the avoidance of the root emotions involved. Both of these can be deeply damaging. Excessive sleeping does not directly lead to depression, however.

Why do I keep napping all the time?

It is always a good idea to note any behavioral changes you may experience. If you find yourself taking frequent or long naps, a further investigation should happen. It could be as simple as not getting enough sleep at night but you’ll want to make sure.

Why do I feel like I need a nap every day?

If you’re taking reasonably-sized naps every day (20-30 minutes,) and it is not affecting your day-to-day activities, it’s likely not a big problem. Daytime naps can improve your mood and be a perfectly healthy activity. That said, it likely points to not getting enough sleep at night.

If you’re taking long naps every day or any chance that you have, it may be a sign of depression. Take these types of naps very seriously and consider seeking advice from a professional. 

How else do I restore energy if I can’t nap?

Naps are actually a terrible way to restore energy unless taken in those short bursts. Otherwise, they usually leave the person even more tired after. There are plenty of better methods for restoring energy. Try going out for some light exercise or changing up your food and beverage habits for healthier choices

Charlie Penwarden

Former mental health nurse turned consultant with a critical focus on human behaviour research analysis and the optimisation of mental health management to prevent illness and promote life harmony.