Picture this → You are perfectly fine during the day. It is nice. You are busy with your daily routine and happily go about your day. But the evenings and nights feel eerie, emotionally darker. It is something you always dread and want to desperately avoid!
Things get worse at night, sadness takes over, and you cannot stop overthinking. The darkness and the silence of the night become too much to handle.
Now, this could be sadness or depression! However, the lines between them are often blurred. Has this ever happened to you? If so, this article will help you explore the situation at a deeper level.
Clinically, sleep disorders are often linked to nighttime sadness and depression. About 40 percent of American adults suffering from depressive symptoms, also experience hyperinsomnia.
A disturbed sleep, therefore, has a direct association with sadness at night. So much so, that the overwhelming nights seem never-ending. Let us understand this phenomenon more comprehensively.
Why Do You Feel Sad at Night?
Sadness is like a vampire. It tends to become quite vocal at night. This section explores the reasons for nighttime sadness.
Most of us love winding down after a long, tiring day, don’t we? It is obvious to crave peace and solace in the quiet reflection when you are all by yourself at night.
The nighttime hush can help you in many good ways. Your thoughts, good or bad, tend to flow more freely. And you also get to delve deeper into the subtleties of life. It is the best time to reflect on what transpired during the day and your latent emotions.
However, there is a downside to this personal dialogue you have with your innermost feelings. You may end up being sad when certain negative emotions are suddenly triggered or amplified.
Are happy thoughts the only thing that will come to the fore? No, the human brain is complex but quite easy to be distracted by old hurts or unfulfilled aspirations. If the grief is gone for good by the next morning, it is temporary nighttime sadness.
Factors Responsible for Nighttime Sadness (Short-Term)
This section talks about some commonly known reasons for causing sadness at night.
- Extreme stress and fatigue
- Social isolation or loneliness at night once you are daytime responsibilities are done
- Irregular sleeping pattern due to a disturbed circadian rhythm
- Anxiety about the next day
- Anxiety about the future
- Regretful behavior in the past
- Constant rumination over lost opportunities
- Anxiety about preserving good relationships
- The constant pressure of keeping up at work or academics
- Feeling disappointed by having wrong expectations from the wrong people
So, feeling sad at night is not an out-of-the-box emotion. It is a normal reaction and engages you in a bit of soul-searching at night. Neither does it mean that you are depressed.
As I said, the nighttime is the calmest hour to introspect. The sad thoughts are just your free-flowing emotions that become more apparent during the night.
Why? Because you are in your safest space and have all the time in the world to confront those feelings. Sometimes you just want to stop pretending and be the borderline-depressed mess. This helps you embrace the true you.
As long as the patterns of overthinking are not frequent and prolonged, you are fine.
However, be mindful of the source of such intrusive thoughts. Do they repeatedly remind you of your harrowing past trauma? That is when you should be concerned about depression.
You must ensure that these emotions do not spiral out of control, disrupting your everyday functioning. Now, let us see how you can differentiate between sadness and depression.
Is Nighttime Sadness the Same as Depression?
In this section, I will discuss the major signs of Nighttime Depression.
No, nighttime sadness and nighttime depression are two completely different things. However, chronic sadness may lead to depressive symptoms.
Humans can display a wide range of emotions depending on the situation they are in. Sadness is one of them. It is a short phase when you are not being your best due to some difficulties in life.
The peace and quiet at night can intensify sadness. However, it fades away as time goes by. You may even feel better after ranting or voicing your displeasure.
However, if an extreme feeling of sadness creeps in for many nights to come. It becomes a long-term mood disorder or a mental condition called depression.
Signs of Nocturnal Depression
This section will explain how to distinguish between sadness or grief at night and depression.
Instead of venting it out, a depressed person might do the opposite – be tightlipped about it and cause the frustration to build up gradually. Therefore, you must know of the following symptoms to accurately differentiate nighttime sadness from depression:
- Persistently disturbed sleep cycle
- Persistently feeling down in the dumps
- Constant fidgeting and restlessness
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- A complete withdrawal from social interactions and daily routine
- A nagging sensation of being worthless, hopeless, and alone
- Suicidal tendencies
So, to understand the difference between normal sadness and depression at night, a proper diagnosis is non-negotiable. Also, it is important to know what puts you at risk for nighttime depression. I am listing the major factors below:
Causes of Depression at Night
Now that we know there is a world of difference between mere sadness and major depression. I will talk about the primary triggers of nighttime depression in this section.
- A chronic lack of self-confidence
- Long-term low self-esteem
- Past trauma, a victim of bullying, physical/sexual abuse
- Stressors related to work or studies/ chronic performance anxiety
- Poor stress management tactics
- A chronic lack of control over your emotions/emotionally unstable
- Regular substance abuse – too much drugs or alcohol can mess with your mind
- A variety of mental illnesses run in the family (genetic predisposition)
- Physical health issues such as cardiovascular complications
- Depression aggravated by recurring sadness at night
- Depression caused by other mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, personality disorder, etc.
The above signs and triggers can help with appropriate diagnosis. This goes a long way in providing the right treatment.
The sad nighttime thoughts spilling over to the next set of days, weeks, or even months is something you must be careful about. So, be on the lookout for recurring sad thoughts interfering with your daily life.
If you are able to soak up your nighttime sadness and get through to the next day effortlessly, it is great news.
Remember, depression is more than just feeling down! But it is indirectly linked to feeling sad for longer durations. Also, notice the changes in your mood, weight, and performance levels.
If you sense your energy is way off at all times, I would advise seeking help from a mental health provider. Also, you can start managing nighttime depression at home with some tips such as:
- Improving your bedtime routine
- Making your body adjust to a better circadian rhythm
- Avoiding electronic devices post-work or before bedtime
- Keeping negativity at bay by engaging in relaxing activities (music, meditation, yoga, warm bath, etc)
- A quick face-to-face chat with a trustworthy friend or family member discussing common interests or your day in general
Recognizing your depressive feelings is the way to get long-term emotional stability. It is not a weakness, and it is okay to feel that way. Accept it, embrace it. You are not alone and have a whole community to grow together in this. All the best.
She is an experienced Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Writer with a decade of expertise in psychology. Skilled in assessment, therapy, and patient care. Committed to helping individuals through clinical practice and mental health writing at Therapyjourney.co. Passionate about promoting mental well-being and awareness. Open to aligned opportunities.