Living with depression doesn’t always feel like “living”—for many, even getting out of bed in the morning can feel impossible and this can have a huge impact on your daily life and overall wellness. If this is you, you’re not alone—most people with depression experience sleep issues or crushing fatigue.
The good news: depression and its symptoms are treatable. To help, we turned to our staff of board-certified psychiatrists for their best suggestions on how to conquer the morning.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of depression. On a chemical level, depression is known to affect the balance of some important neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This imbalance is thought to contribute to the intense fatigue that depression can cause.
Depression and sleep are bidirectionally related—meaning poor sleep can contribute to depression and having depression makes you more likely to have sleep problems. For some, that means insomnia (the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep). For others, it means chronic oversleeping. In either case, it can make getting up in the morning a huge challenge. Plus, the hopelessness and lack of motivation that depression is known to cause can contribute to the urge to stay in bed and poor energy levels.
Want to learn more about depression, sleep and forming good sleep habits? Check out: Why Does Depression Make You Tired
In addition to seeking help from a mental health professional, there are strategies you can use to help make mornings feel a little easier when you’re living with depression. Check out these psychiatrist-backed tips.
If you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning, don’t expect yourself to go from sleeping in to jumping out of bed and getting a full workout before sunrise. Instead, start with small steps, like getting up to brush your teeth before going back to bed.
You also don’t need to jump out of bed and start your day as soon as you wake up. You might try moving to a comfy chair and reading in the natural light for a bit to ease yourself into the morning. Start by tackling the self-care habits that are most important to you.
Celebrate every win—even ones like this, which might seem “small,” represent progress and can have a big impact on your daily life and overall wellness.
Giving yourself something to look forward to, like a tasty breakfast or a cup of coffee, can help motivate you to get out of bed. Make sure you have any ingredients you need the day before—or even consider doing some breakfast prep the evening prior—so that your breakfast is easy to assemble come morning. Laying out ingredients and tools ahead of time, or even writing down what you plan to eat, can be a motivating step.
Nothing will make you want to go back to bed faster than waking up to a pitch black bedroom. While having a dark bedroom can help you get high quality sleep at night, lying in a dark room in the morning can make it hard for your body to wake up.
To combat this, make an effort to open your curtains (or have a loved one or family member help you out) to let the natural light in as soon as you wake up (even if you’re going to crawl right back under the covers).
Exposure to light triggers the hormones that help your body feel alert and energized. These hormones also hit the reset button on your body’s internal clock (AKA your circadian rhythm) and cue your body to feel sleepy at night and alert in the morning. Your circadian rhythm—the natural body processes (including wakefulness and sleepiness) that follow an approximately 24-hour schedule—is extremely sensitive to light.
Battling dark winter mornings? Even an artificial bright light can help promote wakefullness. Some are even designed to mimic natural sunlight.
Routines have long been promoted by healthcare providers as an automatic way to practice healthy habits. If you’re struggling with getting out of bed in the morning, the more you can automate your behavior, the better. This can help prevent overwhelm by making getting out of bed in the morning something you don’t even have to think about.
Your morning routine doesn’t have to be complicated—in fact, the simpler it is, the easier it will be to stick to. Maybe you wake up, open your curtains, and read for a few minutes. Breakfast and teeth brushing can follow, and you’re done! The more days in a row you repeat your routine, the more likely it is to become automatic.
If you’re someone who likes lists. Write out your morning routine as a simple to-do list. Be sure to cross of those to-do's as you complete each task!
If it's a struggle to physically get yourself out of bed, setting multiple alarms is a good way to ensure you have no choice—especially if you set one or more up on the opposite side of the room. That way, you’ll have to get out of bed to silence them instead of rolling over and hitting snooze.
While all of these tips may be helpful in getting you out of bed in the morning, remember: depression is a mental health condition that requires the treatment and care of a professional.
Plus, ultimately depression involves chemical changes in your brain which may be responsible for your excessive sleepiness. If willpower alone isn’t enough to help you get out of bed in the morning, that’s OK. There are many professional resources that can help.
The first step in treating depression is getting a clinical diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional, like a psychiatrist. Based on your needs and diagnosis, they will work with you to develop a treatment plan—often a combination of medication, like antidepressants, and supportive therapy, like talk therapy or CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). While these interventions may not work right away, after a few weeks of consistency, they can make a huge difference in your day-to-day symptoms—including your ability to get out of bed in the morning.
With Talkiatry, you can see a psychiatrist from the comfort of your home, and you can schedule your first appointment in a matter of days. We treat a range of mental health conditions including types of depression like major depressive disorder or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
To get started, take our free online assessment, to see if Talkiatry is right for you and get matched with a psychiatrist.
Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 60 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder. ADHD, and more. Get started with a short online assessment.
The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.
Dr. Mendez-Maldonado is double board-certified in general psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry. She received her medical degree from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. She then moved to New York to complete her residency training At Mount Sinai Beth Israel where she stayed to complete her fellowship in geriatric psychiatry. After her fellowship, she proceeded to work at Woodhull Hospital where she worked as an attending before becoming unit chief and running their Special Pathogens Unit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She focuses on medication management and offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, cognitive-behavioral techniques, a focus on nutritional psychiatry, and 30-minute follow-up visits.
Dr. Mendez-Maldonado focuses on integrating nutrition, physical activity, and mindfulness techniques alongside pharmacotherapy to achieve a well-rounded approach to mental health.