Needing to take a nap when you have depression is frustrating because, on the one hand, you get to take a sweet, sweet nap. But on the other hand, you know you're probably not going to wake up refreshed and energized enough to take on the task you're supposed to be doing instead of taking a nap.
As one meme so perfectly captured it (complete with a picture of Kris Jenner crying), "tfw u take a good old Depression Nap cuz u don't feel like being conscious but then you wake up disoriented as hell and get hit with that special Post-Depression Nap Depression that honestly rivals the original depression that caused you to take the nap in the first place."
Sure, "depression nap" may not be an actual medical term, but there are plenty of memes and tweets about the phenomenon like the Kris Jenner one — and the concept does have some real science behind it.
To start, we know that sleep and depression are intricately linked. And one study from way back in 1992 found that napping is more prevalent among those who are depressed compared to a control group. "One of the hallmark symptoms of depression is [physical] fatigue," says Deborah Serani, PsyD, a psychologist and author of Living With Depression. And that fatigue may take the form of a sudden, all-encompassing urge to nap.
Of course, just because you take lots of naps doesn't necessarily mean that you're depressed. When should you start to worry about your nap habit? According to Dr. Serani, it's not unusual for people who don't have depression to feel tired or like they could use a 20-minute nap in the afternoon. And most people are able to take a nap in the middle of the day without it interfering with their sleep pattern or bedtime, she says. However, a person with depression might feel beyond tired or as if it takes too much energy to do just about anything, Dr. Serani says. They may end up taking multiple naps of varying lengths in one day. And, as many Twitter jokes point out, the depression nap isn't a guarantee that you'll wake up feeling well-rested.
The reasons why you're taking the nap can also be very telling. And some people — especially those with depression or anxiety — might nap as a way of avoiding something, Dr. Serani says. If you do realize you're using a nap in this way, she says, "It's always a good time to ask, What am I avoiding and how often is this happening?" For example, if you're putting off your work with a snooze every now and then, that's typically NBD. "But if it's a chronic pattern, we start to worry," she says.
If you're concerned about the amount of time you spend napping, Dr. Serani suggests logging your sleep and mood for two or three days. (You can do this by hand in a journal or with some helpful apps specifically made for this purpose.) That can clue you into whether or not you're "catching up on" sleep or "chasing it," she says. And, if it's the latter, that might be a sign that your sleep habits need to be addressed. If you already see a therapist, you can mention how much you're napping so they're aware of how your sleep habits are affecting your mood — or vice versa. "A lot of times we're just not aware of the things we do," Dr. Serani says. "But when you start to lay it out with an app or just by talking to a therapist, you're able to discover habits."
With those patterns in mind, you can start to become more aware of your napping tendencies and work with your therapist to manage them. That might include coming up with other strategies to deal with the feelings that send you into nap mode, whether that's being overwhelmed by your workload or the thought of heading out to a party with a bunch of strangers. Or you might focus on keeping your bedtime consistent instead. Either way, it's good to remember that as much as we cherish our nap time, it can't solve all of our problems.