In this blog post, we shall answer the question “can I get sunset depression?” This is an exciting topic that will look at the different ways nighttime causes depression or worsens the symptoms of depression in people who already have it. We shall first have a brief introduction to what depression is and the significant symptoms of depression.
We shall then look at the causes of depression at night and the treatment options available. We shall also focus on tips on how to improve our sleep.
Can I get sunset depression?
Yes, you can get sunset depression. This is a type of depression that happens or worsens during sunset or at night. We will look at the causes of sunset depression and the symptoms of sunset depression.
Depression is one of the most common mood disorders. It can affect anyone, at any age and at any time. Some people get depressed when the weather changes or during certain seasons. This depression is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
For some, the symptoms of depression worsen during sunset/ at night. This can lead to feelings of extreme sadness, insomnia, hopelessness and helplessness, agitation, or even suicidal thoughts at night. The opposite of this, which is depression in the morning, is called Diurnal Mood Variation.
Many people confuse Seasonal Affective Disorder with sunset depression. People with SAD are affected during specific times of the year, especially during winter and subsides during spring, while people with sunset depression are affected during specific times of the day in the evening and at night.
Before we get into detail about sunset depression, let us look at the common symptoms of depression to watch out for.
Major symptoms of depression
Feelings of worthlessness
It is normal for us to feel disappointed in ourselves if we have not completed a task or have underperformed in different areas of our lives, i.e. at work, school projects, in marriages, etc. We get bouts of low self-esteem when we disappoint ourselves or others.
If you are depressed, the feeling of worthlessness and low self-esteem is constant and long-standing. Most of the time, there is no specific cause for this feeling and can be brought about by rumination of negative self-talk and thoughts.
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
It is normal for us to feel off weather and skip our favourite activities of the day, like going to the gym or meeting up with friends. Sometimes, you just want to stay in the house alone and watch a movie.
When you are depressed, these activities feel pointless and you completely isolate yourself from everyone. Even mastering the energy to get out of bed and do a simple routine like brushing your teeth or showering becomes a challenge.
Persistent low mood
Shifts in mood are normal and it is okay to feel down once in a while when we are disappointed or things are not going according to plan. In general, work stressors, family stressors, school stressors and life, in general, can be overwhelming and cause low moods.
People who are depressed experience longer episodes of low moods. They can also not shake off the sad feelings even when they have found solutions to their stressors. This persistent low mood is an indicator of depression.
Poor concentration can be caused by fatigue or having too many tasks at hand. Depression causes the inability to complete simple tasks, concentrate at work or in school, and difficulty managing and completing any task.
Having suicidal thoughts
The persistent low moods, hopelessness and isolation make those with depression get thoughts and feelings of not wanting to be alive as a negative coping mechanism for escaping these feelings. Suicidal ideations and attempts are a call for help and need immediate attention.
Symptoms of sunset depression
The symptoms of depression vary from one person to another. They include;
- Increased severity of depressive symptoms
- Increased feelings of isolation
- Increased feeling of hopelessness
- Increased feeling of emptiness
- Racing thoughts
Causes of sunset depression
Some causes of sunset depression are adjustable and we will look at self-care tips that can help ease the symptoms. Some, however, are more challenging to manage and will need a professional to help provide practical and emotional support.
Research has been done on the relationship between light exposure at night and depression. A study from the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that exposure to low-level bedroom lights can lead to the development of depressive symptoms, especially in older adults. This, however, is not the only likely cause.
The risk is said to be higher in young people since their eyes are more sensitive. This research is, however, not clinically approved, but it is possible for light exposure at night to interfere with sleep, which interferes with our mood.
Rumination is the tendency of people with depression to mule over negative thoughts, trying to make sense of them or thinking of different outcomes that could have happened. Rumination worsens at night because of the lack of distractions and being alone.
Though rumination is normal, too much of it can worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Always keep tabs on the negative thoughts keeping you awake at night, i.e some people dread waking up in the morning to go to a toxic work environment and this worsens the feelings of depression and anxiety at night.
Chronotype is a person’s natural inclination to the times of day when they are active and the times of day when they prefer to sleep. There are people who are early risers, some are night owls, while others are somewhere in between. The study done does not show the correlation between sleeping time and depression, but the result findings show a link between chromotypes and depression.
A study was done on 32,470 50-year-old females who did not have depression. After a period of 4 years, those who identified as early risers had a 12% lower risk of developing depression than the intermediate women, while 6% of the night owls had a higher risk of developing depression than the intermediate women.
This shows that the more strongly a woman identified as a night owl, the more likely they will be diagnosed with depression. More research, however, is required in looking at the genetic and environmental factors as well as determining the cause of sunset depression.
Circadian rhythm disruption
The circadian rhythm can simply be defined as the internal clock. The disruption of the circadian rhythm can be caused by jet lag, increased light exposure at night, working the night shifts etc. you risk developing or worsening the symptoms of depression if your circadian rhythm is disrupted.
It is therefore important to be active during the day and have a good night’s rest.
Tips for coping with sunset depression
Find solutions for negative events
Rumination causes feelings of helplessness and sadness. When you are able to think objectively and clearly, look at the negative thoughts you keep on having and identify at least one way that can help resolve and overcome your problems. Take proactive steps by calling a field or your therapist to help brainstorm and find better coping mechanisms and find solutions to your problems.
Practice good sleep hygiene
You can set yourself for good sleep success by;
- Taking a warm shower before going to bed
- Switching off any gadgets two hours before going to bed
- Keeping your room dark
- Not overeating or drinking too much
- Not going to bed unless you are too tired
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
Create positive thoughts
Fill your mind with positive things so as not to leave space for negative thoughts to creep in. do activities you enjoy during the day, i.e. painting, going out with friends, taking nature walks, exercising, etc.
Look for ways to boost your self-worth, i.e. find activities that you are good at, start up a new hobby or experiment with musical instruments or new recipes or take an online class. Feel good about yourself, and accomplishing these tasks will help keep rumination away.
If you are diagnosed with depression, your doctor might prescribe some antidepressants along with therapy to help ease the symptoms of depression. SSRIs like citalopram and escitalopram help by increasing serotonin in the brain to boost mood.
The CBT model is a type of therapy that will help you identify rumination and negative thoughts and how to change them into positive thoughts. Your therapist will also help you to address situations that are leading to your ruminating and negative thoughts.
Some changes in your daily routine can help to relieve symptoms of depression at night. They include regular physical exercises, participating in activities you like and eating healthy meals. You also need to have a sleep routine and stick to it.
We have discussed what sunset depression is and its symptoms. We have also looked at the causes of sunset depression and how they affect our mental health. Finally, we have discussed the tips for coping with sunset depression and treatment options available for depression.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions in the comment section below.
Frequently asked questions: sunset depression
Why do I get anxious at sunset?
Sundowning can cause anxiety, confusion, aggression and ignoring directions. It can also cause panic and wondering. Sundowning is not a disease but a group of symptoms that occur at a specific time of the day and affect people with dementia.
Why does darkness cause depression?
Gray Aston-Jones speculates that sunset depression is caused by the disruption of the circadian rhythm. “When the circadian system is not receiving normal light, it leads to changes in the brain system that regulates moods”, he says.
Why do I feel stressed in the evening?
Some people’s anxiety worsens in the evening due to a lack of distractions. We have very few activities at night and we are left alone confronting our thoughts.
Does staying in the dark damage your brain?
Failure to get enough natural light can slow your brain. Research also shows that exposure to sunlight keeps your brain working well.
What are the three strategies for coping with depression?
- Be more active, i.e., exercising
- Do not withdraw from close family and friends
- Create a routine
- Eat healthy
- Sleep enough
Schimelpfening N. (May 3, 2022). Why do I get depressed at night? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/why-am-i-depressed-only-at-night-1066892
Gotter A. (September 18, 2018). Depression at night: how to cope with nighttime depression. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression-at-night
Rowe M. (November 9, 1997). Doctors battle to beat the spread of sundown blues. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/doctors-battle-to-beat-the-spread-of-sundown-blues-1292978.html
HelpGuide, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad.htm