Medically reviewed by: Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Reviewed On: February 3, 2023

Many people with depression find that they feel overwhelmed by everyday responsibilities. As tasks become harder to complete, things that were once simple may now leave you feeling exhausted. Ultimately, depression can cause you to feel more tired than usual. 

The truth is, while depression is a mental health condition, it also impacts your physical well-being. When you’re depressed, you may struggle with low energy or chronic exhaustion. Depression fatigue can make depressive symptoms even worse, which is why you must understand how depression and tiredness are linked. 

Read on to learn more about the connection between depression and chronic fatigue. We’re addressing questions like why does depression make you tired and offering specific, easy-to-use techniques to help you break the cycle and get your depression fatigue under control. 

Does Depression Make You Tired?

The answer to questions like “can depression make you tired?” is a resounding yes. In fact, it’s one of the most common depression symptoms we know of. Studies show that more than 90% of people with depression report feeling fatigue. Depression can interfere with everyday activities and contribute to feelings of tiredness in many ways. 

“Some people with depression experience laziness, fatigue, lethargy, besides lack of motivation and desire. These are vegetative or physical symptoms of depression, the physiological symptoms are poor concentration, helpless hopeless feeling, poor self esteem etc.”

Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD

Why does depression make you tired?

There are several reasons why depression contributes to decreased energy levels and mental exhaustion. Understanding this means you can take active steps to eliminate the impact of poor sleep hygiene. 

It makes everyday tasks feel draining 

When you’re depressed, it can be incredibly difficult to accomplish anything — even the seemingly small tasks in your daily life can feel insurmountable. Things like brushing your teeth, showering, and getting dressed can become so daunting and overwhelming that you might want to give up entirely. 

In addition to making you feel sad, research shows us that depression can make it difficult to focus. As a result, those mundane tasks can be harder to take on when you’re depressed because of mental exhaustion.

Many people with depression feel overwhelmed by everyday responsibilities. Since getting things done can be hard when you’re depressed, those simple things you just did every day can suddenly become exhausting. The end result? Depression leaves you feeling even more tired than usual at the end of the day. 

It interferes with reward systems

Our brains have built-in reward pathways. When you finish a task or do something you enjoy, the brain releases a feel-good hormone called dopamine. This system helps you focus and motivates you to complete essential tasks. 

Depression is associated with decreased dopamine levels that hinder reward processing. This can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated. In turn, it might cause you to feel like you don’t have the energy to start new activities or do what you need. 

It can make it harder to sleep

Depression can get in the way of sleep quality, preventing your body from getting the rest it needs. People with depression often struggle to fall or stay asleep. They may find themselves lying awake in bed for hours or feeling like they haven’t slept at all. 

Not only does depression make you tired, but being tired can actually exacerbate existing depressive symptoms. People with insomnia are significantly more likely to experience depression.  

It increases stress levels 

Like tiredness, emotional stress can be a symptom and cause of depression. Stress can make depression symptoms more intense and negatively affect mood. It’s also known to be a contributor to feelings of tiredness. 

Chronic stress can disrupt sleep and lead to depression-related fatigue. It can cause you to feel emotionally and physically exhausted. Stress can be taxing, making it hard to find the energy for everyday tasks. 

Understanding the Differences Between Depression, Tiredness, & Fatigue

It’s clear that depression and feeling tired are connected, but it’s important to note that a lack of energy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed. Depression can cause tiredness, but plenty of other reasons may be the culprit of low energy. For example, other health conditions, unhealthy eating habits, a lack of physical activity, dehydration, or poor sleep quality can all be factors of decreased energy levels. Of course, as we know, these are all symptoms of depression as well, further entwining the two. 

What’s the difference between tiredness and fatigue? For one thing, it’s completely normal to feel tired when your body needs better sleep. However, when you’re fatigued, it’s more than just “being sleepy.” Feelings of exhaustion and sluggishness are better descriptions. Also, when dealing with depression-related fatigue, you might find that sleeping doesn’t make you feel any less tired. 

“When evaluated for depression the psychiatrist will consider all medical causes that can present like depression or have overlapping symptoms.The work up is to rule out if this is just the fatigue, tiredness due to depression, or other causes. Blood work is required to check Thyroid functions metabolic disease,DM,autoimmune diseases cancers etc.”

Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD

The overlap between fatigue and depression can make it hard to tell the difference between the two conditions. Since fatigue can lead to depression and depression can cause fatigue, it’s best to talk to a medical or mental health professional about your symptoms so you can get the care you need. 

Is tiredness a form of depression?

Tiredness can be a sign of depression. In fact, it’s often one of the first symptoms many people experience. It’s common for someone with depression to feel physically and emotionally drained. 

While depression is strongly associated with feelings of sadness or hopelessness, tiredness and a lack of energy are equal indicators. Of course, not everyone with depression feels tired, but since there’s a link between depression and sleep difficulties, many people living with depression wind up feeling exhausted. 

How to Cope with Depression-Related Fatigue & Tiredness

Why does depression make you tired, and how can you deal with it? It can be challenging to manage depressive symptoms, especially when you’re tired. However, the right coping strategies and tools can help you manage depression fatigue. 

Sleep habits

Developing a healthy sleep habit is essential. One of the most effective ways to combat tiredness related to depression is by practicing good sleep hygiene. 

Depression and sleep disturbances are often co-occurring conditions. Healthy sleeping habits can relieve tiredness and other depressive symptoms. Habits that are associated with a healthy sleep routine might include:

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends)
  • Only using your bed for sleep
  • Sleeping in a dark and quiet environment 
  • Creating a bedtime routine 
  • Turning off electronic devices before you go to sleep 
  • Staying away from food, sugar, and caffeine in the hours before bed
  • Avoiding long naps

Stress management

Since stress can interfere with sleep, it can be beneficial to find ways to manage your stress levels so you can relax when it’s time for bed. 

Physical activity and a healthy diet can reduce stress levels and improve other symptoms of depression. In addition, practicing self-care is one of the best ways to treat depression and tiredness. 

Get Professional Mental Health Help with Talkspace

Tiredness, low energy, and fatigue are all common depression symptoms. Unfortunately, these types of signs can significantly interfere with your overall well-being, which is why it’s so important to seek help. 

At Talkspace, you can find an online therapist to help you learn how to deal with depression and cope with symptoms like tiredness. Depression is common, but it’s also very treatable. Therapy for depression can improve your quality of life and ensure you’re managing your symptoms and not letting related tiredness impact your life. Reach out to a Talkspace therapist today if you’re hoping to relieve your symptoms and treat your depression and tiredness.

Talkspace is an online therapy platform changing how people think about and access important mental health care. Our digital approach to care means you can get trained, experienced, and qualified therapists to help you address and manage any mental health care condition, including depression fatigue. Get started today with our depression test to learn more about your symptoms.