Everyone wakes up in a bad mood every once in a while. The occasional “waking up on the wrong side of the bed” can be the result of any number of things. Maybe it’s from not getting enough sleep the night before, dreading something you have to do on a particular day, or feeling stressed about a relationship or experience that’s unusually unpleasant at that moment…the truth is, it can be common to feel blue some mornings. However, for people with morning depression, the early hours of the day are almost always difficult.

It can be tough to get every day off to the wrong start, but there’s good news. You can learn effective ways to turn your mornings around and treat those depression symptoms, so you can have better days every day. 

Read on to learn more about waking up depressed, how it can impact your life, and how you can break the pattern.

Defining Morning Depression

While many people with depression find that their symptoms intensify as the day goes on, those with morning depression experience the opposite. Their depression symptoms are most intense at the start of the day and gradually improve. It’s known as diurnal mood variation, and if you’ve ever asked yourself why is my depression worse in the morning, this might explain things. Experts believe that diurnal mood variation might be caused by the body’s circadian clock.

For people who have morning depression, waking up depressed is normal. During the early hours of the day, they might feel listless or struggle to get out of bed. By the evening, they often have more energy and generally see an improvement in their symptoms.

Morning depression isn’t a separate diagnosis from clinical depression. It’s just one way a person might experience depressive symptoms. 

Common Symptoms of Morning Depression

In addition to waking up depressed, typical morning depression symptoms can include:

  • Feeling lethargic when you wake up in the morning, even if you had a full night’s sleep
  • Struggling to establish a morning routine
  • Difficulty waking up or getting out of bed
  • Having little to no interest in events or activities you have planned during the day
  • Experiencing issues with concentration during the morning hours
  • Waking up in a low mood
  • Excessive sleeping during the day due to sleep deprivation

Is waking up early a symptom of depression?

Research shows that many people with depression struggle with sleep regulation. Both hypersomnia (sleeping too much) and insomnia are common symptoms of depression. It’s not unusual for someone who’s depressed to wake up very early in the morning and not be able to go back to sleep, even if they’re very tired.

An early morning awakening can happen to anyone with depression. Since sleep and mood are directly connected, it’s important for anyone with depression to find ways to get the rest they need.

Possible Causes of Morning Depression

It’s difficult to say what the exact causes of depression symptoms are, but there are several factors that may cause someone to experience more severe depression symptoms at the start of their day.

“A significant amount of morning depression is fueled by potential triggers leading up until the morning. Some examples that come to mind are sleep habits, diet, hormonal imbalances, genetic contributions, and other environmental conditions.”

Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice PsyD., LPC

Poor sleep quality

Studies show us that insufficient sleep can increase your risk of depression and make symptoms worse. A lack of sleep can also throw off your body’s internal clock, which can cause you to experience symptoms at unusual hours (like in the early morning).

Limited light exposure

The body uses light to regulate our sleep/wake cycle. If you’re staying indoors during the day and aren’t getting any natural vitamin D or sun, your body’s circadian rhythm might be off as a result.

High inflammation levels

Some researchers believe there may be a link between depression and inflammation. Like depressive symptoms, inflammation levels can fluctuate throughout the day. Someone with higher inflammation in the morning might experience more intense feelings of depression during that time.

Lifestyle Changes to Help Cope with Morning Depression

It isn’t always easy to start new routines when you’re feeling depressed, but lifestyle changes can often significantly improve your symptoms. Work to introduce a few small, positive changes into your life.

“Sometimes it’s helpful to increase the amount of sleep or focus on the quality of sleep. Bedtime routines that include separating ourselves from technology, finding a dark/cold space, and incorporating something soothing might help. So can increasing fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet and working to alleviate stress in our natural environment.”

Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice PsyD., LPC

Create a bedtime routine

When you go to bed at the same time each night, it’s easier for your body to settle down to sleep. This can improve your sleep quality, which may help ease symptoms of depression. Set a nightly bedtime and stick to it, even on the weekends.

In addition to having a sleep schedule, you should strive to improve your sleep hygiene. Don’t get in your bed until you’re ready to sleep, and limit your screen time for the last hour before bed.

Start exercising

Exercise can benefit people with depression in many ways. Research proves that not only can exercise improve your mood, but it can also increase the amount of deep sleep you get every night.

People with morning depression might want to try exercising about 1 – 2 hours before bed. About 90 minutes after a workout session, your body’s temperature should start to drop, which might make it easier for you to settle down to sleep.

Limit your caffeine intake

You don’t have to completely give up caffeine if you have depression, but you should be careful about the amount of caffeine you consume. Set a caffeine cut-off time so the effects of what you consume throughout your day won’t interfere with your sleep.

Treating Morning Depression

While morning depression can be difficult to live with, you can still learn how to treat depression.   Note that it’s very common for patients to combine a variety of depression treatment options for best results.


A therapist can provide patients with guidance and support. There are certain types of therapy for depression, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT for depression has been shown to be particularly effective for treating depression symptoms.


People with depression might be prescribed sleep or antidepressant medication. The right type of medication, prescribed short-term, can make the symptoms of depression more manageable, which can help as you try to implement positive lifestyle changes.

Light therapy

Light therapy for depression is a common treatment for patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Some studies show that it may also be beneficial for people with morning depression symptoms.

Not everyone experiences depression in the same way. If you’ve wondered why is my depression worse in the morning, you’re not alone. Seeking depression treatment, learning self-help techniques, and practicing self care can help address your symptoms. 

Don’t suffer from the impact that morning depression can have on you, your life, and your relationships. You deserve a great night of sleep, and a great morning, every day. You can improve your mornings with help. Talkspace is an online therapy platform that can provide you with the help you need. With these therapists and services, you can learn to better manage your depression so you can enjoy life again.

Medically reviewed by: Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW

Reviewed On: July 8, 2022