Scientists Explain Why Depression Makes People Feel Tired

Scientists Explain Why Depression Makes People Feel Tired


If you suffer from depression, you probably deal with fatigue quite often. Depression can make it difficult to do daily chores and take care of responsibilities due to the constant onslaught of negative thoughts coupled with feelings of helplessness and despair. When dealing with this challenge, though, try to remember that millions of other people deal with the same thoughts and feelings. Depression remains the leading cause of disability worldwide and affects more than 300 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While depression sufferers deal with a myriad of symptoms, many report feeling tired all the time. They also comment that this greatly hinders their ability to function. Fatigue affects over 90% of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), according to a study published in the journal CNS Drugs. Causes of fatigue due to this disorder can vary and include things such as stress levels, diet, sleep quality, medications taken, and lack of exercise.

Below, we’ll go more in depth on what exactly causes people with depression to feel so tired. Hopefully, we can provide a solution that will suit your needs.

Scientists Explain Why People With Depression Feel So Tired


It’s no secret that people with depression usually react more strongly to stress. This, in turn, worsens their symptoms. According to research, people with depression tend to have higher levels of cortisol and lower levels of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.

Trying to function in our increasingly stressful world while dealing with a mental disorder can feel downright exhausting, so if you feel burnt out, remember to take time for yourself. Practice deep breathing exercises and incorporate physical exercise and positive thinking into your routine as well.


Diet plays a huge role in mental health. In general, eating whole foods such as meats, dairy, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and reducing or eliminating processed foods can decrease symptoms of depression. Our whole bodies, including our brains, need certain nutrients to function properly. Without them, our health suffers. Try changing up your diet to see if that alleviates your fatigue.

Sleep Quality

In general, people with depression usually have a harder time falling, and staying, asleep than those without mental disorders. Even if a person gets the required amount of sleep for their age, they might not feel rested when they wake up. This is due to a lack of quality sleep. Depression makes it much harder to fall asleep. Sufferers might lie awake for hours before finally dozing off. Also, they may wake up numerous times throughout the night, or wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep. Furthermore, REM and deep sleep do not occur as often for depressed people compared to those without depression. Research shows that many people with depression have co-occurring insomnia or hypersomnia.

If you suffer from sleep problems, try not to use technology a couple hours before bed. Also, create a relaxing environment before sleep and exercise early in the day rather than in the evening.


Some medicines have been shown to increase fatigue in depressed patients. According to Dr. Maurizio Fava MD, Slater Family Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, tricyclic antidepressants, SSRIs and SNRIs have been associated with higher rates of fatigue in those with depression. If you think your sleepiness is due to your medication, consult your doctor about alternatives.

Lack of Exercise

Those with depression may not exercise enough, if at all. It’s a vicious cycle, because exercise will initially make you more tired until your body gets used to it, but you need exercise to function properly. However, depression makes it difficult to perform necessary daily tasks, which means exercise usually takes a backseat to other aspects of survival. Even though it might feel hard at first, exercise offers many benefits including better sleep, improved mood, more energy, etc. Lack of exercise can cause depression, so make sure to incorporate at least 20 minutes of low to moderate intensity exercise per day.

Closing Thoughts

We’ve gone over a few major causes of fatigue due to depression, but this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list. Depression affects so many people, and yet, many still do not understand this debilitating illness. To help end the stigma, we wanted to include thoughts from 22-year-old visual artist and mental health advocate Pauline Palita. She wrote on Twitter how it feels to suffer from mental illness and why it makes people so tired. We hope you can relate and take away something positive from what she shares.

Personal Account Of Why Mental Illnesses Are So Exhausting


Do you suffer from fatigue due to depression? Have you done anything that you have found helps you? Let us know in the comments.

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