We have all had those days where we want nothing more than to lay in bed all day and attempt to sleep our troubles away. I personally struggle with depression, anxiety and loneliness. Some days are better than others, some days I am happy and content, and others I have to force myself out of bed. And some days I just want to sleep. A lot. But what does the desire to sleep a lot mean? And what does this desire have to do with feelings of loneliness, anxiousness and/or depression?
Many studies suggest that some people who suffer from depression will often lie in bed from lack of motivation. Most people feel that their bed is a safe place (not to mention comfortable). I can personally attest to this; whenever I am overwhelmed or having a down day, my first instinct is to climb under my covers and nap. The desire to oversleep usually comes from:
- coping mechanism(s)
Many people with depression sleep to escape from reality; they use sleep as a way to “cope”, although hiding isn’t exactly coping.
The behavior of oversleeping (whether during the night or collectively with naps during the day) is also present in people who suffer from anxiety. There are some cases of this behavior manifesting into sleep/wake disorders in people who suffer from anxiety. A study conducted on hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness), assessed that people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) “…are twice more likely to report getting too much sleep” (Ohayon, 2008), either by oversleeping or taking naps during the day. This study was conducted using surveys and interviews. For the most part, these are two reliable methods; however, since research on hypersomnia is limited there may be some inconsistencies. In this case the researchers are experts in their field. The researchers also took other disorders and symptoms that may cause hypersomnia or may have a correlation into consideration.
Figure1. Distribution of subjects sleeping too much by nighttime and 24-hours sleep duration
The terms lethargic and fatigued often come into play when discussing depression, anxiety and loneliness. When a person is lethargic, they have a lack of energy and/or interest; similarly, when a person is fatigued they feel weary or tired. In their paper Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms, Louise C. Hawkley, Ph.D. and John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D state that loneliness negatively affects the quality of sleep an individual receives. This would explain why people who suffer from loneliness also have a desire to sleep a lot. Hawkley and Cacioppo studied loneliness and its effects through observation, which in my opinion, is one of the most reliable ways to conduct research because it focuses more on determining the relation between causation and correlation.
In conclusion, the desire to sleep a lot may reveal feelings of loneliness, anxiousness, and/or depression because all of those emotions are symptomatic of feeling tired, whether emotionally or physically. It is almost as if we are trying to build an emotional blanket fort to transport us back to childhood where we were under the pretense that no one could harm us under our covers. How many of you sleep a lot? Do you find yourselves napping as a way to cope?
Ohayon, M. (2008). From wakefulness to excessive sleepiness: What we know and still need to know. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 12(2), 129-141.
Hawkley, L., & Cacioppo, J. (2010). Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40(2), 218-227.