Mood change after finally getting sleep: A thing?

Over the weekend, Neil posted that after weeks (ok, probably years) of sleep deprivation from his kids he'd finally gotten a good night's sleep, and had woken up depressed.

I thought, "Wait, that happens to me, too." Whenever I have sleep problems (waking up with kids or insomnia) for awhile, the first morning after I've gotten a decent stretch of sleep I feel very very low and depressed. (Notjust  cranky or still-sleepy, but actually depressed.)

I asked on Twitter if this was a thing, and got a dozen replies that it happened to other people, too.

Give me your data points, please. Does this happen to you? If so, have you found a way to make it better (other than just struggling through the depression and trying to sleep enough the next night)? Any sciencey people know why this happens? Is this a known thing no one told us about?

23 thoughts on “Mood change after finally getting sleep: A thing?”

  1. Yup, this happens to me. When I’m sleep deprived it heavily my anxiety symptoms. But when I get sleep, it takes about a week of fighting off depressive feelings before I start to feel equilibrium again. 3yo was up allllllll freaking night last night so now I’m just dealing with that outrunning a panic attack feeling but the rest of this week will probably be sad and anxious because of it.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, although my demon is anxiety rather than depression. Well, I get a secondary depression from feeling anxious, but whatever, mood disorders are all siblings anyway.Here’s what usually happens to me. I’ll go for a week or so of troubled sleep, due to kids waking up or my social schedule or whatever, and I’ll be coping just fine. But then I start sleeping really late on weekends to compensate, and then I start catching up and then it becomes really hard to get up for work. Then the sleepiness takes over and that seems to trigger a bad mood. Voila! Anxiety, depression.
    It takes me about a week to fully recover. I find my usual go-to strategies like mindfulness meditation (I love this one for those days:, CBT journaling (even if all I’m doing is saying, “a low mood is not the end of the world, I will recover. I can still funcion”), deliberately turning my focus outward to people around me rather than ruminating on my own feelings (so asking my kids how their day went, checking in with coworkers on what’s up with them, etc.). Sometimes, if I take a Trazodone to sleep for the next few nights it seems to help. Traz is one of the few prescription sleep aids that seems to help with deep, slow wave sleep, which is the most restorative.
    My guess (as someone without a hard science background, but who does research for a living and has struggled with a mood disorder) is that it’s related to cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone (?) our body secretes to help wake us up. And it is connected to anxiety and depression. Maybe when we’re super-tired it takes more cortisol to wake us up after a night’s sleep and then that makes us feel crappy?

  3. Sorry that link doesn’t work. Just copy and paste it without the parenthesis at the end.

  4. omg. i think you just explained why i woke up depressed and sluggish this morning. THANK YOU!

  5. Yes, when I get a really good long nights sleep, I typically wake up depressed and not wanting to deal with anything/anyone or even get out fo bed.

  6. I don’t get depressed exactly but I feel really tired, much more tired than I think I should be after getting a good night’s sleep. I think what happens is that I go for so long without decent sleep then I get a good night and my body all of a sudden remembers that it really needs that kind of rest more often and wants to get more of it.Can we talk about the negative impact of long-term sleep deprivation? My kids are 3 and 5 and I still rarely get a good night of sleep. It’s the thing that has surprised me the most about parenting; I really did not think the sleep deprivation would go on this long. I have a partner that fully shares parenting duties and I still sleep like shit. I went on a week-long vacation by myself this spring and slept so well and felt so wonderful that it really crystallized for me the profound negative impact that sleep deprivation has had on me these past five years.

  7. That happens to me if I sleep longer than 7-8 hours after being sleep deprived. An extra cup of coffee usually reverses it for me. I read somewhere that caffeine ups your serotonin, so maybe that’s why.

  8. It’s because with that teensy little bit more of sleep comes awareness. Awareness of how tired you are, how far behind you are with ___, how dissatisfied you are with ___, etc. The increased awareness is slight enough to not be like turning on a lightbulb, but enough to affect mood. But if you push through it with another day or two of good sleep, motivation (usually) follows and then you’ll actually do something about ___ or ___.I’ve seen this a LOT in my therapy practice and have learned to prepare people for the low point ‘cuz it’s usually distressing. (but totally normal)

  9. This happens to me too. I find that it helps to have a high-protein breakfast that morning, be sure to get a little light exercise, and not take my negative feelings too seriously. Then, go to bed early that following night and usually I feel great the next day.

  10. Is is possible that having kids altered how much sleep I actually need? Or maybe I was sleeping more than necessary before? I wake up without an alarm around 5 each day and can function at work (with one Diet Coke) and stay awake until around 10. I am totally a morning person and wish everything opened earlier so I could get stuff done. And the 7 hours or so I am “asleep” I am not always sleeping-there’s usually a good hour plus of awake time in there. DH cannot function on so little sleep and if either kid is sick and his sleep is disrupted, he’s a basket case. Kids are 2 and 6 so we’re about a year in of good sleeping for both (which I will NEVER take for granted BTW).

  11. A couple weeks ago, I had possibly my worst parenting moment ever after a day of feeling irritable and cranky and just really off. And I didn’t understand it at all because I had managed to get both the baby and toddler back to bed so we could all sleep in. I was sure I’d gotten a total of at least eight hours. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time I’ve wondered why I was cranky on a day I slept in or got more sleep than usual compared to days when I’m operating on, like, 5 hours.

  12. I get this, too. Not necessarily depressed, but I always feel extra tired and unmotivated after a good night’s sleep. . .I’ve never soldiered through to find out if it gets better. I just go back to staying up too late with my Bravo TV and wine.

  13. When I first read this I didn’t think it applied to me, but I did just have a bout of anxiety a week or two ago that coincided with my 10 month old waking fewer times than usual for a few nights. The only other times I get anxious like that are monthly hormonal shifts, but they’re usually over more quickly and this hung around for a few days. Huh. I wonder what you’ve stumbled onto here.(Disagree, btw, with Susan, at least in my case. Not a sudden awareness thing for me at all.)

  14. Yes I do feel really low and am, sometimes, in a foul mood after getting more sleep. What makes it worse is that I think that I should deal better and have more energy so I plan my day accordingly. Setting myself up to fail. I end up feeling guilty too – especially if my husband has gone out of his way to give me a sleep in morning and I repay it by being irritable and impatient. Because guilt makes it better, right?Well, coffee does. And planning the day with realistic expectations. Be kind to yourself too.

  15. I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday and realized I experienced it on a very large scale. Both my kids were crap sleepers but my younger about did us in. He spent six months waking between four and twelve times a night (Really, I was journaling it for awhile but had to stop because it was depressing). It was terrible. We finally started sleeping in shifts so I could get at least three hours of straight sleep a night. It probably didn’t help that during this time my husband was having pretty significant health problems and spent 57 days in the hospital within a year, had four brain surgeries, and almost died from an infection after the second. Fun times. So things were a little intense in our house. Around the time my son was 10 months old we night weaned him so he started waking only twice a night and at twelve months started sleeping a full eight hours. It made such a HUGE difference but within the next six months after his sleep changed and my husband health fully recovered I started feeling very strange emotionally. Like my body (and mind) could finally flip out after struggling to hold it together for so long. I never really thought about it until now.This is another post entirely but I still carry a lot of guilt for being such a shitty parent to my older son during that time. I was so on edge and insane from sleep deprivation and yelled at him way more than I’m comfortable remembering. Now that he’s seven we’ve been seeing more and more signs of anxiety in him and have put him in therapy for it. In my head I know it’s his temperament as both my husband and I recognize behaviors from our childhood selves, but in my heart I feel like it’s my fault for damaging him during that horrible year. Ugh.

  16. Me too. All of it. Long term sleep deprivation, coping more or less ok, then get some sleep and completely crash. It is awful. The guilt is awful, from all of it – the not sleeping, the sleeping, the coping, the yelling, the not coping. And all so unfair to so many! So I am following all of this.Also I second the request for a discussion about the long term effects of sleep deprivation.

  17. In college I used to sleep 4-5 hrs on average a night (school, party, work – not necessarily in that order :)).Then over summer at home I would literally pig out on sleep- 14 hrs plus for at least a month. Because after long term sleep deprivation my body felt it just had to catch up and I was just generally sluggish, blah, and dull during this recovery time. After a month or so things would normalize.. Now, long after college, I am in a 2-year broken-sleep, crappy-nights stretch with my kid (who had not slept through even once) with no respite in sight. I shudder to think if I would be allowed to sleep as long as I want to – probably would hibernate for at least six months. Must be hormonal for sure ( not sure if recent studies on LT sleep deprivation exist due to this being form of torture and all). Still, in this Black Bottomless Pit of Despair of my lack of proper sleep, I fantasize about the college summers….

  18. yes. and i’ve always thought it was because of the lack of adrenaline that the sleep deprivation caused to course through my veins.i haven’t had decent sleep since pregnant with my first, 8 years ago. #3 (and done) is 2 months old and sleeping 7 hour stretches at night, but will he continue once the 4 month wonder week begins? dread!!

  19. Yes! My two kids have both been “bad” sleepers and I find that when I finally get a good night of sleep, I feel even more awful than I did without the sleep. I feel sick, depressed, unable to focus or function. I assume it’s because my body is sooo tired that its reacting to the tiny taste of what it really needs with really bad sleep inertia. Ugh.

  20. My 16 month old wakes up numerous times a night, and I can easily count the number of 3 hour stretches of sleep I’ve had since she was born. Last week she had two nights with a five hour stretch of sleep, and therefore so did I!! Both mornings I felt awful – as if I hadn’t slept hardly at all. I honestly wondered whether I had imagined the sleep and had simply forgotten about a wake-up or two.I didn’t feel depressed, but I couldn’t wait for her to take an afternoon nap so I could sleep too.

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