Anyone who worries unconstructively is in danger of clinical depression. Depression is not selective – to take recent examples from the media: the famous, single mothers, politicians, men, women are all susceptible to depression.
When you worry incessantly about something which can’t be immediately solved or is circular, you generate unresolved emotional arousal. Once an emotion has been roused it must be deactivated in order to complete the biological circuit of arousal in the primitive brain circuits in our brains (either by being acted upon in some way during the day, or metaphorically through dreaming at night).
It is well known that depressed people experience longer, and more intensive, periods of REM sleep. This is because we need more REM (dream) sleep than usual to de-arouse the increased unresolved emotional arousal which results from our excessive worrying and introspection. This is exhausting both physically, due to the decreased amount of restorative slow-wave sleep and mentally, due to the increased firing of the orientation response (which is also linked to our motivation and attention capacities) during the REM state.
Waking up exhausted, sleeping for hours but still feeling tired and waking up early in the mornings, are typical symptoms of depression and are all characteristic of the effects of too much REM sleep trying to de-arouse worries that were not acted upon or resolved in some way during the day before. (Waking up early happens as a sort of survival mechanism for your brain, it can feel it’s getting exhausted so it wakes up to prevent further REM sleep from depleting its resources further.)
Have you ever woken up feeling worse than when you went to sleep? When you wake up feeling awful like this, you lose motivation and energy, and so the cycle of depression begins. The resulting feelings of hopelessness, exhaustion and apathy give the depressed person even more to worry about and only exacerbate the situation.
So, one of the first things to do if you are experiencing these effects is to be strict and do everything you can limit your sleep to a healthy amount each night.
Don’t let your brain dream too much. Limit your REM sleep by waking up at a set time each day and not letting yourself sleep in, no matter how exhausted you feel. More sleep may feel like a good idea but it will only exhaust you further as you slip right back into the REM state again.
Posted by: Jane