How to recover from sleeping all day?
May 4, 2009 10:26 AM   Subscribe

How do you recover after a bad day spent entirely in bed?

Like I suspect many people here do, I suffer from bouts of depression. I am in therapy and on medication, but I still have the occasional "stay in bed all day sleeping/doing nothing, don't get dressed, eat nothing/eat a lot of random crap, wallow in self-pity" days that just make me feel horrible by the end of them.

They're bad enough on their own, but the worst part about them is that they totally snowball for me -- if I sleep all day on Saturday, I'm up all that night and then end up sleeping through all of Sunday, even if my mood is generally better, which then makes me feel even worse than I already did. Even when I make an effort to sleep through that night (taking melatonin or benadryl to knock myself out), that means I've basically spent 24 hours in bed and I'm rarely able to get out of bed at a reasonable time the next day anyway. (I've heard that too much sleep can actually make you tired.) Essentially, I feel listless on Saturday, and then physically exhausted on Sunday.

I know about strategies to avoid this kind of day to begin with (I am in treatment for my depression; I've also read David Burns' Feeling Good and try to institute CBT in my day-to-day life); but how do you avoid them messing up multiple days in a row when they do happen? Is there a preferred time that night to sleep/eat to best prepare for the next day and get your schedule back on track? Do you have some kind of ritual that symbolizes the official "end" of that day?

(I'm aware that having these days means that something should probably change in my depression treatment, and I'm working with my doctor to try and figure it out. In the meantime, I would just really like to know if there's a way to confine these periods as much as I can when they do end up happening.)
posted by cosmic osmo to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Get up the next morning, have a good strong cup of coffee and just go on with your life as normal? I mean, the only real strategy to stop this from occurring is to just stop letting it occur, right? It is within your power to do so, even if that power is hard to muster.
posted by sickinthehead at 10:37 AM on May 4, 2009

I take myself out for a pleasant breakfast. I don't worry about the nutritional value of the breakfast other than making sure to get some protein--I figure getting out of the house in the actual morning time, lingering in the sun on the way to the restaurant, is worth the calories. Actually, Sundays are habitually hard days for me to get up on, and they've been so much better since I started going to the farmers' market--a little bit of sun (which I used to completely abhor) is actually pretty stimulating, and there are colors! music! fruits! vegetables! pastries! coffee! and then I don't wind up Sunday night in a blind panic about all the stuff I didn't do.

Good luck.
posted by wintersweet at 10:40 AM on May 4, 2009 [8 favorites]

Instead of taking Benadryl on Sunday take it on Saturday night. Set an alarm and wake up Sunday morning. I'm not sure what's so complicated.
posted by amro at 10:41 AM on May 4, 2009

I have this problem. One thing that kinda works is, when I'm groggily pulling myself awake in late afternoon, to go out for a run. It's a compartmentalized way to feel good about myself. Even if I'm fumbling all of my other responsibilities, it raises my mood to be able to master this one little area of my life.
posted by grobstein at 10:56 AM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I know of these days of which you speak.

I find the only working solution is simply not to let myself sleep through Sunday. I do what I need to to sleep for some if not all of Saturday night -- benadryl's a good choice there -- and then force my ass out of bed, and out of the house at a reasonable time on Sunday. Get up, get moving, get some fresh air, etc, so that you can't fall asleep, then Sunday night, to bed a little bit early but not super early (lest I wake up at 3am and not be able to go back to sleep) with more benadryl.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:01 AM on May 4, 2009

This happens to me too. A couple things that help me:

-- Have a positive outlook: "I know this isn't good, but it's not entirely under my control, and this too shall pass."

-- Calling a friend, not for a therapy session or because misery loves company, but because misery *hates* camaraderie. A nice, light conversation about the good things happening in your friend's day can be uplifting.

-- Watch something funny on TV. Stand up is always helpful to me, because laughing always lifts my spirits. It's not just emotional, it's physical too.
posted by crickets at 11:03 AM on May 4, 2009

When that happens to me, I try to make myself go out and interact with people, if nothing more than going to the grocery store. Yeah, it backfires/fails sometimes.
posted by porpoise at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2009

When I went through a similar period, I decided to make a "rule" that I had to go outside at some point once per day, even if it was just around the block for five minutes. That helped tremendously.

Also, on the "day in bed" day, perhaps try small steps to turn it into a day of relaxation around the house instead? Sleep in as much as you need -- but then get up, shower, get dressed, eat a full meal, maybe take a walk. Try to spend at least a few hours up, even if you are just watching tv or reading, before heading back to bed, that way you disrupt the sleep cycle less.
posted by susanvance at 11:23 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

You are doing such great work to try to get yourself up out of the slump, and I think that's worth acknowledging! One idea for Sundays is to break the whole morning down into smaller steps to get yourself going, if necessary. Tell yourself you are going to sit up and then get out of bed. Then once you've gotten that far, you are going to make the bed. Then you are going to get in the shower, then get dressed, then eat a little something, etc. Then try taking a walk or just getting outside somehow. Think of all of these little steps as ways to care for yourself, and that if you can accomplish even just one of them, you are already succeeding.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:28 AM on May 4, 2009

Best answer: Have some easy to eat snacks around the house, and get up to eat them. Drink 2 full glasses of water and wash your face before you decide whether to go back to bed. It also helps to figure out just what exactly you are trying to avoid facing that day. For me, it's usually one thing that I put off until the weekend that I really do not want to do. Give yourself permission to blow it off in exchange for getting dressed and doing something that you DO want to do. Save the tough stuff for the days that you feel good.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Drink 2 full glasses of water and wash your face before you decide whether to go back to bed.

This. Also add: get dressed in something that isn't "around the house" clothes.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:31 AM on May 4, 2009

Physical exercise. Find something that doesn't take too much prep, or too much time. Preferably something outdoors. Something you can do that's a context switch from your everyday worrying/moping/wallowing.

Running works, if it happens to agree with you. Cycling isn't bad. My weapon of choice, mixing it up with SUVs on my rollerblades is not for everyone, but man is it an adrenaline rush sometimes.

This has the added benefit of keeping your body from deteriorating too much from the inevitable inactivity that comes with the type of serious depressive episode you're describing, so you get to enjoy your "up" days more.
posted by tigrrrlily at 11:33 AM on May 4, 2009

I put myself through this from time to tine and to cure it I go out and buy a few red bulls, seriously, and chug them. Im then physically unable to stay in bed, and I swear it works. This can also be used as a jumpstarter for the next day. I find it is the boot in the ass that Im unable to get just by willpower itself. Its essentially leaning on the energy boost until you can power through the depression on your own.
posted by pwally at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2009

Are you doing anything other than sleeping while you're in bed? Reading, surfing the net on the laptop, watching TV, playing videogames? If so, make it impossible for you to do anything other than sleep in bed. Put all the leisure activities in a different room - the bedroom is ONLY for sleeping. But don't then get into the habit of falling asleep in that room - only lay down in the bedroom.

If you're really only just sleeping, get evaluated for a sleep disorder. It may not just be depression.
posted by desjardins at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2009

Best answer: The people who don't understand "what's so complicated" obviously have never struggled with depression. I know exactly the sort of day you're talking about, OP, and for me they usually start to string together when I start feeling guilty about them.

If it's Saturday night, don't beat yourself up because you couldn't face the world all day: Saturday is gone, over and done with and no amount of self-excoriation is going to change that. So give yourself a fresh start. Make a very simple plan for Sunday and stick to it.

I agree with tigrrrlily's comment above too - doing something physically active is key. When I look back at my really depressed periods there's a fairly clear link between lack of exercise and my worst times. I find that if I've started the day with a hellish workout, I will feel great about myself. If you're not exactly the active type already, go for a walk - anything to get the blood pumping.
posted by CRM114 at 11:41 AM on May 4, 2009 [11 favorites]

Set morning appointments whenever possible, so you HAVE to get up. Then get, tired as you may be, drink some coffee and soldier on. Cut out the coffee after about 2pm, and by nightfall you'll be exhausted- try to stay up til 9:30 or so without a nap, and you'll have effectively reset your clock.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:54 AM on May 4, 2009

Agreeing with those above who recommend working out. This is the key for me.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:56 AM on May 4, 2009

I know of these days of which you speak. It is complicated and kudos for you for trying to cut it off at the pass. I try to make myself go outside. Even just outside to the porch. I usually find a rose that needs to be deadheaded, a lawn that needs watering or something else that needs to be done. Either that or I write a list of those things that need to be done and then get out of bed to do just one of them. Even just a really small one. Clear the dishwasher. Make oj.

I find that getting one thing done just elevates enough of my mood (I'm not saying happy dance here) to get moving. Just enough to put on a clean pair of sweats and get a few more things done.

Oh, also, especially for Sunday mornings, I don't have the newspaper delivered anymore so that I actually have to go out and get it since the Sunday paper is a must for me.

Good luck!
posted by Sophie1 at 11:57 AM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I know this feeling by heart. However, I now have to get up every morning because my dog depends on me to let him outside, feed him, and scratch his forehead while I assure him that he is a very good dog. He is.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:59 AM on May 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have been there many times. This may seem obvious, but it's amazing how many times it surprised me as to how effective it is ...

At the point you stop having your stay in bed bout of depression, get up, take a long shower, brush & floss your teeth really well, and put on some clean clothes.

It's tempting after being in bed or on the couch all day Saturday to just stay in your sweats or pajamas or to throw on some old, questionably dirty clothes, at least for me. I've left my teeth and hair unbrushed for an entire weekend, all the while struggling to figure out why I felt so impossibly gross and miserable (on top of my depression). Until I make my ass presentable, whether I'm actually going to see anybody or not, I don't start feeling like a human being again.
posted by tastybrains at 12:28 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh. I forgot to mention above, I'm currently on day 2.

**attempts to take her own advice**
posted by tigrrrlily at 12:29 PM on May 4, 2009

We should start a support group.
posted by CRM114 at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2009

I run into this same problem a lot, especially on Sundays, and I've developed a lot of strategies to battle it. Days like this are good days for small victories, one tiny thing at a time. "Get up." "Get in the shower." "Eat breakfast." They are good days to sort of recenter my life, clean up the messes around my apartment that have piled up over the course of the week--I find I get a huge mood boost out of having my apartment well organized.

Getting out of the house is another good one, as someone mentioned above. We all need some human contact, daily if possible, even if it's nothing more than hitting on the barista at a cafe while you wait for your order. I've got a cafe that has a really great atmosphere where I can't help but feel good about being around other people who are pretending to be productive. It's often really easy to strike up a conversation with someone, too.

I have the late nights, too. For much of my life I would spend two or three hours a night in bed before finally drifting off. I've found that this is a really good time to get something done. A lot of times when I have been putting off something all day long I find it really easy to get it done late at night when I'm putting off getting to sleep instead. Getting a couple of solid things done before bed can really knock me out, not to mention I have a tendency to wake up earlier in the morning feeling more refreshed. The important thing is not to get down on yourself about it. Insomnia happens and fighting it only makes it worse. Use it to your advantage.

A couple other things I do before bed help me to get out of the downward spiral of thoughts that keep me awake at night. Writing in my journal is a great help. Just getting an idea or a worry onto paper pulls it completely out of my head so that I don't feel I need to think about it anymore. Sometimes I find there is something on my mind that I wasn't quite aware of. Similarly, I work on my todo list and make sure everything is on there, without exception. If there is something I think needs to be done that isn't on the list it will be buzzing around in my head like a fly all night long. Finally, I'm not a Buddhist, but listening to Tara Brach has been a great way to settle my mind before sleep. I'm not a big fan of the meditations, but the lectures do me a lot of good.
posted by mockdeep at 12:48 PM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

there are days when, like foam pants, it feels like my reason for getting up and out of bed is my dog—being responsible for another life really helps gets your head out of the cloud. i give him lunch, take him for a walk and get some sun. by the time we're halfway done with the morning's round of jarvis-related errands, i usually feel like everything is right with the world.
posted by lia at 12:55 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hi lia! I just came in here to say, "Get a dog!"

Worked for me.
posted by trip and a half at 12:58 PM on May 4, 2009

Sort of went through this yesterday (don't want to get into what my problems are right now, other than to say they are on-going and soul crushing)......

I'll N-th exercise and "getting a dog". A dog will make you get out of bed, if for no other reason, than to feed it and take it outside.

I got up this AM to let my dog outside for a morning BM and once I was up, I thought, might as well get some exercise in. I've been functioning pretty well today as a result of that AM exercise.
posted by PsuDab93 at 1:57 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Instead of berating yourself, tell yourself: I sure felt bad yesterday. So bad I couldn't get out of bed. It made me feel worse. Today, I'll try to get up and treat myself to a nice breakfast. Then maybe I'll be able to do something else. The more you beat yourself up, the likelier you are to stay in bed. Getting up is a treat; remind yourself that you'll feel better when you're dressed. Reward yourself for brushing your teeth.

Fresh air & sunshine help depression a lot. Music helps, too.
posted by theora55 at 2:06 PM on May 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Next to people, water and sunlight, for me it's mostly the circulatory system. So any moving helps. If you like dancing a little bit works sad or angry too. Then looking forward to really anything you will do, often... In trying to love what I do, do what I want, it helped to accept being different :)
posted by dnial at 2:26 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't plan, when you wake up, to do anything that seems to require too much exertion. Just tell yourself you'll go out the door and walk around in the yard, see the trees. I guarantee that at some point you'll be saying, "Meh, maybe I'll just walk down the street," and then, "I'd like to jog for a few meters." Maybe the next day you'd rather just walk down the street, no jogging, and that's fine. The point is get out of the house!

I've never believed depression to have only neuro/bio/chemical causes. Of course there is no shortage of evidence to suggest that much of it is biological, but my personal experience suggests that introspection and philosophizing is incredibly helpful. I second the comments on exercise and keeping a journal. Keeping a journal is important--there are reasons to enjoy it even without the soul-enriching benefits. The journal is something for you and no one else, it's a friend that you can always go to, and I've found there to be a real sense of accomplishment in simply delineating my ideas on paper, however depressing.
posted by Faust at 2:49 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

@desjardins: If you're really only just sleeping, get evaluated for a sleep disorder. It may not just be depression. Yes!

OP, I know you're working with your doctor, but you may need to look into this avenue yourself--the psychiatrist at Stanford totally missed the fact that the main reason I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning was severe obstructive sleep apnea. Thank goodness for the student clinic doctor who followed up on a hunch (despite my not fitting almost any of the stereotypes) and sent me for a sleep study. My life has changed so much for the better.

But I still have to trick myself into getting up and out in the mornings sometimes.
posted by wintersweet at 3:16 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Exercise exercise exercise exercise exercise.

Also, exercise. The harder, the better. Nothing (short of heavy drugs, I'd imagine) boosts mood and breaks the cycle of a bad day or two like hard cardiovascular exertion and the resulting "runner's high." Force yourself to go out and run, or to go to the gym and get on a machine, or to start doing whatever sweat-producing activity you prefer. Drag yourself out of the house if you have to. After an hour or two, stop. Stretch a bit. Take a shower. Shave and brush your teeth. Then walk out into the dazzling sunshine of a changed world, though of course the only thing that's really changed is your own perception of things: all that light and color and hope and love and endless possibility you can see now (that you can see any time you're happy and at peace, really) was out there all along. You just had to let the scales fall from your eyes.

And yeah, you may have beaten back the darkness by altering your neurochemistry (by means of various feel-good neurochemicals that are released in response to cardiovascular stress), but you know, that doesn't make the light that limns the world now any less genuine. That despair you felt, after all -- it was just neurochemistry too.

Feel better, and be well.
posted by killdevil at 3:32 PM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Truth be known, there's a lot of people for who this is not just an every now and then occurrence, but almost daily. Days when it's a success to actually get out and about, where days in bed are not an anomaly.

There's some good ideas above.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 5:07 PM on May 4, 2009

Oh, btw, it's not the worst thing in the world if you stay up all night and then have to be up all the next day.

When I was fighting depression, there were times when I intentionally shorted myself on sleep. For some reason it seemed to kickstart me out of my pit. Naturally this isn't a longterm solution, but in the short term, can't hurt.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:52 PM on May 4, 2009

Best answer: Exercise and all that is of course good, if you can make yourself do it. But let's face it, when you're struggling with depression there are going to be days when there is no way in hell you're even going to get out of bed, as you say.

I will follow up on CRM114: really, seriously, don't feel guilty. For my part, I have come to realize and accept as much as I can that there are going to be days when I am simply not going to be able to suck it up and get better, even in the midst of tremendous obligations and everything else. I can beat myself up about it all day, but that pretty much guarantees that my mind isn't going to make any progress. Treat your bad days as signals: rest and recover. Relax. If you spend the day just laying in bed and taking it in--not fighting it, in my experience that makes it all the more likely that on the next day you can put it all behind you, and move on.

Everything needs a break now and then. Our poor ravaged minds too! Go easy on yourself. Recovery from depression takes a lot of long term patience and a lot of self love. The sooner you start on your bad days, the sooner you can move on to your good days.
posted by flavor at 5:58 PM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm in the middle of exactly this right now. Thank you so much for posting this question.
posted by lolichka at 5:09 AM on May 5, 2009

A small trick against going straight back to bed: Put your alarm clock to a place where you have to stand up to reach it, and a glass of water on the way in between. After you stopped the alarm and think "just... a little bit... longer...", drink just a little sip of it. This helps me, if I slept the almost eight hours I need.
posted by dnial at 6:54 AM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the good advice, all. The one suggestion that sounds the best and I would love to follow is of course the one I can't -- getting a dog (my living situation currently prevents it, but I'm going to as soon as it's feasible -- not just for this reason, mind, but because I love dogs).

Other than that, the explicit acknowledgment and acceptance of the initial bad day is definitely the piece I've been missing, plus not setting ridiculously ambitious goals for the next day to make up for the time wasted. From now on I'm going to try to stop beating myself up about things that have already happened and just focus on taking a shower, getting dressed and getting out of the house the next day (which, as I'm sure many of you know, feels like a major accomplishment sometimes. And for those that don't understand what a big deal that is, count your blessings! Depression is seriously the worst).

Thanks again (and best of luck to those also dealing with this).
posted by cosmic osmo at 10:04 AM on May 5, 2009

The people who don't understand "what's so complicated" obviously have never struggled with depression.

Not true.
posted by amro at 9:15 AM on May 7, 2009

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