By Hara Estroff Marano, published on October 1, 2003 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
I have bouts of depression and have found that my biggest
problem is that I want to sleep to escape my ruminations. In the
morning, as I wake up, I start ruminating. In fact, I am ruminating so
much about all the bad things that can happen to me and my guilt over
the past that all I want to do is stay in bed. I do better when I make
sure that I get no more than nine hours of sleep and set a time to wake
up and spend the first hour exercising, reading the paper, reading a
book, writing in my journal, or basically relaxing. It is just hard for
me to get out of bed.
Excessive sleeping is usually just what it is for you—a means to
avoid dealing with what seems like an overwhelming and difficult life.
You apparently use staying in bed and sleep as escape from the demands of
your life, especially when you focus on what has already gone wrong and
what may yet still go wrong with your life.
There is a strong relationship between depression and avoidance.
Avoidance is a terrible coping mechanism. It instantly defines you as a
victim by suggesting that somehow you can't cope with whatever is going
on, as if you're a victim of life.
Escape, whether by excessive sleeping, or through alcohol or drug
abuse, reinforces your belief that you can't cope skillfully by managing
things directly. That's not a perception a depressed person should
reinforce intentionally or unintentionally.
If you can't face your life, then who can? If you don't have the
skills to manage what's in your head and what's in your world, there's no
one who can do it for you. As soon as you tell yourself you "can't," you
It is not a coincidence that on the days that you limit your sleep,
get active in your own behalf, have a structure for the day, and move
through it, you feel better. It would help for you to refine that process
and make it a daily protocol for yourself. Some people need more
structure in their lives than others, and you may be one of them.
I can safely predict that you will ruminate much less and feel much
stronger and better when you feel you have developed the life skills to
face your life rather than try to escape from it. And if you need to
change your life in positive ways (new career, new hobbies, etc.) to do
so, then do so. A good cognitive-behavioral therapist who will push you
to be active in your own behalf might be helpful, too. You can do