Can't Get Out of Bed

Excessive sleep is a hallmark of depression. Advice on hypersomnia.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published 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.

Sleep disturbance is almost universal in depression. Hypersomnia, or excessive sleep, is less common than is insomnia. but more typical of younger than older people.

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 must.

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 it.