Is Diurnal Mood Variation The Reason You Are Feeling Low?
We all are either morning or evening people. But what if mornings defeat you? What if you never wake up feeling ready to face the day? If you start your day with depressive symptoms, there might be an explanation for that. Diurnal mood variation is a common feature of depression that is characterised by waking up with a low mood.
Since the symptoms gradually improve throughout the day, people might be hesitant to seek help or not realise they might be struggling with depression at all.
What is diurnal mood variation?
Do you find it difficult to start your day? Do you feel your energy peaks in the evening only to wake up feeling unmotivated?
Diurnal mood variation can be colloquially referred to as morning depression that makes it difficult to get out of bed and carry out daily tasks. While some people who struggle with depression might experience increased symptoms at night, symptoms of those who struggle with diurnal mood variation worsen in the morning.
The symptoms include:
- Feeling low and unmotivated in the morning.
- Finding it difficult to start the day.
- Trouble waking up.
- Little or no interest in the planned activities even if they’re pleasurable.
- Concentration problems or brain fog.
- Sleeping long hours and still feeling tired.
Since the symptoms peak in the morning, diurnal mood variation has been linked to circadian rhythm problems. Circadian rhythm is a natural body mechanism that circles every 24 hours and regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
If the circadian rhythm is disturbed, your body might produce hormones at the wrong time and interfere with your sleep as a result.
For example, failing to produce melatonin in the evening will make you feel tired in the morning and more awake at night. Previous findings have successfully linked morning depression to weakened circadian function.
One of the recent studies compared participants with various levels of depressive mood and concluded that those with high levels of depression exhibited a decrease in circadian signal in diurnal variation. 
What can you do to improve your symptoms?
Since morning depression is associated with disrupted circadian rhythm, there are a few changes you can make to improve your symptoms.
Stick to a sleep routine
Since your productivity increases in the evening, it might be tempting to stay up while it lasts even if it means getting up tired for work.
However, consistency is the key to maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm and training your brain to release melatonin at the same time each night.
Going to bed at the same time every night will allow you to improve the balance between sleep and wakefulness, and make you feel more energised in the morning.
Additionally, you should avoid using electronics for at least an hour before bed as artificial light sends your body the message it should be awake and prevents the secretion of melatonin.
Previous findings show that both phone usage and computer usage were linked to insomnia and negatively associated with peak performance in the mornings.  If you want to become better in the morning, it’s time to change your bedtime routine.
Stimulants such as caffeine or energy drinks increase your alertness and disrupt your sleep as a result. Previous studies show that consumption of caffeine late in the evening delays production of melatonin which makes it difficult to fall asleep and feel well-rested in the morning. 
Include exercise in your routine
Exercising is helpful in adjusting to a new bedtime routine, especially if your sleep schedule has been irregular so far. Keeping active throughout the day will tire you out and make it easier to fall asleep. Just remember not to exercise too close to your bedtime.
If you keeping active early in the day makes you feel tired before the evening comes, make sure not to nap as it can further disrupt your sleep schedule.
If morning depression impairs your daily functioning despite making changes in your routine, you don’t have to suffer in silence.
If you are feeling pressured or need someone to speak to, contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat about how we may be able to help.
You can contact the My Family Psychologist Offices between 8 am and 8 pm to book an appointment.
Get in touch to see how we can help.