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Why people get depressed.
People sink into a depressed mood when their innate physical or emotional needs are not being met and, instead of dealing with this situation, they begin to worry about it — misusing their imagination. All depressed people worry. This increases the amount of dreaming they do, upsetting the balance between slow-wave, recuperative sleep and dream sleep. Consequently they start to develop an imbalance between energy burning dream sleep and refreshing slow-wave sleep. Soon they start to wake up feeling tired and unmotivated. (Depressed and anxious people dream far more intensely than non-depressed people.) This makes them worry even more as they feel that, "something is wrong with me".
Depression is a human vulnerability. Suppose we have a setback or suffer some traumatic event that interferes with getting our innate needs met. This arouses negative expectations in the autonomic nervous system — feelings of frustration, being 'stressed', anxious, angry, guilty etc. — but, instead of taking action to bring the arousal down, which is what the autonomic nervous system is designed to help us do, we start to worry even more, going over and over what's troubling us: 'Why did I lose that job?'…"Why do they treat me like this?"… 'What is going to happen to me?'… 'How am I going to pay my bills?' — on and on creating a mountain of negative expectations. This over-stimulates the autonomic arousal system which is why depression is such a strong emotion.
All strong emotions focus and lock attention and, with depression, attention stays focused on all the bad things that seem to be happening to us, whether real or illusory. Every little thing we worry about and do not resolve in the day is translated into a bad dream the next night. All these worries have to be worked through in extended and intense periods of dream activity in REM sleep as the brain attempts to rebalance your arousal levels. This upsets the relationship between slow wave sleep and REM sleep.
Why depressed people are always tired
Extended dreaming is exhausting, not just because it deprives us of restful and restorative slow-wave sleep (that should make up three-quarters of our sleep time), but also because it stimulates the orientation response. This is a vital pathway in the brain that alerts us to interesting things in the day, generating motivation to act, but it can't do this so well if it has been over-used in dream-sleep the previous night. So, the next morning we awake feeling terrible because we haven't really slept, and we find it much harder to get motivated to get up and do anything because the brain mechanism that generates that interest in life is exhausted as well.
Exhaustion on waking and lack of motivation are features common to all depressed people. Because our normal sense that life is meaningful comes from the actions we take, when our motivation levels are low, life quickly comes to seem meaningless. The natural delight we take in being alive and doing things drains away.
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