Struggling to start the day might be a symptom worth mentioning to your doc.

Kristin Canning
November 02, 2017

It’s perfectly normal to feel groggy the morning after a late night—or if you don't get enough rest for any reason (hello, noisy neighbors). But if you struggle to climb out of bed after logging a full seven to nine hours of Zs, one possible reason may surprise you: Excessive sleepiness is a common symptom of what's known as atypical depression.

This sub-type of the mood disorder can be tough to identify because it doesn't involve some of the classic symptoms, says Gail Saltz, MD, Health's contributing psychology editor. "Instead of trouble sleeping and loss of appetite, you sleep too much and eat too much," Dr. Saltz explains.

What's more, when you have atypical depression, you don't always feel low: Your mood may lift temporarily when positive events happen, or you hear good news. This makes it easier to brush off other signs that something's amiss, like abusing the snooze button, and a lack of motivation to start the day. 

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Depression in general can be tough to identify, adds Michelle B. Riba, MD, associate director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center, because physical symptoms can arise before psychological ones. “Many people will come to their doctor complaining about sleep problems, or headaches, not realizing that it’s a mood disorder because they don’t have low mood,” she says. “Not all symptoms of depression always occur at once.”

So what should you do if you find you can't get out of bed even though you're getting plenty of rest? Dr. Riba recommends talking to your doctor; she can give you a Patient Health Questionnaire, which is used as a diagnostic tool for depression.

“Your doctor will probably ask you about when the symptom or symptoms started, and if any big event or change happened in your life at that time,” says Dr. Riba. She will also likely ask about your mental health history and your family’s; and check if you’re experiencing other symptoms of depression, such as trouble concentrating, aches and pains, or wanting to use sleep as an escape.

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Like typical depression, atypical depression can be treated with medication and talk therapy. But of course, struggling to get up in the in the morning doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mood disorder. It can also be a sign of many other issues, including anemia and a thyroid condition. Your doctor should ask about these possibilities too, says Dr. Riba, to get a full picture of your health and what’s going on in your life.