Pictured: two dogs sleep in a bed with white covers and pillows

Depression and sleep

During this depressive episode of mine, I need so much sleep it feels like maybe I should hibernate.

Me versus sleep

My relationship with sleep has always been very love-hate. I’m one of those people who totally subscribes to the line about getting up at 5AM to live your most productive life. I’m also someone who hates herself for not being one of those people who can get up at 5AM.

In fact, I blame a lot of my productivity woes on poor sleep. If I sleep in, I wake up hating myself for wasting so much of the day and then it spirals from there. If I get up early, normally I feel pretty good about myself but I struggle to make it through the day without naps.

I’m also one of those people who scrolls on her phone when the rest of the world is sleeping. I don’t even know what I’m scrolling most of the time, as I’m not really a social media person, yet somehow I lose a lot of beauty rest hours to my phone.


Recently I downloaded an app which is designed to improve sleeping habits. It’s called SleepTown and it’s by the same team behind the Forest app for focus. Now that’s one I live by – in fact, I’m using it right now.

The Forest app allows you to grow your own virtual forest with a variety of trees and plants, but you do it by setting a timer and not touching your phone for the duration of the timer. If you stray from the app to check a message or send an email, the plant dies. I’ve found it hugely helpful when it comes to staying on task and you can even earn points which you can swap for the planting of a real-life tree. It’s a win-win for my productivity and the environment.

SleepTown operates in much the same way, except that instead of a forest, you’re building a town. If you use your phone inside of the designated sleep hours, you’re left with a crumbling ruin in your virtual town.

I’ve been using it for three nights now and I’ve found it very helpful for getting me off my phone by midnight (I set my sleep hours as 12AM-9AM) but I’m struggling with the waking up part. Sure, I pressed ‘wake up’ when the alarm went off and I was rewarded with a cute little building, but for the last two days I’ve gone right back to sleep.

Yesterday, I felt bad about this. I felt like I’d cheated the app (which I did, to be fair) but more importantly, I’d fallen back into the trap of sleeping away my morning and then hating myself for the loss of time. Today, though, I feel differently.

Enough with the guilt

I slept in until after 10AM and then I listened to a podcast in bed to help me transition to consciousness, and I’m pleased to report that the guilt didn’t land. Instead, I’ve decided to cut myself some slack. After all, I’m supposed to be using this time for rest, so why not allow my body all the sleep that it wants? It’s not uncommon for people going through depression to need more sleep, so why am I fighting it? And even beyond that, I’ve just started new medication so of course my body is going to need some adjusting time! It’s time I let myself off the hook (which is one thing I’ve heard over and over from therapists over the years).

So, I’m going to continue using SleepTown because I think it’s a brilliant way to get me off my phone at night. But, when it comes to hitting that ‘wake up’ button in the morning, I’m putting a stop to the self-inflicted guilt-trip. If my body needs sleep, that’s one thing I can give it without reservation.

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