Ask The Pharmacist: Pulling an all-nighter to ease depression

Suzy Cohen, Columnist
Stock art illustrating depression.

You may not even fully recognize depression yourself, but denial of the emotional puzzle pieces will delay your  healing.

It’s not that hard to piece together depression as it frequently occurs with chronic fatigue, apathy, forgetfulness, heightened irritability, sudden appetite changes, more frequent headaches or diarrhea. Also, you may not want to put on makeup, go out with friends and people will keep asking you, “Are you okay?” 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s ideal to see a good doctor or a skilled mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis. You certainly don’t want to ride this out alone if you’re having dark thoughts.

More: Ask The Pharmacist: Is medication causing your anxiety?

I’m just suggesting you get to the bottom of it and find out for sure if you’re dealing with depression or not, so you can treat it accurately. But there is one major caveat to working with your health care provider that you need to be aware of: Almost without fail, you’ll be given a prescription anti-depressant or other psychotropic drug and be sent on your way. Being a ‘rebel pharmacist’ I’ll tell you drugs are not high on my list for depression.

I have a longer version of this article at my website that offers more help. For now, I’ll tell you about free and easy ways to ease depression.

More: Art therapy helps teen find herself

Mood responds to light

Here’s a fast-acting fix for mild depression, just expose yourself to natural light. It helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a severe depression tied to the winter blues. This light exposure works at least in part by influencing your internal clock, which is known as your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm rules your sleep cycles, as well as changes in body temperature and cortisol levels.

More: Fort Myers author making strides for postpartum depression awareness with updated book

Mood responds to sleep, or lack thereof

We’ve also known for a long time that sleep improves mood. Most people are cranky without sleep, but what if you’re depressed? It seems to have the opposite effect in some of you. Research is showing that you can re-boot your metabolic clock with “Wake Therapy.” This involves getting up four hours earlier than normal, which causes you to fall asleep earlier the next night. It resets your circadian rhythm. 

And then there’s “triple chronotherapy,” which is where you endure one night of total sleep deprivation, followed by early morning light exposure and then hit the sack for five or six hours earlier than normal. This is worth a try, particularly if your feelings of depression are long standing or include suicidal thoughts or severe apathy. Remember, medications don’t always work (but please don’t just stop them, that’s dangerous) and triple chronotherapy is free and easy to try, so it gets my gold stamp of approval.

My goal today is to give you some hope especially if you feel like you’ve tried everything and every diet … maybe you just need to pull a few all-nighters and it would improve your baseline. It’s a possibility worth exploring if nothing else has helped you.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit