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Bipolar and Energy Level Fluctuations During the Day

March 8, 2016 Natasha Tracy

Fluctuations in energy levels in bipolar disorder can be a challenge to manage, at least, in my experience. What I find, is that my energy fluctuates throughout the day in unusual and very bipolar ways. These hourly energy changes require care and interrupt what I want to do. It might be due to the fact that I tend to cycle very rapidly (when I truly cycle, which is rare), but from what I can tell, bipolar causes energy level changes throughout the day.

Average Energy Levels Throughout the Day

From what I understand, average people are tired in the morning when they wake, then they have adequate energy during the day, often have an energy low in the afternoon and then are fine in the late afternoon and evening, getting tired again before bed. At no time do these energy level changes require serious care such as sleeping. All these people have to do is possibly drink coffee in the morning and have some sugar in the afternoon. I’m sure some people differ from this, but this is the normal experience.

Bipolar Disorder and Energy Levels Throughout the Day

My energy levels with bipolar are quite different, mostly in how extreme they are (What's the Deal With Sleep And Bipolar Disorder?) My day is like this:

  • Bipolar disorder can throw energy levels into chaos. The 'Have a Snickers!' remedy just doesn't work. Stable energy levels and bipolar don't mix. Read this.5:45 a.m. – Yes, this is really when I wake up. I know that’s a bit nutty but I hate the nights something awful so I’ve adjusted my day to be morning-centric. At this point, I’m functioning in a fog with low energy but it’s a fog that I can push through, even though I really don’t want to. I can often force myself to buy groceries at this time. (This type of errand is nearly impossible for me to run at any other time but the morning due to anxiety and energy levels.)
  • ~6:30 a.m. I start work. Obviously, I work at home so I control my own schedule. This is the most stable time, emotionally and energy level-wise, I have during the day. This is likely due to a stimulant medication I take in the morning.
  • At some point between 8:30-11:00 a.m. I collapse, mentally and physically, with lack of energy and, often, pain (Treating Physical Pain in Bipolar – Neuropathic Pain). My energy level at this time is so low that I can’t work and I have to rest. And by rest, I mean actually laying down on the couch and closing my eyes. I may doze during this time or not, but I have to lay there, nonetheless (I'm So Tired: Bipolar Disorder And Fatigue).
  • Between 10:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. This entire time I may too exhausted to move, like, seriously. I generally feed myself with something during this time but it’s always something I don’t have to make as I’m way too tired for that much energy output.
  • ~4:00 p.m. At this time, I’m still really tired but I try to work up the energy to make some dinner. Sometimes this works, often it doesn’t. If I’m really lucky, I’ll be able to fit a bit more work in here, too, but, again, this tends not to occur.
  • By 7:00 p.m. I’m usually back to a moderate energy level but usually my mood is really low so I’m just counting the minutes until I get to go to sleep so I can end the pain.
  • Sometimes, around 8:00 p.m. I get a burst of energy that feels like hypomania. This is highly inconvenient as it make getting to sleep very difficult. Luckily, I have medication for that.

And, in case you were wondering, I take both prescription medication to try to increase my energy level and I take vitamins, too.

Effect of Bipolar Energy Level Fluctuations

So, really, my entire day is built around when I have energy. I know what I have to do and when. This is tiresome and annoying, to say the least. It makes it so hard to see friends because, of course, they are all busy during the morning when I’m actually feeling okay. It makes it almost impossible to leave the house in the afternoon when I may have a doctor’s appointment. It makes it pretty much impossible for me to work a full-time schedule. This bipolar energy level thing haunts me and shapes my every day.

I’m not sure how similar my bipolar energy level fluctuations are like compared to others so, please, leave a comment below discussing your own energy levels and any fluctuations you experience with bipolar disorder.

Image by Flickr user Andy Armstrong.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2016, March 8). Bipolar and Energy Level Fluctuations During the Day, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2016/03/bipolar-and-energy-levels-fluctuations-during-the-day



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, Instagram and Facebook.

jjude5522@gmail.com
October, 15 2018 at 11:49 am

Gee, thanks. Good to know that I am normal for a bipolar person. Four hours after I get up, after a fairly productive morning, I start feeling weepy and depressed. I usually go back to bed. When I worked it was time for a candy bar and caffeine. But so good to know it is okay. More pronounced as I age, sorry to say. I send hugs to us all. We are okay.

Atara
July, 1 2018 at 12:55 am

I can totally relate. I have so much energy that I feel overwhelmed at times. Does anyone have any suggestive on what to do to help me?

Cindy
September, 8 2017 at 11:04 am

I think the fluctuations in energy levels I experience are among the key reasons why I am not able to work a full-time job. Often the energy levels are so extreme I'm not able to RELIABLY work even part-time. I do what I can when my energy is low. When I'm too energized my behavior is just plain inappropriate for official jobs.
I, too, experience energy fluctuations during the course of my day. I think medications play some part in that. Of course if I wasn't on medications I'd surely have some major energy issues (low or high), but with the medications, part of the day I'm calmed (or even overly sedated), and other parts insufficiently medicated. It's very very difficult to find the right balance in treatment to keep me at that even keel that people without the disorder manage. Very difficult.

lithiumninja
May, 8 2016 at 12:59 am

Man can I relate to all of you. I've been reading sites on bipolar disorder all morning. I've been up since 5am and it's 6:32am now. I hear the stories of such brave, open, wonderful people struggling with an invisible enemy that few understand. Living in the shadows for fear of persecution if our illness is discovered in the workplace or in public. What breaks our heart is the constant, gnawing fear that lives in the center of our chest, or swirlks around in the pit of our stomachs like cold, murky swamp water all littered with dead branches and crumbled leaves. "If anyone ever knew who I really am..." We say to ourselves each morning as we put on our "normal person" uniform, prescribe our "normal person" smile, and jump into the Matrix so we can earn a few bucks. I laugh all the time because I've fooled 'em my whole life.... I love to share, to talk, to engage with people, but there's always the invisible 800 pound gorilla... That Lyle extra flash of light in my eyes that make people wonder... "Is he a genius? Is he psycho?" After 20 years of living as a bipolar person, the answer to both questions is "yes and no". As a bipolar, I'd never hurt you. I might yell a lot and make very unpleasant sounds when my illness takes the wheel and drowns out the best part of me. So, no, I'm not psycho in that sense. But will I take risks that you would find to terrifying to even seriously consider. Yes. I have. I do. I will continue to do so. In this seems, the average middle class college educated certified public accountant with a minivan might find a guy like me odd to say the least. It's OK, Normal Guy. We inhabit different worlds. The world I want to see is the one where people like me are looked upon as we look upon someone with cancer.... With sadness and a sense of pity. I think it goes too far and is far too " new-agey" to say we should "celebrate" mental illness. I don't need fundraisers and charity balls and the mayor on TV clapping for me. I need to know I won't lose my job over an intense interaction with a colleague. I need to know I won't get arrested if I'm manic one night and walk through a park singing. I need to know you won't take my kids and home away from me because I went to high school, college, grad school and have bills and Netflix and order pizza on Fridays just like you, Mr normal guy. It's just that with me, sometimes I can hear the pepperoni singing "I put a spell on you" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Seriously though... Humor can go a long way in helping us understand one another. Humor has kept me alive. Without the silky, lighter side of life, I'm pretty sure this illness would have done me in. Almost did once. My wife and parents rescued me from homelessness and from being penniless... After 8 years of formal education and 7 years in the professional workforce. So.... What's the take away? It's the same as it's been since the dawn of time: learn to truly love yourself so that in turn, you may truly love one another. Together, we bipolar people and the "normal people" truly can build a better tomorrow free of fear, stigmas, and stereotypes. I send my love and light to you all this morning. If today is a day of clarity, enjoy it!! If not, then forgive yourself. You are human and are deserving of love, minded, and forgiveness. It all comes from within. Love... The Lithium Ninja

Elena
April, 30 2016 at 8:58 am

Thank you for this post, putting it into prospective why we can't be 'fully productive". I used to give myself so much shit for being lazy. Not doing that and being kind to my body makes a huge difference.

Beatrix Fred
March, 13 2016 at 7:00 pm

I have low energy in the mornings that gradually increases as the day goes by. Since my energy peaks at night, I do my stuff at night. A cup of daily Broth with Turmeric powder + Pepper helps to improve mood, boost energy and mental alertness. Pepper is the catalyst for its absorption better. Turmeric is a superior antioxidant that treats bipolar disorders.

Jonathan
March, 10 2016 at 11:58 pm

Ditto, thanks for sharing I thought it was only me.

John
March, 10 2016 at 11:03 am

The times you mentioned were similar to mine.
6 - 10 am Average to high energy
10 am - 1 pmAverage to low energy
1 - 7pm Low energy
7pm - () - High Energy
I kept a food journal, tried different medications, supplements, had a sleep study done and kept what I call an anxiety log.
Here is what I found worked:
Diet - Caffeine and alcohol - all but eliminated. Small well-balanced meals and no eating after 7 pm
B-complex, all medications that having a sedating effect and Lunesta in conjunction with items like an eye mask/ear plugs - great results. The eye mask/ear plugs are an important part because I found when the medication wears off my sensitivity to light/sound returns. A sleep study found RLS was part of the problem.
Anxiety was a huge one for me. I found that 1 - 2 hours after a stressful event, it would lead to exhaustion. Keeping track of these events helped me deal with sources of anxiety, when stress spikes and when to start breathing exercises.
I still take a stimulant (Zenzedi) occasionally to avoid microsleep, but I take a third of the amount (and some days nothing at all) before I discovered what I did above. I tried each approach separately and then assembled my routine.
I hope this helps!

moodspectrum
March, 10 2016 at 8:21 am

I have been diagnosed with Dysthymia however I can relate to the rather dramatic changes in energy levels. When younger (13 yrs) I experienced a severe depression(suicidal with severe insomnia) in the early morning and my mood improved throughout the day. In the evening I often felt euthymic/ hypomanic and often was quite productive. Now, at 45 yrs I am more productive in the morning and find the afternoon the most challenging time. In addition to odd circadian rhythms I also have noticed that diet and caffeine use has a significant impact. Some food items make me consistently irritable and over stimulated.

Sarah
March, 9 2016 at 1:32 pm

I too have severe energy changes during the day. It almost kills me to get up and sometimes takes 2 or 3 hours to get going. I have more energy if I have to work that particular day as I have a labourous job which builds energy. The more I have to do, the more hypo I become. Once I'm on this hype, I can go for 15 hours straight and only slow down because of night time medications. On days when I don't work, I can sleep until 3pm, watch TV for a few hours and then be back asleep by 7pm until 11am the following day (or later if left alone). I love thriving on the hype but then can't hardly be bothered to breath on my low days. I can't ever plan anything as I never know my energy will be like on any given day.

Leah
March, 9 2016 at 6:39 am

I really thought it was just me who had unusual and frequent fluctuations in energy levels thoughout the day. And each of my days can be different. It does help to know that this is a real thing.

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