Dealing with Bipolar Disorder’s Sensitivity to Sleep Changes

September 30, 2017 Natasha Tracy

Sleep changes in bipolar disorder can really ruin your day. Learn how to deal with bipolar disorder's sensitivity to sleep changes.I’ve written before how critical sleep is to those with bipolar disorder but just how sensitive is bipolar disorder to sleep changes and what can you do about bipolar’s sensitivity to sleep changes? It’s important to know what happens with your bipolar disorder when your sleep patterns change, even a little. That sensitivity can make all the difference to your day and what coping skills you choose to employ. But how big a change in your sleep does it take to affect your bipolar disorder? How do you deal with sleep changes with your bipolar disorder if you detect them?

What Kind of Sleep Changes Is Bipolar Sensitive To?

This differs for everyone, but for me, my bipolar is affected by even tiny sleep changes. Anything from a restless night to a night with fewer minutes of sleep to a night wherein I toss and turn will affect my bipolar disorder. And, of course, the biggest sleep pattern change that can affect my bipolar is if I don’t sleep on schedule – going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. Not sticking to that schedule is almost guaranteed suffering.

How Do I Know About Sleep Changes?

In this video, I discuss two ways to assess your nightly sleep. I’ve used both to track my own sleep for insight into not only how sensitive my bipolar is to sleep changes but also what triggers a bad night’s sleep.

Tracking Your Sleep to Check Its Effects on Bipolar Disorder

If you’re like me and you find your bipolar disorder is really sensitive to sleep changes, what do you do?

Well, the first thing you do is track your sleep in one of the ways I mention in the video. This will give you a sleep graph every morning that will indicate how you sleep was the previous night. So you can assess the quality of sleep you received the night before. For example, a wearable is good at telling you when you were restless whereas smartphone software is typically better at telling you if you were snoring. Obviously, either of these things can indicate poor quality of sleep depending on how sensitive you are to sleep changes and what specific changes you are sensitive to.

If Your Bipolar Is Sensitive to Sleep Changes, Then What?

So if you’ve tracked your sleep and assessed that it was a poor night’s sleep, then what?

Here are some suggestions for handing a poor night’s sleep with bipolar disorder:

  • Simplify your day. If your night was hard, make your day easier.
  • Take a nap (if that works for you). While naps can mess with your circadian rhythm and make sleeping problems worse for some people, I have found that sometimes they are the only way to salvage a day after a bad night’s sleep. Note that if you can’t initiate sleep at night, napping during the day likely isn’t a good idea for you.
  • Prepare to rest. Understand that you are going to be especially worn down because of a bad night. You’ll be worn down more than other people so be prepared to rest if you can.
  • Be easy on yourself. Understand that if you had a bad night, you may have a bad day mood-wise. Be easy on yourself if this is the case.
  • Watch for mood symptoms. Watch for an exaggeration of bipolar disorder symptoms that you would normally feel. Watch for how this impacts others and mitigate that where you can.
  • Tell others. If you feel like your bipolar disorder symptoms are going to be so much worse that they are going to hurt others, tell people that your sleep was disturbed and you’re expecting a speedbump. They can help you with this and be more compassionate if they know what is going on.
  • Use those bipolar coping skills. Hopefully, we all know a range of bipolar disorder coping skills. Make sure to keep them on deck for what might be a harder day.
  • Look at what might have caused that sleep change. One of the benefits of tracking your sleep is that you can look for patterns. Try to ascertain what caused your sleep change to avoid it in the future. (Note: alcohol is a major culprit here.)
  • Watch for sleep changes precipitating mood episodes. Be very careful that sleep changes aren’t just a small deal and aren’t the early signs of a mood episode like a bipolar mania.

And the really big thing, of course, is to make the next night’s sleep your top priority. While I think that sleep should always be a major priority for people with bipolar disorder, it should especially be important to you if you’ve experienced sleep changes the previous night.

But there is good news, at least in my book. The good news is that after night without sleep changes, my bipolar feels better. That means that after a poor night’s sleep, you might have a bad day, but, hopefully, that won’t lead into a bad week or more.

In short, make sure you take sleep changes in bipolar disorder very seriously and know that if you can get them under control, your bipolar will be all the better for it.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2017, September 30). Dealing with Bipolar Disorder’s Sensitivity to Sleep Changes, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

October, 2 2017 at 2:34 pm

A rough night sleep - morning slowly to regroup and face life onward for good attitude.

October, 1 2017 at 4:12 pm

Day light savings time, too much coffee or persistent headaches from caffeine withdrawal, too much water (with age I've also noticed I often have to get up once or twice in the middle of the night to pee) too much stress, too much worrying & rumination (also affect my irritable bowel) napping when I get home from work or staying up too late, watching disturbing TV programs like the doom and gloom news, eating too much before bed. These are just a few of the things that can affect my ability to get a good nights sleep. Not getting enough sleep, yet feeling energized is my number one indicator of a manic episode

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