When Sleep Becomes the Only Escape from Bipolar Depression

August 9, 2021 Natasha Tracy

Sometimes sleep is the only escape from depression in bipolar disorder. I know that sounds bleak, but it's true. Depression can be a horrifically painful, possibly lethal and endlessly attacking illness. Severe depression can feel unbearable to live with. That's why people are looking for an escape. It's completely natural. And while, for the average person just experiencing sadness, escape might be found through a myriad of things, sometimes sleep is the only escape from depression.

Depression in Bipolar Disorder

As a reminder: depression is not sadness. Sadness may be a component of depression, but depression, whether it be part of major depressive disorder or part of bipolar disorder, is a cluster of symptoms like loss of appetite, guilt, an inability to make decisions, suicidality, loss of pleasure and more. Depression is not merely being sad. Being sad is a normal part of life. Depression is an illness.

Escaping from Depression with Sleep

Believe me when I tell you, when every thought you have is trying to kill you, you want to escape as much as humanly possible. You will do anything to escape. It's why people with prolonged, severe depressions often abuse substances1 -- they are looking for that escape. 

But it's worth remembering the looking for that escape is actually a positive thing. Because it means that you're not prepared to kill yourself. Depression may want you to kill yourself, but you are seeking reprieve in other ways. Of course, seeking a reprieve through substance abuse is harmful, but the seeking itself is actually a life-affirming sign.

The same can be said of escape from depression through sleep. As I don't abuse substances, I've often found that sleep is my only escape from depression. I hole up in my bed with blankets up to my nose, and I close my eyes, begging for sleep to take me away. I've done this more times than I can remember, more times than I can count. I just need the pain to subside, even if just for a few minutes.

When Sleep Is Your Only Depression Escape

It's important to remember that if sleep is your only depression escape, it's pretty clear that you need help. You shouldn't be seeking unconsciousness during the day over and over. You shouldn't be looking to escape depression pain every moment of the day. That is not a life. 

So if sleeping all day because of depression is where you find yourself, I highly encourage you to reach out for help. And if you're getting help and it's not working, they reach out for new help. Try a new medication. Try a new doctor. Try a new psychotherapy. It's unlikely that your pain and sleep habit will disappear overnight, but little by little, over time, you can get better. You can want to be awake. I know that might sound impossible right now, but believe me, it's not. Your joy can be found again.


  1. Smith, K., "Substance Abuse and Depression." Psycom, November, 2020.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, August 9). When Sleep Becomes the Only Escape from Bipolar Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 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.

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