the mania/insomnia symbiosis

I am no stranger to insomnia. I’ve experienced the overactive brain induced insomnia, the straight up fear and adrenaline based kind (airplanes are notorious for producing that for me), even insomnia formed by a series of horrible nightmares and my body and mind developing a fear of sleeping.

Typically, though, the type of insomnia that tends to really sneak up on me (and especially in the summer) is the kind where I’ve missed my sleep window and can’t reclaim it.

My energy level is very rarely a straight line, it is more often a series of peaks and valleys, and their intensity seems to be associated with my mood swings, diet, and anxiety or excitement, among other things. I have found that for my situation, going to sleep in the evening at the first sign of tiredness has typically been the only way for me to ensure I get to sleep. The problem is that this energy trough might occur at 6 pm (right after I’ve eaten dinner) and the best case scenario would put me in a position to wake up the next morning at 6 am. Once that energy lull passes, I can find myself wide awake again -thus unable to sleep.

I’ve always needed a lot of sleep. More than most people. 12 hours tends to leave me in the best emotional position the next morning, but 10 hours can be manageable.

Missing my sleep window because of anxiety or outside forces (loud neighbors, hot apartment, unfavorable reactions to medications, etc.) might mean I only get 7 hours, sometimes less. That might be sustainable for a day or two, but the longer I go without sleep, the more symptoms of mania I begin to acquire. The more symptoms of mania (even hypomania) I acquire, the less likely I am to be able to sleep the next night.

This fuel might be racing thoughts, or a huge spike in energy, or euphoria (where feeling good seems to counteract the idea of sleeping) among others. Regardless, these traits begin to mix with an increasing fog that sets in from insomnia. My actions start to feel like they matter less, since the fog distorts any of the negative consequences that might be on the horizon… leading to impulsive and relatively irrational decision making. That poor decision making might include missing my next sleep window, when one (rarely, with hypo/mania) occurs.

Keeping my mood under control begins to feel less important, as my sudden frequent crying spells also begin to alternate with fits of hysterical laughter can’t contain… and though there is an audience at the grocery store as I have a laughing fit so severe I am crying and sitting on the floor, it just makes me laugh harder because their concerned faces look increasingly hilarious to me.

Insomnia makes me feel like I am doing a better job of managing my mood swings even though I have had several outside opinions that this idea is not true. While I definitely become more reactive and my swings can land in rapid succession (as they do normally for me, many in a day) my perspective on this situation varies largely from an outside opinion. An outsider might argue I am more difficult to manage (since my brain seems too tiered to bother with trying to negate my impulses triggered by mood swings… well, and the fact that I begin to express everything that crosses my mind, even to strangers) but the euphoria I experience makes me feel that I am doing a great job of taking care of myself, and the fog that has come from not sleeping makes every moment that isn’t the present seem long gone. Out of sight, out of mind.

Ultimately, I find that insomnia may not be the primary trigger of mania on all of the occasions that I experience it, but it does typically perpetuate manic and hypomanic symptoms for me in a symbiotic way.

The less I sleep, the more manic I become.

The more manic I become, the less I sleep.



6 responses to “the mania/insomnia symbiosis

  1. I love this post. So well explained, I can identify with a fair bit of it. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Just Plain Ol' Vic

    I can see how it might be a vicious circle for you. Do things like hot baths, listening to music, incense, reading or other “natural” remedies help at all?

    I wish you the best of luck in managing your insomnia!

    • The main issue is that no matter what remedies I try to use to relax myself (natural or prescribed) I have an extremely hard time coping with unwanted external stimuli, primarily noise from the neighbors in my apartment building. I can get super relaxed, crawl into bed, and then have a panic attack three minutes later when the tenants above me seem to be dropping a bowling ball on the floor above my bed. On top of bipolar disorder I also have PTSD, so if I am trying to relax but it sounds like there are unwanted people in my room the result is exclusively panic attacks. One might imagine how this could lead to… problems.

      In the perfect (or even less harsh than my current) environment, things like baths/showers, massages, or reading have helped. At one point in my life I had a special mix cd a friend made me for sleeping and it would put me to sleep by track 3 every night. Unfortunately, these and other methods have been somewhat nullified by my surroundings, and short of moving I don’t see this issue changing for at least a year. Still, I am working with my therapist (and my building manager/police) to try to create a better environment and series of coping skills.


      • Just Plain Ol' Vic

        I think as long as you are actively working through a resolution, then that is the important thing. Hopefully something will break your way soon!

  3. A such as I know the hypomania is a manifestation of my bipolar disorder, I know without the euphoria I feel lost and empty. Life has meaning when I’m planning home Renos due to boundless energy. It’s so interesting to read how each one of us feels and deals with this stupid crap illness.

  4. this is crazy I feel you all the way😆

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