When I was first doing research on bipolar disorder I read an article where the author believed that one day it will be reclassified as a terrible sleep disorder since there is a huge correlation between sleep and the course of the disease. Personally, I don’t believe this, but it is nonetheless an interesting argument. What I do know is that sleep is a trigger for me. If my sleep is disrupted, especially several nights in a row, then I’m very likely to have a mood disturbance. And if I am having a mood disturbance, especially if it’s in the depressive state, then likely a good night’s sleep will have me feeling back to my normal self. I also have nights, like last night and this morning, where I have trouble getting to sleep but then still be able to function perfectly normal the next day. I’ve been thinking about my sleep in both a present-day and a long-term perspective, and wondering if it should have clued me in on a mood disorder much sooner.
Starting in high school my sleep patterns were erratic. Most days after getting home I would crash and sleep for a couple hours. Then I would get up and do all my homework (I was an honors student so there was always plenty of it). When I was finally done I would hit the sack again around midnight or one o’clock. Some nights I would simply have insomnia and sleep would escape me. This particular problem lasted until I became pregnant. For most of my 20’s I functioned best with 9-10 hours of sleep but was up until odd hours of the night. I thought I was just a “night owl.” It was irritating but didn’t feel alarming.
In stark contrast with today, I find that most nights I’m incapable of staying up all night. Being a mother changed all that. When we first brought Baby Boy home I could somehow function with very little sleep. At the time, I did note that it was odd, but was enamored with my baby and just grateful to be functioning. And then it got worse. As the weeks and months wore on the baby just wouldn’t sleep and it caught up to me. I couldn’t regulate my emotions and Hubs said I acted like a a patient who’d been sleep deprived for experimental reasons. Little did we know this was a huge red flag.
This is one reason every night I pray that Baby Boy sleeps straight through the morning. He’s a toddler now, and has been sleeping through the night for a while, but he still frequently wakes in the middle of the night. If he’s sick, then it’s a virtual guarantee he’ll wake up. Sleep is the thing I worry most about when I think about having another baby. In the hospital with Baby Boy, we all three slept upright in the hospital bed, much to the nurses’s disapproval. (With the c-section scar it was just too difficult to lean over the bed to get him in and out of the cradle.) But then when I got him home I was inexplicably terrified to sleep with him. Finally Hubs said that co-sleeping was the right thing to do for us. Both he and my mother tried to convince me that I wouldn’t accidentally kill him in my sleep. If I didn’t co-sleep I was going to end up with a nervous breakdown. I relented and it was the single best decision we made in those early days.
Since co-sleeping was the only thing that allowed me to get sleep, we plan on doing this right away with baby #2. We’ll also start sleep training from day one. Obviously a newborn can’t literally sleep through the night since they need multiple feedings, but you can lay the ground work. You can make a clear distinction between night and day so that they can learn that nighttime is meant for sleeping. I don’t know how other bipolar moms handle this, but for us these are the most logical steps to take.
In the meantime, I do my best to get regular patterns of sleep. I’m not super consistent, but on weekdays the alarm goes off at 5:30 and I try to be in bed by 9 every day of the week. I’m aware that one is supposed to get up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends, but I’m still holding on to that extra hour or two on Saturdays and Sundays. For now, it feels the best way to survive the baby years.