Does Working the Night Shift Affect Bipolar Disorder?
The top three reasons I’ll never work nights again.
I’m a night owl. Come sundown, I come alive. An infusion of energy courses through my veins and my muse dances freely. Or at least, this was the case when I was younger, before chronic illness robbed me of much of my stamina.
Being a child of the night is not an ideal companion for bipolar. For a while, since bipolar insomnia is a continuous problem, I decided the solution would be to find a job where I could work third shift. Here are three reasons that was a bad idea.
Disclaimer: Just like not every medicine works for every person, not every solution will either. Some people thrive with working the night shift with bipolar disorder. For me, as I’ll explain today, it was a terrible idea. Do what’s best for you.Start Today!
I don’t sleep during the day and never have unless extremely sick. I’m not sure if that’s a bipolar thing or just a me thing. As a kid, l was the one who stayed awake on car trips no matter how far we drove, and I was always the last one awake at sleep overs.
Staying awake all night for work wasn’t a problem. I started my shift with full energy, but usually dipped some around 1:00 AM. Experience has taught me that is the latest time I should be in bed. Forcing myself to stay awake until two or three invariably induces mania.
As anyone with bipolar knows, manic episodes can be great, at least in the beginning. However, even hypomania will keep me from sleeping.
While working all night was easy, sleeping during the day was impossible. The more I worked, the less I slept.
Mania always demands a price. The price may be extreme irritability that erupts into bipolar rage or soul-crushing depression.
My inability to sleep during the day wasn’t the only issue created by working third shift with bipolar. Here are a couple more.
We need sunlight. Our bodies were created with sunlight in mind. It’s our chief source of vitamin D.
Even more essential for someone with mental illness, sunshine helps keep a mind healthy.
No one ever diagnosed me with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I can clearly see how sunlight, or the lack thereof, affects my life. While I love rain and thunderstorms, days of gray skies make me lethargic and depressed. My energy level drops to zero, and my motivation vanishes like morning fog.
Science proves sunshine can improve your sleep, strengthen your bones, bolster your immune system, and even stimulate weight loss. However, even more important is how the sun helps regulate your circadian rhythm. It’s vital for sleep. Even better, at least one study proved a link between sunlight exposure and longer life.
Clearly, being in the sun is one of the most beneficial things you can do, but your chances are limited if you work nights.
There’s one more area where working nights can impact your life negatively. The issue is coping with isolation.
Roughly 7-10% of the world population works third shift. Translated into your life, it means more than 90% of your friends and family do not.
Mental illness is isolating enough, but working third shift increases that isolation. If you choose to stay awake when other people are up and active and then work all night, the toll on your mental health may transform you into a beast your friends won’t want to be around.
I’m an introvert. Most of the time, I am perfectly happy being alone. However, as much as I fight it, I need people. I need some human interaction.
When I worked nights, I didn’t see anyone most days. One of my night jobs was janitorial, so there weren’t even other employees to interact with during my shift.
I didn’t know what was going on with my friends and they didn’t know how I was doing. My family complained they never saw me.
The isolation was not good. I became increasingly withdrawn and gave in to unhealthy habits, including self-harm and excessive drinking.
Working the graveyard shift was not worth the expense.
Find Your Balance
Not everything is the same for every person. I know a few people with bipolar disorder who thrive with working third shift, but they are the minority. You may be one of them.
If you’re not sure, use this post as a test. While working nights, are you experiencing more manic episodes? Are you sleeping enough during the day? Do you spend any time in the sun? Are you isolating yourself from family and friends?
If your answers reveal negative trends, it’s time to make changes. No job is more important than your mental health.
Until next time, keep fighting.