When Does a Bipolar Brain Work Best?

September 2, 2019 Natasha Tracy

My bipolar brain works best at a certain time of day. This is actually common for people with bipolar disorder. People with bipolar commonly find their mood and ability to think waxes and wanes at the same times throughout the day. Your average person may experience this as well, but for a person with bipolar, of course, everything is amplified. So here's when my bipolar brain works best for different purposes.

Bipolar Brain Function in the Morning

When I wake up in the morning, after yawning and checking Instagram, my bipolar brain starts to function quite well. I have a bit of energy. I can think. I can act on those thoughts. I can make progress. I can write. Mornings feel like miracles to me. I don't feel un-bipolar, I don't feel well, per se, but the difference between that and the afternoon is stark.

Moreover, my bipolar brain tends to have a negligible mood in the morning. Sometimes this mood burgeons on positive, even. This doesn't mean that sometimes depression doesn't attack my mornings, because sometimes it does, but on many days, I feel like it's more minor.

Of course, my positive bipolar brain functioning only lasts a few hours. It varies from three hours to six hours, on average. This is never nearly enough hours for me.

Bipolar Brain Functioning in the Afternoon

For me, my bipolar brain does not function in the afternoon. I can't seem to think at all at that point. I'm too overwhelmed to think. It feels like my brain has gotten full with everything I've taken in earlier in the day so there's no room for anything else. This seems to manifest as anxiety or feeling stressed out -- to the extreme. I almost vibrate And if my mood isn't great in the first place, it will definitely worsen as the day progresses.

In the afternoon I usually get little done. I have no energy and I have, for all intents and purposes, no brain. I usually have to rest ("Tips of Dealing with Bipolar and Exhaustion") for at least an hour. The only things I might make progress on are things that are extremely simple and require no thought. For example, I can clean the litter box for my cats. This is a mundane, simple and tiny task but at least it's progress during a time of day when progress often seems impossible.

Bipolar Brain Functioning in the Evening

The evenings are often my worst time. My mood is at its worst and thinking is right off the table. I have spent many evenings crying and even wailing into the darkness. Everything seems so bleak and painful in the evenings. It's usually the case that I can't wait to take my medication and get to sleep. Things certainly aren't "better" in the morning but the acute pain is usually gone.

In exact opposition to this is the fact that occasionally, right when I'm supposed to be winding down for bed, I'll have an energy and mood surge. Suddenly I'll be able to do things like clean and things feel all sunshiney and bright. It may be the case that this is the beginning of hypomania, I'm not sure because I always make sure to keep to my sleep schedule even if this happens (It's one of the best ways you can create as even a mood as possible.) and the surge is gone by morning ("What's the Deal with Bipolar and Sleep?").

The Average Bipolar Brain Schedule of Functioning

What I've laid out above is my personal experience of bipolar brain functioning but this is actually the exact opposite of what many people with bipolar experience. Most people with bipolar disorder do experience some sort of schedule to the functioning of their brain but it's typically the case that it's worse in the morning and better in the evening. Why am I different? It could be my particular medication, my medication schedule, or it might just be the fact that I'm special, I really have no idea.

Fitting Your Day to Your Bipolar Brain's Schedule

What I tell people is to work with their bipolar disorder as much as possible. Don't try to bend it to your will if you don't have to because that is a losing proposition. So, I wake up early and get a lot done as early as possible. I exercise in the morning. I write long-form in the morning. I review work before submission and edit in the morning. I take longer calls and do webinars in the morning. I take early flights.

You get the idea.

As I work on these things, I can feel the energy slipping from me as I continue. I expect this and I tell myself it's okay even if it really doesn't feel that way. I try to handle the lessened brainpower and energy with grace. I try not to beat myself up about it. I make the most of my energy and brain and that is all I can do.

And this is what I recommend for you too. I recommend you pay attention and even chart your daily, weekly and monthly rhythms,  You will likely find that there are things you can count on (good or bad) on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. Once you find these patterns, work with them. Yes, you can work with your doctor to optimize your health -- do that, for sure -- but also understand that you have to work with what you have. Use your good periods, however long or short, to take steps forward. Think when you can. Move when you can. And then give yourself a break when you can't.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2019, September 2). When Does a Bipolar Brain Work Best?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 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.

January, 3 2020 at 8:11 pm

My mind drags in the morning, but less so now that I'm on a better medication regimen. Afternoons into the evening hours seem to be the best, but the older I get the less I am able to stay up late and harness the creative energy that flows in the evening.

January, 3 2020 at 8:11 pm

My mind drags in the morning, but less so now that I'm on a better medication regimen. Afternoons into the evening hours seem to be the best, but the older I get the less I am able to stay up late and harness the creative energy that flows in the evening.

January, 1 2020 at 3:13 am

Hi There :)
My Bipolar brain works exactly the same as this! I'm raring to go in the morning, (once I'm up and at it) then around lunch time, i dip massively and am low for a good 4-6 hrs, seemingly around bedtime, i will have another burst of energy.
Could it be that it's a Bipolar type 2 thing? (i noticed you mentioned Hypomania in your article)

Ian V
November, 18 2019 at 6:00 pm

Is there a way to lessen or stop treating when your mind can’t say what you want to say?

September, 3 2019 at 8:52 am

Yes, frequently my mind can't process my thoughts..I can see the word but I can't bring it to verbal for use. I am so embarrassed I tend to stay away from people...

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