Irritability and Insomnia

Last updated: May 2022

I would consider myself a fun-loving, patient, kind person. I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, and a friend who cares very much about the people around me. I am a patient advocate, a doula, and an infertility coach, who puts 110 percent effort into every day and every task at work.

I am also someone who has lived with insomnia for more than 2 decades.

How insomnia can alter my personality

One thing I have felt really challenged by is the way that insomnia and the associated sleep deprivation at times can and has altered my personality.

Here’s what I’ve learned – for me, sleep and mood are intertwined. When I feel more rested, I feel calmer, more logical, clear-headed, and able to find myself both creatively and analytically deep in thought. When I sleep poorly or go several nights without adequate rest, I find myself stressed, anxious, on edge, abrupt, and irritable.

I don’t think this is a coincidence, and I don’t think this is just me.

When I am exhausted, I am short-tempered, grouchy, and get annoyed easily. I am far less than my best self, and it makes me so frustrated!

Tips for managing insomnia-related irritability

Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of tips that have helped me to deal with the mental and emotional effects left behind by insomnia. I hope some of these are beneficial for you!

Recognition is key

If I don't stop to notice that I'm being extra crabby or miserable toward people and things I care about, then I can't adjust my temperament or compensate for my actions.

Get fresh air

I have always noticed that going outside (especially when it's a bit cooler out) is a great refresher. It helps me both feel more alert/awake AND re-sets my mood. If I don't have time or energy for a walk around the block, I notice even standing outside my front door and taking 5 mindful deep breaths can be really helpful. When I go back inside, I feel like I'm in a better place mentally and don't feel so grouchy.

Change of scenery

This is much harder nowadays due to COVID-19, but I have learned that this might be repositioning myself from my desk to my couch or my couch to my kitchen. Sometimes adjusting my setup gives my brain a break enough to reset and refocus.

Stay fueled

I notice that eating can help give me energy and also positively impact my mood. Sleep deprivation and hangry don't go well together, so I try to have high protein snacks in my home, making them easy to grab without much thought or preparation.


I think it's really important to both recognize and acknowledge when my mood is off, especially when it's due to lack of sleep. If my irritability is affecting conversations or relationships with others, sometimes I just say something as simple as, "I'm sorry I'm short-tempered today. I didn't sleep well last night." Usually, that apology goes a long way and invites others to be patient with me.

If you struggle with irritability or other mood fluctuations due to your insomnia, have any of the above tips helped you? Is there anything I'm missing that you'd add to the list?! I'd love to read your suggestions below.

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