The answer is probably “yes.” The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has declared the national lack of sleep an “epidemic”. Let that sink in a minute. The CDC, the department focused on illness (and the prevention thereof), is using an incredibly strong term usually reserved for illnesses such as HIV and influenza. Yet, we throw away sleep like it was yesterday’s underwear. There are several reasons why you should make sleep a priority and some tips on how to do so.
The body needs sleep to repair itself. A lot happens to the body during the day all the way down to the cellular level. At night, the body uses the time you’re sleeping to repair tissue and do cell maintenance, whether creating new cells or removing old cells. This doesn’t get done as much during the day because you’re using your energy for other things.
If you don’t get enough sleep, the body suffers. Blood pressure increases. Blood sugar is harder to control. Lack of sleep lowers immune response and ultimately lowers life-expectancy.
Sleep is especially important for the brain. It’s not as much resting as it is reorganizing and consolidating everything into its proper place (think memories).Fun fact: neurons actually fire backwards during sleep. You will actually lose neurons if you do not get enough sleep. You know how you’ve heard that drug use kills off brain cells? Same idea. If your brain isn’t given enough time to do its cleanup, there are serious negative effects. Consider the last time you were given a project but were not given adequate time to complete it. What was the quality of the result compared to what it could have been had you been allowed sufficient time? When you don’t get enough sleep, that’s what you’re doing to your brain.
It turns out, the brain has a lot to do with bipolar disorder as well, but you already knew that. So you can imagine that if lack of sleep in an otherwise healthy person can cause problems, it absolutely will cause problems for those of us with bipolar disorder.
Lack of sleep can cause numerous cognitive symptoms. There are problems with memory, decision-making, slow thinking and risky behavior. These are symptoms that exist in bipolar disorder even without a lack of sleep. They become even more pronounced with sleep deprivation.
One of the basic criteria for a manic episode is a lack of need of sleep. For those who feel like they never have enough time to finish work or to-do items, this may sound like a dream come true. Except that it isn’t. Just because you feela lack of a need to sleep does not mean that you do not need sleep. All of the things I just mentioned still happen.
Then turn it the other way. Lack of sleep can also trigger a manic episode. Nice little circle. Sleep can actually be a huge predictor in mood shifting, especially in rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Basically, lack of sleep only multiplies bipolar symptoms.
Have I convinced you that you need to sleep, yet? I realize that I’m not you and don’t know your particular situation, but I do know that you need to be your own advocate. Do your absolute best to make sure that you can take care of yourself.
But what if you are actually trying to get enough sleep but it keeps evading you? Here are a few non-medicinal tips. (If you have a persistent problem, you should talk to your doctor.)
- Have a regular sleeping routine. The body has a natural rhythm. It causes less stress when you don’t try to fight it.
- Have a nightly routine. This is along the same lines. Doing the same thing every night will give your body clues that it’s time to sleep.
- Exercise. Plenty of exercise means you’ll be tired enough for sleep. You’ll also be better behaved. Wait. That’s dogs. Dogs will behave better with more exercise.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant. Stimulants keep you awake. Alcohol is also a stimulant in addition to being a depressant. It may help you fall asleep, but the sleep will not be deep enough to gain the beneficial effects.
- Make sure you are comfortable. This may seem obvious, but a bad bed can mean the difference between good sleep and bad sleep. Do some research and find out what works best for you.
Hope you sleep well tonight.