Sleep is an important aspect of overall health. It plays a part in immunity, memory, learning and metabolism. Getting enough sleep helps with heart health and mood. Most people do not get enough sleep. Sometimes people get too much sleep. Finding the right balance is an essential part of any wellness plan. Unfortunately, people with bipolar disorder tend to have sleep problems. In fact, sleep disturbances are listed among the top symptoms of both mania and depression.
While people with bipolar disorder tend to have several different types of sleep problems, there are three general areas that occur during manic or depressive episodes.
Decreased need for sleep
In mania, people often feel like they have less of a need for sleep. Someone experiencing mania might go days without sleep and not feel tired. During a manic episode, at least 70% of people have a harder time falling asleep and get less REM sleep overall. A lack of sleep can cause problems with anxiety, concentration and decision making, even if you do not not feel tired. During periods between episodes, a lack of sleep can even trigger mania or hypomania.
Insomnia is different from a decreased need for sleep. With insomnia, there is no energy high that to keep you awake. Insomnia is the feeling of laying in bed at night just waiting to fall asleep, but with little to no luck. Once sleep occurs, there is less REM sleep. Almost everyone with bipolar disorder will experience insomnia at some point, even between episodes.
Hypersomnia is basically sleeping too much. It is incredibly common in depression, with at up to 78% of people experiencing excessive sleep at some point. This is the other side of the insomnia coin. It goes along with the type of depression that can keep you in bed all day because you don’t have the energy or will to get up. People who experience hypersomnia can sleep an average of 10-12 hours a day or more. Even with this amount of sleep, a depressed person can still feel tired and suffer from the same symptoms of lack of sleep.
There are several ways to make sure you get the proper amount and quality of sleep, even with bipolar disorder. It’s called sleep hygiene.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even weekends.
- Don’t consume stimulants like caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime.
- Limit naps to 30 minutes and don’t nap unless you need to.
- Exercise during the day.
- Make sure to get plenty of sun exposure during the day.
- Create a cool, dark sleeping environment.
- Don’t use your bedroom for anything other than sleep and sex.
Also keep in mind that some medications can cause sleep disturbances. Discuss any sleep problems with your doctor. It may mean that you need to adjust your medication or even begin taking sleep aids. Do not change medication regimens or daily routines without first discussing it with your doctor.
Image credit: Mateus Lunardi Dutra