Getting the appropriate amount of sleep, along with maintaining a nutritious diet and exercising regularly are considered the three most important aspects to living a healthy lifestyle. For those living with bipolar disorder however, getting the right amount of sleep is both very important and a major challenge.
Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). While experiencing the manic or hypomanic phase of the illness, those with bipolar disorder can go on little or no sleep for lengthy periods of time. Conversely, during the depression or low phase, individuals may require excessive amounts of sleep (up to 14 hours per day).
Bipolar disorder can affect sleep in many ways, including:
- Insomnia – Insomnia includes not only difficulty falling asleep, but problems staying asleep or getting too little sleep.
- Hypersomnia – A condition marked by over-sleeping, which is sometimes even more common than insomnia during periods of depression in bipolar disorder.
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome – Delayed sleep phase syndrome is a circadian rhythm disturbance. It can be associated with depression.
- Irregular sleep-wake schedule – When people with bipolar disorder have a lack of a sleep routine, the irregular cycle can greatly interfere with appropriate treatment of the disorder.
- Nightmares, vivid dreams and night terrors – These may also affect people with bipolar disorder.
Disrupted sleep can aggravate a mood disorder so it’s important to address some of the issues that can affect sleep. There are several ways a person with bipolar disorder can attempt to get regular sleep. These methods are known as sleep hygiene and can include:
- Creating a schedule – Establishing a regular time to go to sleep and to wake up can be beneficial as it can reduce the changes in mood that accompany bipolar disorder.
- Optimizing your bedroom – Try making the bedroom as comfortable as possible. This can include having the right kind of bedding and pillows as well as eliminating light, noise, and other distractions.
- Limiting activities – The bedroom is a place reserved for sleeping. Try to limit other activities, such as watching TV or working on your laptop, in the bedroom.
- Diet and exercise – Avoiding alcohol and caffeine use before bedtime as well as eating large meals can help improve sleep. It’s also a good idea to keep a few hours between exercise and bedtime.
- Take time to relax – If you can, wind down before bedtime. Consider a warm bath, some pleasure reading, or meditating before turning off the lights.
Your doctor may also suggest light therapy, certain medications or sleep aides to help you improve your sleep patterns. To make an appointment with a mental health professional at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s outpatient Mental Health Center, please call 718-206-5575.