How Bipolar Disorder Can Affect Your Sleep

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.

Information About Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that makes you feel constant sadness or lack of interest in life.  It can affect how a person feels, thinks and behaves. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Those living with depression have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes may feel as if life isn’t worth living.

While everyone experiences feelings of sadness at some point in their life, those with clinical depression have prolonged periods of feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless. These feelings are not always tied to a specific incident and can last for many days to weeks. Depression can occur in children, adolescents and adults. Although someone can experience depression only once in their life, most who suffer with depression experience recurring episodes.

Some of the symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

There is no known singular cause for depression. Instead, health professionals point to a combination of contributing factors including a person’s brain structure and chemistry. Hormone and genetics are also believed to play a role.

Help is available for those with depression. A mental health professional can conduct an evaluation and outline a course of treatment based on the patient’s individual needs. Treatment may include:

  • Medications – These can include a combination of antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic, anti-anxiety or stimulant medications
  • Psychotherapy – Talking to a mental health professional on a regular basis about your depression and other issues can help treat the symptoms.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy – This brain stimulation therapy passes electric currents through your brain to help your neurotransmitters work better.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation – This treatment uses a coil to send magnetic pulses through your brain to help stimulate nerve cells that regulate mood.

Some with depression may experience thoughts of hurting themselves or others. If someone you know is depressed and you think they may hurt themselves or attempt suicide, call 911immediately.