Good sleep is something we should all enjoy but for the 5.7 million Americans living with bipolar disorder, it can be a challenge. Bipolar and sleep problems go hand-in-hand and this can make managing symptoms difficult. This isn’t to say that everyone with bipolar disorder sleeps poorly but it’s common. What’s worse is that lack of sleep can trigger manic episodes in some people, which in turn can make it more difficult to sleep. The cycle can go on and take its toll, not just on health but in other areas of life such as work and personal relationships.
Before getting into the connection between bipolar disorder and sleep troubles it’s important to know what the condition actually is. Bipolar disorder once called manic-depressive illness and manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes unusual extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression) in mood. People who have it can have difficulty managing their day-to-day lives. It’s not known what exactly causes it but genetics and biological differences may be factors.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by mania and depression. During manic episodes, individuals can find it hard to sleep as they’re in a state of arousal. They may feel a reduced need for sleep as they’re so amped up. This energy can last for days even if they haven’t slept well. On the other hand, the depressive episodes experienced by people with bipolar disorder are similar to those who have clinical depression. In their depressive state, they may not be able to fall asleep. For some, depressive episodes can lead to sleep problems like hypersomnia (oversleeping).
Bipolar disorder has been linked to sleep apnea too. Taiwanese researchers studied more than 5,000 people with sleep apnea and over 27,000 people without the condition. They found that those with sleep apnea were 2-3 times more likely to receive a bipolar disorder diagnosis than those without sleep apnea.
It’s not just bipolar disorder that can cause poor sleep; less sleep can actually affect mood in women with bipolar disorder. In a study by Penn State College of Medicine and the University of Michigan Medical School, researchers analyzed data of 216 participants in the Prechter Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder. They examined the effect of sleep quality on mood outcome over a period of two years. They found that in women, poor sleep quality predicted an increased severity and frequency of depression and increased severity and variability of mania. The results were different for men. They found that baseline depression score and neuroticism were stronger predictors of mood outcome.
It’s not easy dealing with bipolar disorder and the sleep troubles it causes. However, managing symptoms can make things a lot easier and improve sleep.
Easier said than done, especially in today’s high-stress world. However, it’s important to learn to manage stress because it can worsen mood symptoms and have a negative effect on your life. Whenever you feel the beginnings of stress, take a break. Try to relax whenever possible, whether it’s by going for walks, listening to music or deep breathing. Keeping stress under control also helps you sleep better as your mind isn’t distracted by anxious thoughts.
It’s common to lie in bed waiting for sleep to come but if it doesn’t, don’t force it. Get out of bed and do something mundane or indulge in a low-impact hobby. Rearrange your wardrobe, pick up clutter around the house or mop the floor. Read, draw, knit or play a musical instrument. Anything that helps you pass the time and doesn’t work up a sweat can make it easier to sleep. It may also take your mind off worrying thoughts.
Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep for anyone but those with bipolar disorder have even more reason to avoid them. As they’re stimulants, they may trigger mania and exacerbate mania. They can also interfere with medication and disrupt sleep. As much as possible, avoid the two especially before bedtime. Switch to herbal drinks like chamomile that’s believed to have calming qualities. Although the jury isn’t out on whether it can relieve anxiety and depression, it doesn’t hurt to enjoy a cup of chamomile tea.
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Your bedroom should be a place that makes you feel safe so that you sleep more easily. You can do this by clearing it of clutter and keeping it clean, dark, cool and quiet. Use it only for sleep and sex. Keep gadgets out as they‘ll only act as distractions. Make it a point to use a well-designed mattress so that you can sleep without disruption.
The Nuvanna mattress is the answer to better sleep. Designed by a materials scientist with over 20 years of experience, it has a triple-layered construction that aims to improve sleep. The top layer keeps your body cool with the help of phase-changing gel particles that draw out body heat and disperse it into the air. The middle layer prevents motion from being transferred across the bed so you and your bed partner can move without disturbing each other. The bottom layer supports each part of the body and keeps the spine perfectly aligned to prevent and back pain.
Good sleep can sometimes be hard to get even if you don’t have bipolar disorder but the condition can make it more challenging. In order to sleep better, it’s important to make changes to your lifestyle. This, coupled with medication (if necessary) can improve your sleep quality and help you lead a more fulfilling life.