Studies tell us that sleep issues can have a profound impact on those with bipolar disorder 1. For people with bipolar, reduced or interrupted sleep isn't just a symptom of mania, it can actually lead to manic and hypomanic episodes. Studies have found that 25 to 65 percent of people with bipolar disorder who had a manic episode had experienced a social rhythm disruption prior to the episode 2.

How does bipolar disorder affect sleep?

Sleep disturbances are very common in people with bipolar disorder and appear to play an important role in the cycling of the disorder 3

  • Insomnia – insomnia includes not only difficulty in falling asleep, but difficulties staying asleep or getting too little sleep. Insomnia is common with many physical and mental health conditions. In those with bipolar disorder, hypomania and mania can often lead to insomnia. When this occurs, treatment of the underlying condition (hypomania or mania due to bipolar disorder) is a goal of treatment.
  • Hypersomnia – is the opposite of insomnia. It describes over-sleeping, and it affects one-third of individuals with bipolar disorder. Hypersomnia is common during periods of depression for anyone with bipolar disorder.
  • 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. Treatment focuses on treating the cause which keeps them up at night.

Insomnia is a hot topic with our community right now, so we thought we’d share our top tips to managing your sleep cycle. If you're suffering from insomnia, good sleep hygiene is critical. Here are our top tips to managing your sleep cycle:

  • Establish a regular time to go to sleep at night and to wake up in the morning. 
  • Make an effort to start winding down before bedtime. Take a warm bath, read a good book, or try meditating whilst turning off the lights.
  • Avoid naps, especially naps in the late afternoon. If you must nap, try to limit your rest to around one hour.
  • Make sure 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.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine use before bedtime, as well as eating large meals.
  • It’s a good idea to keep a few hours between exercise and bedtime. A workout can make it easier to sleep, but it also has energising effects that can make it hard to fall asleep.
  • If you can't sleep after a certain amount of time (for example, 15 minutes) get out of bed and do something. It's still important to get up at your regular time the next morning, even if you will have less than seven hours of sleep.

 

  1. Harvey AG, Talbot LS, Gershon A. Sleep Disturbance in Bipolar Disorder Across the Lifespan.Clin Psychol (New York). 2009;16(2):256-277. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2850.2009.01164.x
  2. Frank E, Swartz HA, Boland E. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy: an intervention addressing rhythm dysregulation in bipolar disorderDialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007;9(3):325–332. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.06.006
  3. Ng TH, Chung KF, Ho FY, Yeung WF, Yung KP, Lam TH. Sleep-wake disturbance in interepisode bipolar disorder and high-risk individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysisSleep Med Rev. 2015;20:46-58. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.06.006