Is There a Relationship Between Sleep and Bipolar Disorder?

Part of treating bipolar disorder requires understanding it and being aware of when to expect episodes. One proposed way to do that is to monitor sleep disturbances.

Sleep disturbances are not only common in patients with bipolar disorder but are also a significant predictor of mood episode relapse, treatment resistance, and overall functional impairment. By identifying these disturbances and being mindful of when they are occurring, it may become possible to address them better and prepare for some of the symptoms in advance.

What Are Some Findings About Sleep and Bipolar Disorder?

One thing to keep in mind is that this is ongoing research, and not necessarily something we can use clinically. These should be seen only as potentially interesting, not necessarily facts that provide real clinical value.

That said, research has been looking at the relationship between sleep disturbances and bipolar disorder, and has been in the process of exploring several interesting findings:

  • Changes in sleep patterns may serve as early warning signs of mood episode relapses. Clinicians may be able to use sleep patterns as a gauge to adjust medications preemptively or recommend behavioral interventions.
  • Patients with bipolar disorder and co-occurring sleep disturbances often have poorer responses to standard mood-stabilizing medications, necessitating alternative or adjunctive treatments focused on regulating sleep.
  • Chronic sleep issues are linked with lower quality of life, greater functional impairment, and increased risk of negative thought patterns among bipolar patients.

Knowing this information, it is possible for us to consider alternative treatment options and different methods of support to help patients with bipolar disorder and sleep challenges. For example, careful selection and timing of mood stabilizers and hypnotics can help minimize their impact on sleep architecture. For example, avoiding stimulant-based medications close to bedtime or using medications with sedative properties at night can be beneficial.

Educating patients about good sleep practices – such as regular sleep schedules, a bedtime routine, and creating a sleep-conducive environment – is also more important. We have to see encouraging sleep as a part of treatment, and not as an issue that will solve itself.

Current research is delving deeper into how treating sleep disorders can affect the course of bipolar disorder. Studies are examining the effects of various interventions, from pharmacotherapy to neuromodulation techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), on sleep parameters and subsequent mood stability. We have to also keep in mind current research to help determine if there are any new discoveries that we can use to guide treatment.

Psychiatrist for Sleep and Psychiatry for Bipolar Disorder

Mental health is never as simple as a diagnosis. But it is treatable, especially with more information and as we work together to determine what treatment structure is best. Sleep disturbances are one part of the puzzle, and something we’ll chat about when we discuss your psychological needs. Contact us today to get started.

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