Besides a nutritious diet and regular exercise, adequate sleep is considered one of the three major physical necessities of overall good health. Having a chronic illness, such as bipolar disorder, makes good overall health especially important.
Getting the right amount of sleep is one of the biggest challenges that people with bipolar disorder may face. Persons experiencing the manic or hypomanic phase of the illness can go on little or no sleep for lengthy periods. People experiencing bipolar depression might have trouble getting either too much sleep or none at all.
Going without sleep, either intentionally or accidentally, can even increase the risk of developing a manic or hypomanic episode. Figuring out how to get the right amount of sleep can be a big part of managing bipolar disorder.
There are several ways a person with bipolar disorder can attempt to get regular sleep without resorting to more medication. These methods are known as sleep hygiene.
Create a schedule
Establish a regular time to go to sleep at night and to wake up in the morning. Creating this routine can be beneficial for everyone, but it can also help the changes in mood that accompany bipolar disorder.
Optimize your bedroom
Sleep hygiene also involves making the bedroom as comfortable as possible. This includes everything from having the right kind of bed and pillows to eliminating light, noise, and other distractions.
Limit other activities
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.
Adjust your diet and exercise
Avoid alcohol and caffeine use before bedtime, as well as eating large meals. It’s also a good idea to keep a few hours between exercise and bedtime. A workout can make it easier to sleep, but it also has energizing effects that can make it hard to fall asleep.
Take time to relax
Make an effort to start winding down before bedtime. Take a warm bath, do some pleasure reading, or try meditating before turning off the lights.
When it comes to sleep aids, it’s best to talk to your doctor before trying to use them. Some medications can be used for a short time to help someone with bipolar disorder go to sleep. These are used short term to minimize the risk of addiction.
Drugs used as sleep aids are available over-the-counter or as prescription medications.
If sleep aids are necessary, there are some risks involved:
- They can be addictive. Careful management is important.
- They can have an adverse effect on coordination and cause sleepiness and amnesia.
- In some cases, these drugs can also cause hostile and aggressive behavior.
- Sleep aids shouldn’t be combined with alcohol or other substances that inhibit the central nervous system.
Proper sleep on a regular basis is a cornerstone of good health. But getting enough sleep is one of the biggest challenges for people with bipolar disorder.
Keeping to a bedtime schedule and having a bedroom optimized for sleeping can be helpful.