Besides a nutritious diet and regular exercise, adequate sleep is considered one of the three major physical necessities of overall good health. Living with a mental health condition, 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 disorder 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 medication. These methods are known as sleep hygiene.
Creating a schedule
Establishing a regular time to go to sleep and to wake up can be helpful. Creating this routine can be beneficial for everyone, but it can also help the changes in mood that accompany bipolar disorder.
Optimizing your bedroom
Sleep hygiene also involves making the bedroom as comfortable as possible. This can include having the right kind of bed and pillows and eliminating light, noise, and other distractions.
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.
A workout can make it easier to sleep, but it also has energizing effects that can make it hard to fall asleep.
Taking time to relax
If you can, wind down before bedtime. Consider a warm bath, some pleasure reading, or meditating before turning off the lights.
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.
There are also some natural sleep aids you can try. When it comes to sleep aids, it’s best to talk with your doctor first.
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 can be a challenge for people with bipolar disorder.
Keeping to a bedtime schedule and having a bedroom optimized for sleeping can be helpful.