Harry is 20 years old. When I met Harry he was so energized about starting college. He hadn’t slept the entire night in weeks. He talked excessively about his plans and the excitement of living away from his parents. The second day of classes he called home to share the good news the he had met “the love of my life” . Harry was certain he’d met the girl he would marry. By the third week of classes the novelty of school had worn off. He lost interest in his girlfriend and regretted his decision to go so far from home. He was tired all the time and could barely get out of bed. .
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by mood swings. The condition starts in the late teens or during early adulthood. 5 million Americans suffer with bipolar disorder.
Symptoms are divided into symptoms that occur during the manic phase and symptoms that occur during depression. Mild bipolar disorder can be difficult to detect. During the manic phase, insomnia di is common. Other symptoms include extreme happiness for long periods of time, excessive talking, inability to concentrate , easily distracted , impulsive behavior that is often risky, overconfidence in ones abilities.
Depression is associated with a feeling of sadness for prolonged periods of time, feeling hopeless or that life is not worth living, loss of interest in being with friends and family or usual activities, excessive fatigue or sleepiness. Suicidal thoughts sometimes occur during the depression phase.
Sleep disturbance is a key feature of both phases. The manic person requires very little sleep. But during the depression phase excessive sleepiness or fatigue is characteristic. Researchers are now finding that during periods between mood swings, sleep may help stabilize mood swings.
Bipolar disorder usually requires medications to stabilize mood swings. In addition to medication practice good sleep hygiene. Details about sleep hygiene appear on an earlier post. Get adequate amounts of sleep.
Changes in sleep patterns may be an early warning of impending mental health illness such as bipolar disorder. If you think you or a loved one has bipolar disorder, seek qualified medical help.
Harvey, A, Talbot L, Gershon (2009). Sleep Disturbance in Bipoar Disorder Across the Lifespan. Clin Psychol 16(2):256-277