Bipolar sleep

The bipolar sleep connection is confirmed by a substantial body of research.

Sleep loss can trigger mania AND is also a strong predictor of impending mania.

Too much sleep is a frequent symptom in bipolar depression.

People with bipolar disorder can greatly benefit from monitoring their sleep.

It is also important to make an to ensure a regular sleep routine.

Sleep disturbances are a key symptom of both mania and depression, AND an excellent early warning system of a mood change.1

This is why sleep is one of the things that should ALWAYS be included on your bipolar mood chart.

Restoring and maintaining regular sleep is one of the reasons why a stay in hospital or other treatment center can be so helpful to people with manic depressive illness, quite apart from any counseling or medication they may receive.

It is also one of the important principles underpinning Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (ISRT).ISRT is an exciting and effective psychosocial therapy for bipolar people that includes a lot of emphasis on regulating the individual’s sleep-wake cycles and daily routine.2

People with bipolar disorder usually have extremely sensitive circadian systems (body clocks). This makes it much more difficult for them to recover if their sleep or other aspects of their daily routine are disrupted. Most people without bipolar disorder tend to make a far
quicker recovery from a bad night’s sleep or other change in routine that messes with their body clock. Read more about Stable Sleep, Regular Routines and Bipolar Disorder.


Trouble sleeping? See the Dr immediately as this is both a symptom and a trigger for bipolar mania.

Sleep is just one factor in the complex issue of bipolar disorder and circadian rhythm. People with bipolar disorder are known to be sensitive to changes in outdoor ambient light and to seasonal changes. Disruptions to the circadian rhythm due to travel and jet-lag have also been seen to trigger mood swings.

Bright light therapy can ease bipolar depression in some patients, according to a study published in the journal Bipolar Disorders.


New research shows a definite connection between the body clock and certain psychological responses, including the capacity to trigger relapses in patients with bipolar disorder. Mood disorders such as bipolar disorder
have long been linked with sleep problems, suggesting that the circadian system plays a role in these condition.

bp Magazine, an important source of support and information for the bipolar community, recently ran a comprehensive article on bipolar sleep issues. This article explained:

“We are living in the middle of history’s greatest experiment in sleep deprivation and we are all part of that experiment,” says Robert Stickgold, PhD, a sleep research specialist and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Stickgold makes this dramatic assertion in a recent Harvard Magazine article that also cites some startling statistics.

Good bipolar sleep hygiene is, in my opinion and that of Kay Redfield Jamison Ph.D, the single most critical factor in managing your bipolar disorder.

“Americans today sleep far less than people did 100 or even 50 years ago. Moreover, a 2005 poll by the National Sleep Foundation revealed that adult Americans sleep an average of 6.8 hours on weeknights. That’s more than an hour less than they need according to most sleep experts. Indeed, says Dr. Stickgold, “it’s not inconceivable…that we will discover that there are major social, economic, and health consequences to that experiment. Sleep deprivation doesn’t have any good side effects.” See The Quest for Sleep.


Disrupted sleep is also linked to obesity and a range of ther health problems, including higher smoking rates, less physical activity and more alcohol use. (Many readers will not be surprised by this given how long we have known that substance abuse and weight issues have a high co-morbidity with bipolar.) A recent US government study has strongly tied irregular sleep to obesity and depression.

The most authoritative and trustworthy source of scientific research on bipolar sleep is the textbook Manic-Depresive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression by Frederick Goodwin and Kay Redfield Jamison. Their Appendix to Chapter 16 about bipolar sleep is available online.

In summary: bipolar disorder sleep problems are very common, and often related to other health issues as well. If you or a loved one are bipolar, closely monitor sleep patterns and take action in case of:
1. Over-sleeping (more than 8-9 hours per night).
2. Insomnia.
3. Poor quality/disrupted sleep.
4. Sudden decrease in the need for sleep.

Talk to your medical advisor immediately as improving your sleep will promote stable moods as well.

You should also review this informative article on bipolar insomnia.

Mood charting has shown me just how important to managing my own bipolar disorder sleep really is.

I recently read a list of Kay Redfield Jamison’s top tips for managing bipolar disorder and preventing relapse, and sleep made the NUMBER ONE on her list.

My solution has been an investment in a Zeo Sleep Coach. My Zeo Sleep Coach showed me that I was not getting enough deep sleep or enough REM sleep and even helped me discover why (it related to dosage and timing of one particular med). I got mine from Amazon. The downside is that they are expensive.

In other words, not only will you discover the truth about every minute of sleep you do (or do not get) each night – you will learn exactly what you need to do to fix your bipolar sleep problems.



2019-04-06T21:04:35+00:00March 11th, 2015|Categories: Living with Bipolar Disorder|3 Comments


  1. Lynette Noelle Kelway James August 8, 2016 at 7:37 am - Reply

    So many people I have spoken to who are bipolar have suffered sleep deprivation for much of their lives and I believe this could very often be the cause of their condition. I am wondering if any studies have found this link. I myself have, for a number of reasons outside my control, such as looking after ill relatives, etc., suffered severe sleep deprivation and have shown signs of psychosis but instead of being treated with bipolar medication have been given a strong sleeping tablet and after just one good night’s sleep have always returned to normal immediately. I have been told I am certainly not a text book case because of my quick return to complete normality but I am wondering how many others might only need a strong sleeping tablet and some really good sleep to bring about the same effect. It would save the health service a great deal of money so perhaps it is time to experiment.

    • Silvia June 10, 2017 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      Hey Lynette,
      Is there any chance you can share the sleeping aid pill you use?
      Thank you

  2. Jon Howard June 17, 2017 at 5:16 am - Reply

    As someone who has suffered from this condition for many years. Mania causes me not too sleep. I get caught up and obsessed with things to the point that I cannot sleep until I’ve fulfilled a task that’s not even possible. So, while I’d agree that not sleeping causes psychological issues. That could also be turned around by saying that the psychological issues are causing the lack of sleep.

    If I’m in a depressed state then I’ll oversleep and feel tired and unmotivated to complete any task. I do like how doctors typically try to make sure you sleep well at first before handing out medications however sometimes it’s the obsessive thoughts that cause the lack of sleep so the issue becomes more serious during appointment times. I was given sleeping pills that didn’t affect me at all Like anything in life, there’s no one size fits all unfortunately. I can’t wait to see how the understanding of all mental illnesses progresses moving forward.

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Weight gain after bipolar medication? Read The Bipolar Diet & balance your moods and weight gain.Read The Bipolar Diet & balance your moods and weight gain.