Bipolars Have Irregular Sleep Patterns


Bipolars have irregular sleep patterns. Most who have bipolar disorder have trouble sleeping at times. For some erratic sleep patterns may be a prominent part of their illness.

For others with ‘soft bipolar’ or less severe forms of the illness such as cyclothymic disorder sleep problems may be intermittent and coincide with occassional mood cycling.   Will Melatonin Help?

Bipolars Have Irregular Sleep Patterns
Time for a Cat Nap

When you don’t get a decent nights sleep and have a tendency toward irritable moods or have an actual mood disorder such as bipolar it can affect your functioning during the day greatly. And irregular sleep patterns are a very common symptom of this illness.

Lack of sleep not only may affect how you get through the day and your ability to be productive at work, socialize, handle the responsibilities of being a parent, etc. but it can also possibly trigger an illness episode.

How Do Bipolars Differ From Regular Folks?

Didn’t get a good nights rest? Big deal many would say. Some normal folks – for the purpose of this article we are using that term to describe anyone without bipolar disorder – actually thrive on little sleep.

Doctors are famous for having to work long hours with little sleep and still function at a high level professionally.

Some people are night owls who work evening shifts and nap during the day, thriving off of only a few hours of deep, restful sleep daily.

So why can’t most bipolars do that? Because for someone with this mood disorder lack of sleep can trigger an illness state. You may become hypomanic with racing thoughts, irritable mood, no patience for others, yell at the kids or your adorable new puppy for no reason, etc.

Hypomania is an elevated mood that can be pleasurable (for normal folks) or problematic (for someone with bipolar disorder).

For someone with the most serious form of the illness – Manic Depression now called Bipolar 1 Disorder – lack of sleep can trigger an actual manic episode and could lead to hospitaliztion.

Related post: I Was Hypomanic and all is Fine.

What Sleep Personality are You?

According to the National Sleep Foundation there are ‘Five Sleep Personality Types’ each with an associated unique sleep pattern. Which one are you?

Using data derived from the answers to poll questions, NSF found five clusters or “sleep personality” types. The commonalities are based on sleep habits and more than 40 other factors including age, marital status, gender, employment status, diagnosed medical conditions, how often they feel tired/fatigued/not up to par, and the amount of caffeinated beverages consumed daily.

1. Healthy, Lively Larks – model citizen, not affected by sleep problems, a morning person.

2. Sleep Savvy Seniors – average age 60 years old, get most sleep at around 7.3 hours per night, take naps.

3. Dragging Duos – most likely to have a partner and be employed, twice as likely to get less sleep than they need, partner may have symptom(s) of insomnia.

4. Overworked, Overweight and Over-caffeinated – night person, longest work week of all types, feel need less sleep and drink more caffeine than others.

5. Sleepless and Missin’ the Kissin’ – night owls who think they have a sleep problme or insomnia, least likely to say got a good nights sleep.

You’ve got to love those descriptive, fun titles they came up with for each category. I definitely do 🙂

I wish I could say I fit into one of those categories but I don’t. I am far from normal as a person who has BP-1 and I have sleep issues that are unique to having a major mood disorder mixed with chronic fatigue from CFS/ME and fibromyalgia.

The above descriptions have been shortened by me for the sake of this blog post, you can read the full article here: Five Clusters of Sleep Patterns.

Why do Bipolars Have Irregular Sleep Patterns?

Someone with bipolar illness may feel they fit into one of the categories above and that is great – they are probably high functioning and employed full time; kudos to them.

Others are more like me, with a severe form of bipolar that may include a lack of response to medications. In addition, medications used to treat the illness can actually trigger unwanted mood states such as insomnia leading to hypomania or depression from a suppressant effect.

Our sleep patterns are irregular (unless successfully treated and controlled) because our systems are not normal. Our mental/physical bodies are different from others. For reasons not clearly known our systems go into hyperdrive at times, at other times drop into the ‘almost dead’ zone.

And they like to stay there in those abnormal states that lead to problems with moods and daily functioning. They don’t want to be propped up with a couple cups of coffee then take on the day or chilled out with a glass of red wine in the evening then off to bed for a good nights rest.

To put it bluntly… bipolar body systems are f’d up.

F’d up and kind of mean to us. They refuse to respond to that nice sleep aid the medical researchers developed so that we will be able to control our circardian rhythms (24 hour biological clock) and live productive lives.

Or our systems overreact to that stimulant medication meant to help with the debilitating fatigue caused by a depressive episode. We feel better for a short time but then have to report to the doctor that we stayed up all night and are in hyperdrive though wanted to sleep. Mean, mean, mean.

The illness is not well understood from a biological standpoint. Why our sleep patterns are so irregular and can lead to such extreme mood states that make us ill is not clearly understood. And like any illness, all sufferers are unique to a certain extent.

I started a ‘Thriving with Bipolar Disorder‘ interview series for others to share their stories and what helps them so that others can not feel so alone and possibly find suggestions of things that may help them they haven’t tried.

A list of all interviews is here: Thriving with Bipolar Disorder Interviews.


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