Melatonin to Treat Bipolar Sleep Problems?

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Melatonin to treat bipolar sleep problems? Those who are Manic Depressive – now called Bipolar 1 Disorder – have scewed-up sleeping patterns. They may have a great day, enjoy their evening with family or close friends and get to bed at a decent hour… then fall fast asleep only to awaken 10 hours later exhausted and wondering why.

Melatonin to Treat Bipolar Sleep Problems?

Or they feel very down. They had a hard time getting through their 9-5 full time job and are agitated and restless. They cannot get to sleep even after making themselves eat a full, three-course meal at dinner time with a glass of wine to help them relax. Then a chill movie – nothing overly-stimulating and off to bed afterwards.

This is this bipolar warrior’s normal routine to get to sleep during a stressful time in their lives. They have lived with BP-1 for more than 5 years and know how important it is to stick to a bedtime routine, especially when they are preoccupied with other things and not thinking about the illness.

But it doesn’t work. They lay in bed for hours with their mind alert and thoughts racing, no shut-eye to speak of until 2 a.m. or so then awaken at 6 a.m. They feel understandably tired and have an off day at work. It sucks but is a key symptom of the illness.

Previous post: Bipolars Have Irregular Sleep Patterns.

Take Melatonin to Help Sleep Problems Associated with Bipolar Disorder?

Crappy sleep and irregluar sleeping patterns are a hallmark of this illness. The why of it isn’t important, only the understanding that not getting enough sleep or quality sleep can lead to illness episodes.

For a normal person not living with a serious mental illness who doesn’t get a good nights rest – or stays up all night for whatever reason – no big deal. For someone who is Manic Depressive – huge issue.

It can lead to hypomania that then may spiral out of control and progress into actual mania. There is always with BP-1 the possibility of needing to be hospitalized.

How Can Melatonin Help?

I’ve taken the over the counter natural sleep aid melatonin for years. Off and on, when needed and usually 3 mg. You can buy 1 mg tablets to try at first. For some it makes them wake up groggy and they do not like taking it.

But the reality is it sure does beat having to take any psychotropic medication for sleep – or an addicting sleep med such as the benzodiazepine valium. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive drugs with serious withdrawl symptoms if you try to stop taking them. There is a reason we have ‘benzodiazapine recovery’ programs.

Previous post: Are Your Psych Meds Making You Sick?

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycles. It is made by the pineal gland in your brain. Start with 1 mg then increase the dosage slowly. You’ll find the amount that is right for you, and know when you need to take it; whether that be nightly or on occassion. It is also an excellent way to combat jet lag when traveling.

I’ve needed more rest lately (more chronic fatigue related than bipolar related) so have been diligent about taking a 3 mg tablet at night, usually after a couple glasses of wine. I may still take some time to fall asleep, but when I do it is usually deep sleep and I wake up feeling rested.

That is the goal: to get quality sleep that helps you, your body, soul and mind rejuvenate and recharge. Ready to take on the day.

The cute tent sleeping icon is by The Girl Tyler at IconArchive.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Bipolar glasses? Are they the ones they give you when you go to see a 3D movie? No? You say they are designed to help people with bipolar disorder sleep better and help them control their moods. Awesome!! Tell me more.
    The idea that wearing glasses could help people with bipolar disorder seems kind of weird, but clinical trials have shown they really work. The idea grew out of a study done many years ago. A doctor discovered that patients with rapid cycling bipolar disorder could be stabilized by having them stay in a dark bedroom from 6PM until 8AM every night. Rapid cycling bipolar patients change from depressed to manic and back to depressed in a matter of hours or days, not weeks. This treatment came to be known as “dark therapy”. Sounds spooky.
    Meanwhile, other scientists discovered (2001) new sensors in the retina of the eye that did not produce vision but rather controlled the internal or circadian clock. They are different from the rods and cones that produce vision. Every cell in the body contains a clock. It’s actually a tiny part of the DNA in each cell. All the individual clocks are synchronized with the master clock, located in the hypothalamus at the base of the brain. In the early evening the master clock sends a signal to the pineal gland to start making melatonin. The concentration in the blood increases for about six hours and then drops to near zero about wakeup time. The arrival of melatonin lets the whole body know it’s nighttime. Time to rest and rebuild.
    The master clock is reset by exposing the eyes to light in the morning. This keeps the master clock synchronized with the rotation of the earth. The newly discovered sensors are most sensitive to blue light. If the eyes are exposed to the blue rays in ordinary white light in the evening, it stops the master clock from sending the signal to the pineal gland to start making melatonin. This lack of melatonin (it’s called the sleep hormone) makes it hard to fall and stay asleep. The nerves from these newly discovered sensors not only go to the master clock but also to several centers in the brain that control alertness. This means the blue light exposure in the evening tells the brain it’s still daytime, time to be alert.
    I had done research for GE Lighting for 42 years when I retired in 1996 and moved to John Carroll University where we formed the Lighting Innovations Institute. We began studying the effect of light on health. We learned how light exposure was having a bad effect on sleep and health by stopping the body from making melatonin.
    In 2005 our small group of physicists realized that by blocking the blue rays from entering the eye, the body could be fooled into thinking it is in darkness. We developed orange glasses that block blue light. They don’t block the other colors. This meant a person could carry on normal evening activities but still start making melatonin. By bedtime there is plenty of melatonin in the blood so sleep comes quickly and deeply. One wakes up in the morning without the need of an alarm clock. We also developed light bulbs that don’t make blue light and filters for the screens of computers and smart phones.
    We opened a website http://www.lowbluelights.com where these products are available. Thousands of people are sleeping better by using our products. We guarantee “money back” if they don’t improve sleep. They help more than 90%.
    Dr. Jim Phelps is a psychiatrist working with patients experiencing rapid cycling bipolar disorder. He tried the dark therapy but found patients were not willing to endure all that time in darkness. When he learned about out glasses in 2006 he tried them and found they worked just like prolonged darkness, but patients could carry on evening activities as usual. He has been recommending orange glasses ever since. He has an excellent website http://www.psycheducation.org.
    In 2016 Dr. Henriksen, a Norwegian psychiatrist, carried out studies in which patients hospitalized for bipolar mania were either given (at random) our orange glasses or placebo clear-lens glasses along with treatment as usual. The patients were to wear the glasses and/or sleep in darkness for 14 hours each night, i.e. dark therapy. All of the patients receiving orange glasses showed marked improvement in three days and were well after seven days. None of the clear-lens patients showed much improvement after seven days. Although a small study, it was done at three different hospitals over a couple of years. For the glasses to work so quickly and with such clear-cut results is unusual for most treatments according to Dr. Henriksen.
    Over the years we have received letters thanking us for our glasses that have helped bipolar patients avoid becoming manic, especially as the days are getting longer. Improving sleep is great for everyone, not just people with bipolar disorder. Maximizing melatonin has many other health benefits as well. I’ve written five books (see Amazon or our website) describing the benefits. My most recent is “Bipolar Disorder(s): How controlling light may improve sleep and reduce the risk for episodes of depression or mania”.
    Wearing orange glasses does seem a little weird, but one can just pretend you are a Hollywood celebrity!!! I would love to hear if you find our orange glasses help you sleep and in controlling your mood. rhansler@jcu.edu

    April 12, 2018
    Reply
    • Molly said:

      Hi Richard – thanks for all the info, I’ve never heard of this research so found it interesting – but of course is not an applicable treatment, who wouldn’t be severely depressed lying in the dark for 14 hours! Yikes! And I can’t imagine that being healthy in other ways, such as muscle deterioration (long time to be inactive), etc.

      I have read about sleep deprivation studies, but again, not really applicable treatment. The melatonin part – now that’s applicable and there are many studies how it can help induce sleep and help bipolar. I take melatonin supplements that give a good response and help with sleep.

      Here are 10 medical studies: 10 Medical Studies About Circadiun Rhythm and Bipolar Disorder.

      One other thought about your comment – your description of “rapid-cycling” in not really correct, constantly changing moods during the day could be due to many causes (I would think of brain damage, thyroid, sugar imbalance, trauma) but from my understanding from a psychological standpoint fits more under the condition Borderline Personality Disorder.

      More info: Borderline Personality Disorder by BPD Talks.

      Manic Depression is a cyclic illness with periods of normal functioning in-between illness states. It unfortunately has become a term everyone and anyone is using for any type of mood issues. Schizoaffective Disorder is another condition with mood ups and downs that is not bipolar.

      Just commenting – over-diagnosing is a huge problem and causes much harm.

      Best of luck with the glasses, Molly

      April 12, 2018
      Reply
  2. Rae said:

    Hi Molly — Am trying to figure out when you put this post up. Recently, I hope — in hopes you’ll see my question. I’m BP 1, with sleep rhythms out of control at the moment (not that they’ve ever been in control much). I take a small does of clonazepam nightly, use glasses with amber lenses to block blue light, have a sunrise-mimicking, sunset-micmicking lamp , use yellow bug lights in the house at night, keep the lights down. Nothing works. I still go to bed between 3 and 5 a.m. Very little sleep + mania, as we know. So Melatonin is next on my list. Question for you: how long before your target sleep hour do you take the melatonin? Thanks,
    –Rachael

    September 8, 2016
    Reply
    • Molly said:

      Hi Rachael and I wrote it last summer, but all my stuff is ‘evergreen content’ for the most part… meaning, it is factual, informative (I link to many medical sources, etc) and not time dependent. I wish I had this blog many years ago (30 or so) when first diagnosed!

      Everything is so variable – and I am NOT a very structured sleeper – you are making much effort to have that work for you, kudos, some can manage it, I could not, had to learn to just do things to moderate severe states (haven’t had a severe episode in more than 24 years) and then just live life, accept that I am a bit biologically erratic, etc. And of course to watch out for warning signs of mania, do nothing to trigger mania.

      I know you are asking about melatonin and I will stick to that but I have to say (and if you read this blog you will pick up my take on it very quickly lol) meds most often worsen the condtion long-term. And no, your physician will not tell you that. They could be sued if they did, or harassed by Big Pharma, kicked out of the golf club etc. etc. I really recommend you think seriously about possible tapering off slowly, with medical supervision.

      Ok, enough, have some posts coming up soon about those issues.

      Melatonin works really well for me (and no, in all honesty I do not know why specifically, some folks it does not help). It helps me get into a deep sleep, so that I wake up feeling like I actually slept. I take it when I’m ready to go to sleep, whenever that is (starting to get sleepy, ready to nod off). I also take my curcumin (really cheap supplement, is good for antiviral help and also – believe it or not – has been shown to increase serotonin production) – at the same time, basic info here: http://www.bipolar1survivor.com/will-turmeric-help-your-depression/.

      I used to take 1 or 1.5 mg when I took it (that was very sporadic, but understand, I’ve had a lot of years with this and our bodies and what we do to hep, etc. changes over time and changes at times) – I know religiously take 3 mg – need to buy a higher quality one that what I have too. But it works for me.

      I never wake up groggy, if I really think I am in a hyper state, I take two tablets (6 mg) which isn’t often, and usually puts me into some pretty intense sleep states with very intense dreaming.

      Thats just my experience – try it out and see how it works for you.

      I will write more – there are other things like magnesium but then there’s issues of affecting other things and I haven’t studied it much… need to cover that too 🙂

      Ok, I’m blabbing! Hope this helps and you’ve given me some great ideas for follow-up posts so thank you 🙂

      September 12, 2016
      Reply

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