9 Small Changes to Help Resolve Sleep Problems from Bipolar Disorder

Last Updated: 11 Nov 2020
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While getting enough sleep may seem overwhelming, there are some small aspects of your sleep environment that can make a big difference.

small changes sleep solutions


I’ve learned the secret to peaceful sleep: no sugar, junk food, or caffeine; no stimulation at least three hours before bed; no relationship issues; a calm home environment; no work problems; no time changes; and no medication side effects.

HAHA! Yeah, right! As though a person with bipolar can do all of this at once. We are lucky if we get to two of these things, right?

I am still going to try. I don’t sleep well due to my bipolar disorder, and you may be the same. If so, please know that small changes can make a big difference, and even if we only do a few things on the list above, we can improve our sleep.

Caffeine

If you can’t sleep, stopping caffeine after 2 p.m. is a good start. If you still can’t sleep, stopping all caffeine is a choice you can make.

Bedroom Changes

A cooler room with a sound level you like is essential. If this means sleeping in separate rooms from a partner or moving to a quieter place, this can make a big difference.

How is your sleeping situation right now? The bed? The person who is next to you? The sounds? The lighting? Do you have a TV in your room that you watch before bed? Are you using your phone in bed?  (I do it, too!)

We know that the blue light from these devices can be stimulating for us. We know that sounds can keep us awake. We know that being in the bed with someone who snores and disrupts sleep can affect our own sleep.

My Sleep Struggles & Solutions

I struggle to sleep every night. I am usually tired, but I can’t sleep without help. I’ve lived with this for ten years. I want to sleep, so I watch my caffeine, and my bedroom is a sleep fortress with the following:

  1. Noise machine
  2. Sleep podcast in my ears. I like the Sleep with Me Podcast.
  3. Humidifier.
  4. Fan if it is too hot.
  5. No light.
  6. Comfortable bed.
  7. Cool room.
  8. I sleep alone.
  9. Sleep medications

How is your sleep? It is the #1 free way to manage bipolar disorder. Even a small change can make a difference for a more peaceful sleep.

If you truly can’t sleep, please talk to a healthcare professional. Sleep is essential for us.

Julie


Originally posted March 8, 2018.

Learn more about bipolar and sleep:
The Best Question to Ask Someone about Their Bipolar Disorder—How Is Your Sleep?
Bipolar & Sleep: Problems and Solutions

About the author
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get It Done When You’re Depressed, and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. She is a columnist and blogger for bp Magazine, and she won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lilly Reintegration Achievement Award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for ShareCare, a site created by Dr. Oz and Oprah. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals, including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists, and general practitioners, on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis, and Depression." You can find more about her work at JulieFast.com and BipolarHappens.com.
10 Comments
  1. I can’t believe you didn’t mention one of the biggest things you could do to get a good night’s sleep: exercise (although not right before bed). When I was really struggling with sleep, I tried Benadryl, melatonin, sleeping pills etc. to no avail. After all that, my doctor didn’t want to push another med on me and suggested that I start exercising regularly. I began doing that by walking 5 days a week and now cycling and my sleep has more or less stabilized. Definitely start adding activity into your life if you want to sleep well.

  2. One other comment, last year I was tested for sleep apnea. I currently have a CPAP machine. While I still wake up several times per night, the number of times I stop breathing has decreased greatly. Years ago, I learned that listening to certain types of music, usually classical and instrumental, as I’m going to bed also helps. CPAP machines are not for everyone, but for me it helps.

  3. I sleep like a Rock because of nightly 600 mg Seroquel, 45 mg Mirtazapine and Klonopin. I don’t feel fully awake until around 10 AM (probably the “Seroquel Hangover”). Then it’s the Wellbutrin that energizes me. I do all the Recommended Stuff-Regular Bedtime, Exercise, Meditation, Gratitude Journal, etc. but it’s the Chemicals that are a Necessity! With me, it is CRYSTAL CLEAR that Bipolar is a Brain Disorder. I’m tired of being called “Crazy.” So many People are so ignorant but I digress…

  4. Hello,
    Great tips. I too use a super loud noise machine and that helps. However, the only thing that helps me sleep is Seroquel 50mg. I would love to get off of it but if I skip it- Ive actually tested it and I can stay up for 2 days and then I finally cave and take one. Anyone else the same? Or found a better solution?

    1. Yeah, my pdoc just doubled my dosage of Seroquel, so now I’m up to 50 mg, too. I also take 9 mg of melatonin and something else that helps make me drowsy. Risperadol is what does it, I think. It’s not intended as a sleep agent, but it contributes to your drowsiness anyway. I’d been on a 25 mg dose of Seroquel and the other meds I mention for some years and had no trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for about 9-1/2 hours. I’m fine with sleeping that long.

      There are some nights where it’d take another hour or so to fall asleep, or I’d wake up an hour early. It started happening regularly, so I started keeping track so I could talk to my pdoc about the frequency. After I started having this trouble once a week, I hit a point where I took the meds and slept only 6 hours. The next night I slept about the same, it was split up: I fell asleep for three hours, then I was awake for a couple hours, and then back to sleep for another 3 hours (so six total).

      Strangely enough, on these days I didn’t feel my mood any higher than typical. Normally even one day where I sleep six hours or less is enough to give me a slight hypomanic edge the next day. I won’t do anything too extreme, but I can tell my mood is higher than normal.

      6 hours of sleep isn’t enough, so as I say, she doubled the dose of my seroquel. That’s worked so far. It’s been about a week. I could tell I’d taken a little more medication during the day for the first three days or so. Maybe I got used to it after that, or it doesn’t bother me as much, but this is working for now.

      I take this combination at 8:30 pm, and usually I’m tired enough to sleep at 9:30 or so. Sometimes I turn out the light a little early to see if I can sleep any earlier. I sleep on the couch with my cat up against me for the first several hours, then I get up and go to bed. He doesn’t sleep with me in the bed, and I like falling asleep with him, so that’s why I do it that way.

      My dad will watch TV and fall asleep in his chair. He finds that by the time he goes upstairs to bed he may be awake for a while. I’m watching to see if I run into the same problem, but so far this way of going to sleep is working for me.

      If I forget to take my meds, I may go for hours and not realize it. I’ll just think I’m unusually alert that night. I don’t know how long I would stay up if I didn’t take anything. That’s not something I think it’s a good idea to find out, actually.

  5. For the last three months I sleep for 45mins and wake every45_60mins all night every night.Still box did nothing,serequal did nothing,now 40mg of temazepam does nothing.I’m having frequent nightmares also and wake in a panick attack.I’m suicidal because of this.I can’t take much more.My psychiatrist swore I would sleep with40mg of temazapam.I’m on no bi polar meds,tried everything to no avail,I refuse antipsychotics because of the weight gain and make so dry and zombified.I’m at the end of my tether.I walk briskly 45mins a day,meditation,cbd oil.There is no hope.

    1. So, you would rather commit suicide than gain a few pounds? Seriously?
      I take just 250 mg. of depakote, which is a very low dosage, and I’ve gained no weight and have had minimal hair loss since I started it six years ago. I’m a 61 year old man, so some of that is expected anyway.
      It has stopped my mania completely and has helped with irritability.
      I smoke pot and sometimes eat edibles just before bed and that works better for me than any sleep meds, however, for some people pot makes them paranoid and isn’t a good choice.

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