Living in recovery with bipolar disorder isn’t a matter of mastering one skill. There is no single activity a person can do to be well. Rather, in order to keep the symptoms of bipolar disorder from taking over our lives, we have to learn to master multiple skills.
Most people are aware that medication and coping skills help alleviate the symptoms brought on by bipolar disorder. And many are even aware that diet and exercise play important roles in our ability to minimize the highs and lows. Yet most people are still unaware that sleep, too, is crucial in helping us manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Why don’t people with bipolar pay attention to their sleep?
Before we get into how vital sleep is in the management of bipolar disorder, let’s first discuss our lack of respect for sleeping. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. Assuming that you know two other people besides yourself, one of you isn’t getting the amount of sleep you need for your body to function properly.
Whether you’re managing a health issue or not, far too many Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. For reasons unknown, sleep is seen as laziness or a hobby. If we need extra time in a day, we tend to take that time from our sleep schedule, often with unintended consequences. And this is just the average person who isn’t also suffering the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
In short, the answer to why people with bipolar disorder don’t respect sleep is because most people don’t respect sleep. People living with bipolar have many of the same misconceptions as everyone else.
How sleep plays a role in the proper management of bipolar disorder
The importance of sleep — for everyone — has long been understood by the medical community. But certain situations make the need for sleep all the more important. If you’re fighting off an infection, for example, or if you recently had surgery, then sleeping is vital to getting healthy faster.
If you’re living with bipolar disorder, the same principle applies. Getting the proper amount of sleep and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can keep you from slipping into depression or mania. It also contributes to the rest of your overall health goals, like being alert and maintaining proper cognitive functioning.
Finally, consider tracking your sleep to help in heading off potential issues. If you notice that you’re sleeping more or less than usual, you may have come across an indicator of potential bipolar symptoms. Reporting sleep irregularities to your doctor before full-blown symptoms appear could reduce them — or even prevent them altogether.
And who among us living with bipolar disorder doesn’t want to prevent those symptoms from ruining our day — or worse?
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer, activist, and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Gabe runs an online Facebook community, The Positive Depression/Bipolar Happy Place, and invites you to join. Learn how Gabe is creating significant change for everyone affected by bipolar disorder. Find out more about Gabe on his website, GabeHoward.com.