How Does Not Sleeping Exhasperate A Manic Episode?

Question

Asked by Chrispy

How Does Not Sleeping Exhasperate A Manic Episode?

The title says it all. How does a lack of sleep make mania more extreme? It seems like the less sleep you get, the more tired a person would be. Is it possible to be manic and NOT have extreme trouble sleeping. Like, can a person who's true manic still get like 6 or 7 hours of sleep and still be considered manic or does that HAVE to go along with it?

Answer

Hi, Chrispy. The experts aren't exactly sure how it happens, but they figure it pretty much goes like this:

Our sleep and other circadian rhythms are regulated by a "master clock." In turn, the master clock takes cues from whatever else is going on with us, and then feeds back, making various adjustments and readjustments. There is room for some give and take, as the brain has a way of resetting to normal.

But our "watchworks" are very delicate, and not sleeping is the equivalent of whacking the clock with a mallet. The master clock is thrown off, which throws off everything else, including our moods.

You would think - like you said - that lack of sleep would make us tired and slow us down. And it does if we pay attention to when we first feel ourselves getting tired. But often, people with bipolar will get a good idea and then stay up all night working on it. Or we get impulsive and decide to skip our sleep.

Then the brain revs into higher gear. It gets all cranked up. This sets the scene for mania. A "normal" person's brain can reset to normal. A bipolar's brain very quickly goes past the point of no return.

This is why regulating sleep and sticking to routines is so important. Literally, manage your sleep and you vastly improve your chances of managing your illness.

All my own manias - I finally figured out - came from lack of sleep. I got on a roll and went out of control.

It is still possible to be manic while getting 6 or 7 hours of sleep. In all likelihood, this kind of sleep would be a disturbed sleep, possibly equating to only an hour or two of quality sleep (which may explain your other question about dreaming vividly). If your dreams are excessively vivid, you are likely to be waking up worn out rather than rested.

It's very encouraging that you have recognized the problem at your age. You are obviously very smart and will figure out what works best for you. There are no easy answers. But a first step would be to figure out ways to slow down your life a bit to give your brain a chance to reset to normal. This may mean dropping a school activity or two or limiting the time you hang out with your friends.

You may also want to ask your doctor about a sleep aid to improve the quality of your sleep.

Hope this helps -

Answered by John McManamy