All year I have been trying to get my sleep cycles back onto a "regular" schedule.
I'm one of those people who, despite my anxiety, or perhaps because of it, can push through until 4am either working or just watching Netflix to calm the chatter of my mind. And because I work for myself, it hasn't impacted my working life, hence there is no natural rhythms to my day that forced me to sleep early and rise early,
But, I knew something was terribly "off". My weight had soared, my anxiety started to rear its ugly head again and I was perpetually tired, even if I got 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night.
That has all changed, thanks to a 2 week farm stay I did last month, where I was forced into a healthier sleep routine simply by virtue of the fact that dogs, cats, chickens, sheep and ducks had to be fed. And they literally all wake at dawn (thanks to the cockerel that crowed from 5am until 7am when I let them out of their hen house.
This meant I was also dropping, exhausted, into bed by 9pm and sometimes earlier, falling asleep by default. I would often be awake before my alarm went off at 6am, and I wasn't tired!
All of a sudden my weight started dropping of its own accord without much of a change in diet. My outlook improved and people have been commenting how much "brighter" I am and sound when talking to me on the phone.
This all to say, even when all the research pointed to regular, healthy sleeping patterns being key to health, and in particular mental health, I didn't actually believe it enough to change of my own accord. it took something as dramatic as working on a farm stay to change it.
Bipolar and Sleep
Despite sleep being critical for mental health, unfortunately it's also true that having a disease like Bipolar can affect your ability to get deep, long sleep.
For example, Tuck Sleep (a community-based information group that is devoted to improving sleep hygiene) have issued a health advisory on how sleep is affected by Bipolar with some great advice for overcoming the challenges.
According to Tuck, people experiencing the manic episodes of bipolar Disorder will have trouble regulating their sleep patterns, and this in turn exacerbates the symptoms of both mania and depression.
Their advice for regulating sleep if you are experiencing this vicious cycle is:
1. Try and establish and follow a regular sleeping schedule. This can be the hardest step, but merely setting an intention is a great start.
2. Try Cognitive Behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). According to Tuck, studies have shown CBT-I help those with bipolar to address poor sleeping patterns.
3. Establish a bedtime routine. If you live with family, a partner or even roommates, it can be helpful engaging them to hold you accountable to the routine. If you live alone, set phone alarms to remind you to start the process for bedtime - this all helps with #1 (establishing and following a regular sleeping schedule).
4. Avoid stimulants before bedtime. Substances such as caffeine, cocaine, alcohol or marijuana (or even simply smoking nicotine cigarettes) can all disrupt and delay sleep coming and trick your body into thinking it needs to stay up!.
5. Exercise regularly, at the right times. Sometimes exercising late at night can wake the body up, and delay sleep. However, regular gentle exercise is vital in regulating your body's circadian rhythms (which includes those signals for drowsiness in the evenings)
6. Journalling. This is the single biggest ongoing tool at your disposal for changing any habits. Record your moods, what you did that day and anything that disrupted or was out of the ordinary. This can help you regulate what stimulates and what encourages good sleeping nights.
7. Consult with your doctors. it goes without saying that your regular health professionals should always be consulted when making changes to your routine. You may even find they can help with regulating your medications to promote better sleeping habits.
Tuck has three more useful tips on regulating your sleep at their website as well as a host of additional resources - so if you found these tips useful, head on over for the rest! www.tuck.com/bipolar-disorder-and-sleep/
Welcome to my book website, Marrying Bipolar. As you made it to the blog, you may be interested in learning a little more about me. I was born and bred in Sydney since 1973 to a very tight knit and loving family. We all have our issues, though, and my life's ambition was to become the best person I could be through education, hard yakka (that's work for non-Australians reading this!) and trying to learn as much about myself and others as possible.