Poor Sleep Is Associated With Worsening Symptoms For Women With Bipolar Disorder

A new study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, has determined that poor sleep is associated with negative mood in women with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a psychological disorder that causes erratic shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, and may lead to poor decision making that results in financial, relationship, or career distress.

The researchers of the study analyzed data from 216 participants in the longitudinal study. They categorized the effect of sleep quality at the beginning of the study on mood outcome over the next two years. Mood outcome was measured on a scale by the severity, frequency, and emotional lability of depressive or manic symptoms. For women, poor sleep quality, as described by the study, predicted increased severity and frequency of depression, and increased severity and unstable episodes of mania. While poor sleep can result in a lower mood for anyone, people who have bipolar disorder are especially affected, according to Erika Saunders from department of psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine.

“Patients with bipolar disorder often suffer with sleep problems even when many of their other symptoms are well-controlled. We know from studies of the general population that women have a different type of sleep architecture than men, and they’re at different risks for sleep disorders, particularly during the reproductive years. We feel it’s extremely important for clinicians and patients to recognize that sleep quality is an important factor that needs to be treated in patients with bipolar disorder, particularly in women.”

Studies on quality of sleep and the impact of poor sleep have been frequently studied, and outcomes of poor sleep have included earlier death, more frequent accidents, increased use of stimulants, and even obesity. Now, researchers have determined that sleep plays a major role in the limbic system, or the area of the brain that is associated with emotions. For people with bipolar disorder, a very consistent sleep/wake schedule is of even more importance, because their brain chemistry is reliant on the restorative properties of sleep as well as therapeutic levels of medication and other forms of therapy.

Lack of sleep has been associated with psychosis, or hearing and/or seeing things that are not present, which is a risk factor for self-harm, violence, suicide, and even homicide. In today’s busy society, quality sleep may be hard to come by, but most sleep experts agree it is a priority. Good sleep hygiene includes going to bed and waking at roughly the same time every day, no use of electronics, a dark and quiet area, and pre-bedtime rituals that can calm, such as a warm bath, reading a light book, or a cup of decaffeinated tea.

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