A link exists between bipolar disorder and fatigue, or low energy. A person with the condition experiences shifts between episodes of feeling energized and episodes of feeling depressed. The latter involves fatigue.

Depressive episodes can include sleep difficulties, which may play a role in fatigue.

Sometimes, an individual may have features of both energized and depressed episodes simultaneously. When this happens, they may also experience fatigue.

Various lifestyle practices, such as getting exercising regularly and eating a nutritious diet, can help.

This article discusses the association between bipolar disorder and fatigue. It also examines how to manage fatigue, including engaging in practices that promote sleep, exercising, limiting caffeine, eating a nutritious diet, and avoiding some medications.

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Bipolar disorder is a psychological condition where people experience unusual shifts in energy, mood, and activity. The shifts involve changes between episodes of mania, or elevated energy, and depression. Mania involves elation, irritability, and a speeding up of activity, while depression involves sadness, sleep difficulties, and a slowing down of activity.

Fatigue is one of the symptoms of the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder. However, it may also occur when a person manifests the subtype of the condition that is mixed, which means they experience some features of both mania and depression simultaneously.

Learn more about bipolar disorder.

Various lifestyle practices can help manage or reduce the intensity of fatigue in people with bipolar disorder. This can make it possible for them to accomplish more and decrease the impact of the condition on daily life.

Some practices have a direct positive effect on energy. Other practices improve sleep quality, which can indirectly lessen fatigue. And certain practices can directly boost energy, as well as indirectly relieve fatigue through fostering better sleep.

Sleep difficulties associated with depressive episodes include:

  • inability to fall asleep quickly
  • waking up too early
  • excessive sleeping

People feel better when they sleep the optimal number of hours per night, which ranges from 7–9 hours. Tips to improve sleep include:

  • having a consistent bedtime and waking-up time
  • removing electronics from the bedroom
  • sleeping in a dark, quiet room at a comfortable temperature
  • avoiding alcohol and large meals before bedtime

Learn more about improving sleep.

Exercise directly increases energy levels. It also helps people fall asleep more quickly and sleep more soundly, which can indirectly reduce fatigue. Additionally, it promotes a positive mood, which can help counter the low moods of depressive episodes.

Experts advise getting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, which equates to 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. It is important to avoid exercising too close to bedtime. Since exercise is energizing, it can interfere with sleep.

Caffeine is a stimulant, so experts advise people with sleep difficulties to avoid it. A 2017 review notes that coffee and other sources of caffeine can:

  • reduce total sleep time
  • decrease the time necessary to fall asleep
  • worsen perceived sleep quality

Older adults may have a higher sensitivity to the harmful effects of caffeine on sleep.

An older 2013 study suggests that ingesting caffeine 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep. Consequently, the authors recommended avoiding substantial caffeine intake for a minimum of 6 hours prior to retiring for the night.

Learn more about the effects of caffeine.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises the following habits to boost energy:

  • eating every 3–4 hours to help prevent overeating during meals or unhealthy snacking between meals
  • eating balanced meals that include:
    • fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
    • whole grains
    • lean protein
    • dairy foods
  • including a small amount of healthy fat
  • choosing healthy snacks, such as:
    • carrots
    • a handful of unsalted nuts
    • an apple
    • fresh berries
  • avoiding dietary elements with added sugar that zap energy, such as:
    • sodas
    • sweetened tea and coffee
    • sweetened energy drinks

Additionally, it is best to avoid eating saturated fat or more protein than what is necessary throughout the day. These take longer to digest, which decreases energy-boosting blood flow and oxygen from the muscles.

Learn more about foods that help fatigue.

According to a 2021 review, several classes of drugs can cause fatigue, one of which is antihistamines. These are common ingredients in over-the-counter (OTC) products for allergies and colds.

A person without allergies who is looking for a product to relieve their cold symptoms may wish to ask a pharmacist to recommend one that does not contain an antihistamine. Additionally, someone with fatigue who takes an antihistamine regularly may consider limiting the use to times when it seems very necessary.

There is an association between bipolar disorder and fatigue. Low energy and sleep difficulties occur during the episodes of depression.

However, an array of lifestyle changes can help manage the fatigue. This includes practices that promote sleep, such as avoiding caffeine in the evening and removing electronics from the bedroom at night.

Getting regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet may boost energy.

Additionally, antihistamines in OTC allergy and cold medications can cause fatigue, so a person may wish to avoid these when they are unnecessary.