Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition affecting mood, where a person may alternate between periods of elation and depression. It is common for people with bipolar to experience sleep disturbances, which may result in excessive sleepiness.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can cause extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.

Different types of bipolar disorder vary in severity and symptom duration. Additionally, problems with sleep are a common symptom of the condition and may lead a person to experience excessive sleepiness, which is also known as hypersomnia.

This article will discuss the relationship between bipolar disorder and sleep, including how a person can improve their sleep.

A person with bipolar disorder sleeping with a pillow on their head, representing oversleeping.Share on Pinterest
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The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines bipolar disorder as a psychiatric condition that causes extreme shifts in a person’s mood and energy.

Someone living with bipolar disorder experiences mood episodes. These refer to periods of high moods, known as mania, and depressive states of feeling low.

There are three main types of bipolar disorder:

  • Type 1: This is when a person experiences one or more episodes of mania. They may or may not experience episodes of depression, but it is not necessary for a diagnosis.
  • Type 2: This type involves episodes of both depression and hypomania, a milder and shorter form of mania.
  • Cyclothymia: This condition involves less intense changes in mood. A person may experience periods of mild depressive symptoms and then periods of mild mania.

Learn more about the different types of bipolar disorder.

A 2022 study notes that sleep disturbance is a common symptom of bipolar disorder. Additionally, a 2019 review states that sleep disturbances are often a good predictor of mood swings in people with bipolar disorder.

According to Bipolar UK, there are several ways in which bipolar disorder may affect sleep. These include:

  • Insomnia: This refers to difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Hypersomnia: This describes when a person experiences excessive sleepiness during the day.
  • Irregular sleep-wake schedule: This is where someone with bipolar disorder lacks a sleep routine and experiences an irregular sleep cycle.

A person with bipolar disorder may also experience sleep abnormalities that are not necessarily disorders. For example, they may feel a decreased need for sleep during manic episodes and require more sleep during depressive episodes.

Hypersomnia is a sleep disorder where a person feels excessively sleepy during the day and may have prolonged periods of nighttime sleep.

It differs from tiredness due to a lack of or interrupted sleep and may cause them to nap at inappropriate times during the day, such as at school or work.

Learn more about sleep deprivation.

Research notes that hypersomnia is highly prevalent in bipolar disorder, with occurrence rates ranging from 38% to 78%.

Sleep disturbances can persist across all phases of the condition and may also worsen bipolar symptoms. However, a person with bipolar is more likely to experience hypersomnia during a depressive episode.

Health experts may divide hypersomnia into two distinct types: primary and secondary hypersomnia.

Primary hypersomnia is when no other medical condition is present, and excessive daytime sleepiness is the only symptom. Secondary hypersomnia results from an underlying medical condition causing fatigue or insufficient sleep.

Learn about the differences between hypersomnia and narcolepsy.

Some evidence suggests that multiple biological factors could contribute to the relationship between bipolar disorder and hypersomnia. For example, a 2021 literature review notes that a potential link between bipolar and a disruption of circadian rhythm could explain the changes in sleep.

While evidence notes that secondary hypersomnia may arise with bipolar disorder, researchers do not know whether there is a directional relationship between the two conditions. More research is still necessary to understand the relationship between bipolar and sleep disturbances.

To improve sleep, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest developing good sleep habits, which health experts call good sleep hygiene. These include:

  • Setting a sleep schedule: Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning.
  • Improving the sleep environment: A person needs to ensure the bedroom is quiet, dark, and comfortable. They should also only use their bedroom to sleep.
  • Staying off devices: People need to remove electronics such as TVs and computers from their bedrooms.
  • Watching food and drink intake: Avoid heavy or large meals, caffeine, and alcohol too close to bedtime.
  • Exercising regularly: Exercising during the day may help a person fall asleep more easily.

Click here to learn more about sleep hygiene.

A diagnosis of hypersomnia will involve a doctor reviewing a person’s medical history and symptoms. To help diagnose and rule out other sleep disorders, a healthcare professional may also request tests that monitor and measure sleep.

Tests may include:

  • Sleep Log: Also known as a sleep diary, this refers to a detailed record of a person’s sleep patterns over two weeks.
  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS): This questionnaire asks a person to rate how likely they are to fall asleep during common daytime situations, such as watching television. Scores can range from 0 to 24, and higher overall scores indicate a higher level of excessive sleepiness.
  • Polysomnography (PSG): Also known as a sleep study, this test uses electrodes and devices to measure an array of bodily functions while a person is sleeping. This can help rule out several sleep disorders that could also be responsible for a person’s sleepiness.
  • Actigraphy: This is a watch-like device that a person wears on their nondominant wrist. It records movements to measure their sleep-wake cycle. A doctor may use this to confirm the information within a sleep log.

Sometimes, a doctor may also request laboratory tests to help diagnose hypersomnia. For example, they may recommend a blood or urine test to check for nutrient and hormonal deficiencies or substance use that may be causing sleepiness.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, possible treatments for hypersomnia can include:

It may also be advisable for individuals to make certain lifestyle choices, such as avoiding night work or activities that may delay bedtime and altering dietary patterns to avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Treatment plans for bipolar disorder typically involve a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

A person can consider contacting a healthcare professional if they feel excessive sleepiness during the day is beginning to negatively affect their daily functioning.

Similarly, if someone with bipolar disorder notices severe changes to their mood or if other symptoms of bipolar are starting to disrupt their daily activities, it is advisable to seek medical help.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can affect a person’s energy levels and sleeping patterns. Many people with bipolar disorder may experience excessive daytime sleepiness, known as hypersomnia.

Researchers are still unsure of the exact cause of hypersomnia in those with bipolar disorder.

A doctor will often prescribe medication and suggest lifestyle changes to treat this sleep disturbance.