Sleep is the Number One factor in good mental health.
Sleep. The Number One factor, above all else, for good mental health is, you guessed it, sleep. Above exercise. Above whatever else you care to name. It’s sleep.
Over the years I have accumulated some good info and resources. Let’s have a google and see what we find.
1. Sleep hygiene.
This is a perennial topic you may already be very familiar with. It is numbers of ideas about good habits for sleep. It is easy to google, and you will pick up a few ideas. Experiment with what works for you. Or just go Harvard University’s Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Sleep.
2. The Clock Hypothesis.
Body Clock is something that affects all of us. Refer The Drive to Sleep and Our Internal Clock from Harvard University. Yet it also relates to the Clock Hypothesis in Bipolar to the idea that Bipolar is a disorder of ‘Clock’, the genes that relate to body clock. What we can learn from Bipolar folks misfortune to have a sensitive clock that goes out of sync easily may also help others of us stay in sync. Some things help set the body clock more than others. The time we eat breakfast is more important than the time we eat tea. Presumeably in caveman days, it was important to wake to hunt to eat therefore it makes sense timing food with sleep would have evolutionary advantage. Read How to naturally reset your sleep cycle in one night. Maybe it’s all in our nose 🙂
Spring was a time of lengthening days and therefore rising activity / mania. Winter was a time of decreasing days and therefore reduced activity / hibernation / depression. Hence travelling east in a plane mimicks Spring causing increased risk of mania for Bipolar, or worse jetlag for ordinary folk than what travelling east does, which is less risky for mania. So, what we do that is stimulating for bed, may equally have a link to how easy we get off to sleep or not. What is stimulating?
3. Blue Light switches off melatonin production. Gadgets = Blue Light.
Blue light is stimulating. It is the colour of the sun. It is the colour that causes our pineal gland in the morning to switch off, allowing us to finish feeling drowsy and get on with the day. This is why candlelight, or a fire at night, which is yellow light is soothing to the soul. I use warm white globes in my counelling rooms because it is less anxiety producing. Shops use blue cool light fluros because they want to stimulate you.
Most of our electronic devices, which can be quite addictive we are finding more and more, run on LED blue light because it is the most efficient source of light in relation to battery power. It is possible that having a glance at your phone at night, or even some say a small pilot blue light, may switch off the pineal gland producing the melatonin leading to disruptions in sleep. Let your brain have a rest from the stimulation of your brain to the gadgets in our life which are precisely designed to engage / stimulate us. They are certainly not designed to do the opposite.
4. Orange safety glasses.
The invention of the light bulb over a century ago has resulted in the average amount of sleep for an adult decreasing by one hour. So we have more light for longer, and the colour of light is getting bluer with the use of LED energy saving bulbs. Now it is possible that the folllowing suggestion could be all placebo effect, the idea that donning orange safety glasses an hour or so before bedtime, helps sleep. Certainly placebo effects can be as high as 30%, not a bad result considering the benefits you can obtain.
But I suspect the benefits are 30%+ because for one, you are practising a degree of sleep hygiene, you are raising your awareness of sleep discipline, and you are looking after melatonin. Just to be sure, I just redid some research with a current google, here’s a current article, Apps can cut blue light from devices but do they help you sleep? Looks to be true. Thought I was still groundbreaking (or odd) but looks like the world is catching up.
One of my favourite early books on this topic was Great Sleep! Reduced Cancer!; A Scientific Approach to Great Sleep and Reduced Cancer Risk by Richard L Hansler, a Philips engineer. His blurb: “In 2001 it was discovered that it is only the blue component in ordinary white light that causes melatonin suppression. Melatonin is the hormone that promotes sleep and is a powerful cancer fighter. This book traces the story of how research with animals and humans has demonstrated the health benefits of long periods of darkness that maximize melatonin. By blocking just the blue light a condition of “virtual darkness” allows enjoyment of normal evening activities while maximizing melatonin flow. The benefits go far beyond better sleep and reducing cancer risk. They include helping to avoid postpartum depression, improving symptoms of ADHD, and helping to stabilize mood in patients with bipolar disorder.” Female nurses performing shiftwork had significantly higher rates of cancer.
He also advocates using the orange glasses to shift your body clock before you travel to reduce the extent of jet lag and protect ‘clock’.
5. Melatonin for sleep.
I recently had a client whose psychiatrist prescribed melatonin to help with sleep. We had been reviewing his sleep and sleep was an issue for some time, so he went in to talk with his psychiatrist about it. The results have been really excellent for him. He is sleeping much better and therefore, for him, he is less obsessive in the morning. Another professor who lives with bipolar, talks of taking his horse pill when he travel east to the States (mimicking spring mania) by taking a concoction of above standard dose melatonin and a variety of other things to knock himself out. You can get ‘homeopathic’ size doses of melatonin through health food shops but the 2mg stuff comes from doctors scripts. Or… you could switch off the blue light.
6. Medication for bipolar should take priority if sleep falls below a certain level.
For me, and I can’t speak for others, that’s a conversation for you with your doctor, my target guide is a minimum of 6 hours sleep. Go below that and an intervention plan goes into action to stablize sleep. It is important to protect sleep. Maybe one night may not matter, but for me, and a lot of others, it is one of the significant measure to track. It is that important.
7. Dark Therapy for Bipolar?
Something that has intrigued me from a Bipolar perspective. I haven’t done it. It’s called Dark Therapy. And from Dr Phelps, a psychiatrist, with the PsychEducation.org site we have this.
8. Re-Timer – Great Science from Flinders University, Australia on Treating early, mid and late phase insomnia.
A University in South Australia had a great pdf booklet about 100 pages long on understanding and treating early, mid and late phase insomnia’s. I can’t put my finger on it at the moment. I think they were the ones involved in developing the special glasses with blue light to address Seasonal Affective Disorder, basically not needing to have a light box anymore. I got a pair once. Here’s the link. Okay so it looks like it is there ebook, that’s what it was. It is a free download here. Great material. Wisely researched.
I don’t recieve any benefit by promoting this link.
Okay that’s it. I’m done. That’s most of it. Sweet dreams.