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Insomnia

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Updated June 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Insomnia can be a huge burden in bipolar disorder
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Definition:
Insomnia is a condition in which you are unable to fall asleep, stay asleep or not have restful sleep. Chronic insomnia (occurring most nights for a month or more) is common in mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and major depression. Difficulty sleeping is one of the possible symptoms of depressive episodes, and it is possible for someone with bipolar to have a comorbid sleep disorder as well. A person with insomnia can be experiencing one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Inability to stay asleep long enough
Sleep may be of poor quality as well.

Daily functioning is often impaired by insomnia. Tiredness and inability to focus can interfere with work or school. Slowed reaction time and drowsiness can lead to accidents. Headaches and body aches are common in people who have insomnia. There is also evidence linking chronic insomnia to obesity.

While people having manic or hypomanic episodes often find they need less sleep than normal, this is not considered insomnia as long as the sleep they do get is restful. Sleep disruption or insomnia can sometimes be a trigger for mania.

Some medications used in the treatment of bipolar disorder can cause difficulty sleeping, including these antidepressants:

and others. See our Side Effects Index to check whether a medication you are taking may cause trouble in sleeping.

Pronunciation: in-SAHM-nee-uh

Examples: I have severe insomnia. It can take an hour for me to fall asleep; I wake up again and again; and then I wake up too early. I wake up completely unrefreshed by the poor quality sleep and have trouble getting through the day because of my insomnia.

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