Are Negative Moods in Bipolar and Insomnia Similar?

According to a new study led by Lisa S. Talbot of the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, people who struggle with insomnia experience negative moods that are similar to the negative moods experienced by people with bipolar when they are between their manic and depressive states, a period referred to as interepisode. Research has shown that individuals with bipolar often have sleep disturbances interepisode. Additionally, they also experience elevated or diminished affect interepisode that does not meet the clinical threshold for mania or depression. Previous studies that have examined insomnia have revealed that insomnia can lead to negative affect. But this most recent study is among the first to explore the direct effect of sleep impairment on mood in individuals with and without bipolar.

For her study, Talbot assessed the sleep quality and quantity of 49 individuals with bipolar, 34 individuals with insomnia and 52 individuals with no history of either bipolar or insomnia to serve as controls. For 7 days, the participants recorded their sleep patterns and moods upon waking and before retiring. Talbot evaluated the findings and found that the participants with interepisode bipolar and those with insomnia had more difficulty falling and staying asleep than the controls. In particular, the insomnia participants had the most significantly impaired sleep patterns, followed closely by the bipolar group.

When mood was evaluated, Talbot discovered that in line with her theories, the insomnia group and the bipolar group had more negative affect upon waking and before falling asleep than the controls. The results also revealed that positive affect, which Talbot believed would be elevated in the interepisode bipolar participants, was not. Instead, the levels of negative affect in the bipolar group were strikingly similar to those in the insomnia participants, suggesting that sleep strongly influences mood and that mood also predicts sleep problems. Talbot added, “Clinically, the findings raise the possibility that mood disturbance may be an important target for the development of novel treatments for insomnia.”

Talbot, L. S., Stone, S., Gruber, J., Hairston, I. S., Eidelman, P., Harvey, A. G. (2012). A test of the bidirectional association between sleep and mood in bipolar disorder and insomnia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121.1, 39-50.

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  • BeBe


    April 24th, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    Kind of strange how much the negative attributes of insomnisa so closely reflect that of bipolar disorder. Maybe upon these findings the sleep patterns of the patients have been diagnosed as bipolar will be studied a little more, thereby offering help to them that their providers may not have thought of before now.

  • brinn


    April 24th, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    I think that I speak for a lot of bipolar patients who would be more than a little dismayed to read that their symptoms and behaviors are some of the same things being experienced by insomniacs.

    I agree that lack of sleep can be a problem for many who suffer from that. But bipolar patients have a far more difficult time than just finding a wya to get a good night’s sleep.

    I know that readers here would not draw this kind of conclusion, but others in the general public could, and I just think that it is important not to demean the severity that suffering with bipolar and mood disorder can cause you to face.

  • Jack J

    Jack J

    April 24th, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    @ Brinn, I don’t think that there is a definitive comparison being made here, just an acknowledgement that there are some similarities.
    If there is anyone who thinks that the two are that comparable, then that shows that they need to be a little better educated.
    Not saying that they wouldn’t still think it, but that would just be someone whose word you would have to take with a grain of salt.

  • W.Donald


    April 25th, 2012 at 12:07 AM

    Sleep quality and quantity is just so important. This holds good for those with a disorder and those without too. Sleep is a basic necessity no doubt. Coming to the similarity found- I just think bipolar disorder just leads to mild symptoms of insomnia. There has to be a link. And hopefully this link will help in developing better aids for such people.

  • anastasia


    April 26th, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    I suffer from horrible insomnia, and let me tell you I can get in some bad moods! You never think about how bad lack of sleep can be until you experience it night after night. I am actually thinking of trying hypnosis to try to get to the root of my problem, because it has become something that Ambien can’t touch.

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