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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