By: Vicki M. Taylor
Everyone dreams right? We all have wishes of what could be or what we’d like or even whom. However, dreaming when we should be sleeping is something different. And for those of us with Bipolar Disorder, dreaming can become a minefield we maneuver in our sleeping hours.
Personally, as someone with Bipolar Disorder, I can remember most of my dreams. I’ve written them down in my journals and have even used them in plots for my fiction books. I have written pages and pages of detail about my past dreams, and can even recall them days, months, or even years later.
One dream was so vivid and my recall was so detailed that I used it for a book that later became published as Trust in the Wind. It’s a Romantic Suspense with some Women’s Fiction elements.
At first, I always thought my dreams and nightmares were related to the medication I took. Sometimes I dreamed more, other times, I couldn’t remember dreaming at all. With further research I found out differently.
Did you know that people with Bipolar Disorder tend to have more nightmares?
It’s true. Nightmares occur frequently in people with Bipolar Disorder. In The Reinterpretation of Dreams, the authors write:
Bipolar patients report bizarre dreams with death and injury themes before their shift to mania (Beauchemin and Hays, 1995). Beauchemin and Hays (1996) found that dreams of bipolar depressed patients have more anxiety than those of unipolar patients. Dreams of bipolar patients, particularly those with rapid cycling, may show evidence of the subsequent shift prior to noticeable affective and behavioral changes (Frayn, 1991).
Having Nightmares is one thing, but that’s not the end of it. Those of us with Bipolar Disorder also tend to have more Night Terrors. I can attest to this as I have them on a semi-regular basis. Mine are mostly silent and I don’t usually remember them once I wake up. I only know I’ve had them if they awaken my husband during the night and he tells me about the episode the next day.
According to some studies, Night Terrors are rare in adults, yet Papolos and Papolos cited a 1999 study by Dr. Maurice Ohayon (1) that found that bipolar disorders and depression with anxiety were the most common factors associated with adults who reported night terrors.
In these episodes, people are known to appear to awaken, recognize no one, and exhibit symptoms of extreme fear, even screaming, thrashing around or running from the bedroom.
Ohayon went on to say that “Arousal parasomnias (night terrors, sleepwalking, and confusional arousals) have seldom been investigated in the adult general population. Clinical studies of Parasomnias, however, show that these disorders may be indicators of underlying mental disorders and may have serious consequences.”
Like I said earlier, my Night Terrors are nothing like that. I have repetitive motions, crying, and some thrashing on a more moderate level. That is what usually awakened my husband. At first, he was very alarmed by them, but as we investigated and became more informed, we take them as normal routine now, and he doesn’t stay up all night watching me to see if I’m going to hurt myself.
“Night Terrors and such conditions as sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome, bruxism (teeth grinding) make up a group of arousal disorders called parasomnias. Night Terrors do not occur during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and are not dreams, although they have nightmarish elements. They occur instead either during deep sleep or in a transitional state between deep and dreaming sleep and are a form of Confusional Arousal Disorder.” – About.com (2) http://bipolar.about.com/od/sleepissues/a/040729_dreams_2.htm
The Southern States Paranormal Research Society has more to say regarding Paranormal Parasomnia, and you can read about it here:
If anyone has personal experience with Nightmares and/or Night Terrors, I’d love to hear back from you and read your story.
J Clin Psychiatry. 1999 Apr;60(4):268-76; quiz 277.
Night terrors, sleepwalking, and confusional arousals in the general population: their frequency and relationship to other sleep and mental disorders.
Ohayon MM, Guilleminault C, Priest RG.
(2) About.com – Bipolar
Does Bipolar Disorder Affect Dreams?
Nightmares and Night Terrors in Bipolar Disorder
Vivid Dreams, Nightmares, Night Terrors and Bipolar
Mood Disorders and Sleep
Important Side Note: I felt that I would be remiss in my imparting of information about Bipolar Disorder and Sleep Disorders, if I didn’t include the following text. I’ve cited the title, author, link, and complete article. I hope that it can save at least one life.
Preventing Suicide Among Those with Sleep Disorders
By Brandon Peters, M.D. http://sleepdisorders.about.com/cs/dreaming/a/terrorbasics.htm
Research has shown that people with sleep disorders, especially insomnia, are at higher risk of dying from suicide. Moreover, symptoms of sleep disorders often overlap those of depression. In order to save lives, it is important to recognize the warning signs of suicide and what to do.
Consider these warning signs of suicide:
• Talking about wanting to die
• Looking for a way to kill oneself
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Withdrawing or feeling isolated
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Displaying extreme mood swings
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk of suicide. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.
If you recognize these warning signs in someone you know, you must act to save their life. Start by immediately taking these steps:
• Do not leave the person alone
• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
• Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
• Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional
By knowing the warning signs of suicide and acting on your concerns, you may save the life of someone who needs your help. If needed, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources.