Behavioral treatment of insomnia in bipolar disorder

Am J Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;170(7):716-20. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12050708.


Sleep disturbance is common in bipolar disorder. Stimulus control and sleep restriction are powerful, clinically useful behavioral interventions for insomnia, typically delivered as part of cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Both involve short-term sleep deprivation. The potential for manic or hypomanic symptoms to emerge after sleep deprivation in bipolar disorder raises questions about the appropriateness of these methods for treating insomnia. In a series of patients with bipolar disorder who underwent behavioral treatment for insomnia, the authors found that regularizing bedtimes and rise times was often sufficient to bring about improvements in sleep. Two patients in a total group of 15 patients reported mild increases in hypomanic symptoms the week following instruction on stimulus control. Total sleep time did not change for these individuals. Two of five patients who underwent sleep restriction reported mild hypomania that was unrelated to weekly sleep duration. Sleep restriction and stimulus control appear to be safe and efficacious procedures for treating insomnia in patients with bipolar disorder. Practitioners should encourage regularity in bedtimes and rise times as a first step in treatment, and carefully monitor changes in mood and daytime sleepiness throughout the intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Behavior Therapy* / methods
  • Bipolar Disorder / complications*
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*