Fatigue and Depression or Bipolar

Fatigue is a common symptom in people with recurrent depression or bipolar. And in fact a common symptom in the general population. It is estimated that up to 10% of otherwise healthy people suffer from fatigue. And it is a more common symptom in women than in men. Sometimes fatigue may persist well beyond other symptoms of depression. First, it …

Natural Supplements and Insomnia

  There are two herbs or supplements that have the best data supporting their effectiveness. Both appear to be safe but have modest effectiveness. Melatonin Valerian (Alone or Combined with Hops or Melissa) Melatonin: Rapid Effect on Sleep The body uses melatonin as part of the way it regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Levels of melatonin increase as light decreases (at …

Sleep and the Lunar Cycle

One of our readers wondered if bipolar people are more sensitive to lunar cycles. I could not find any evidence for that, but I did run across a recent research report suggesting that everyone (bipolar or not) may have a sleep cycle that corresponds to the phase of the moon. Researchers at the University of Basel studied 33 people and …

Internet Therapies Generate Interest

There is increasing interest in “apps” that can support mental health (one of our most enthusiastic readers recently posted a query on this topic on the forum). Apps are rarely intended to deliver “therapy” – they are usually not written by mental health professionals (although mental health professionals may be consulted along the way). Their goal is to be appealing …

Using a Therapy Light

Christmas vacation is ending, It has been wonderful to spend some relaxing time with family, getting up later in the day, lounging around and playing games, reading, or watching TV… and eating too much good food. Now the challenge is getting back to a more productive schedule. For many of us, our bodies are in a “hibernating” mode that makes …

Sleep Therapy and Depression

What would you do if you could double the effectiveness of your antidepressants? Let’s say that this new treatment also had no known side effects, and was completely safe. That is what four studies have suggested could happen if people who were started on antidepressants received cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi). However, this treatment is not widely available. We …

“Normal” Sleep

One of the justifiable criticisms of psychiatry is that it has a tendency to define a relatively narrow range of behavior as normal. We often tell the psychiatry residents to watch out for this tendency, and try to avoid it. Certainly sleep medicine is at least as prone to this tendency as psychiatry, as we are reminded by a fascinating …

Treatment for Insomnia when Bipolar

Many people with bipolar disorder also experience symptoms of insomnia and sleep disturbance.  Researchers have been investigating treatments for this condition that do not involve medications. After numerous clinical trials, there has been significant success with CBT-I treatment. CBT-I is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and it involves sleep restriction and stimulus control. The purpose of the first treatment is …

SHUTi: Work towards a better night’s sleep

Having trouble sleeping? We think the website SHUTi may be helpful to you. Sleep is a crucial component for the happiness and well being of an individual. An appropriate amount of sleep can lower anxiety levels, help prevent overeating, and improve memory. On the moodsurfing website, Dr. Forster plans to recommend SHUTi as a resource to individuals struggling with insomnia. …

Sleep Strategies

One of the most frequent causes of insomnia is anxiety. Insomnia of this kind is caused by increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system at night. The body releases norepinephrine (the flight or fight hormone) at night when that system should be inactive. You wake up and you feel “wide awake.” A current patient of Dr. Forster’s is having difficulty sleeping …

Sleep and Memory

An interesting story published in the New York Times suggests that the reason we are less able to remember things as we get older is that we sleep less well. The article is based on a report posted online on Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The report suggests that as the brain ages, changes take place that interfere with sleep quality, which …

Bay Area Blues

If you live in the bay area you probably noticed that this past week you felt a little less energetic. It was the first cold and rainy week of the season, and the days have been getting noticeably shorter (maybe you used to wake up after dawn and now it is dark). We are naturally seasonal animals trying to live in …

Insomnia: Counting Sheep

Maybe Grandma was right. After all of the years of research and development trying to find medications to help with insomnia, we ran across a recently published paper which suggested that a single session devoted to teaching people with chronic insomnia to focus their attention on some idea, image, song, memory, that was not associated with strong emotions (especially negative …