Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Vivid Dreams, Nightmares, and Night Terrors in Bipolar Disorder By Marcia Purse Marcia Purse Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on June 28, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Disturbed sleep is common in people who have bipolar disorder. Many experience nightmares and even night terrors, coupled with either insomnia or too much sleep, depending on whether they're experiencing a manic or depressive episode. Tero Vesalainen / Getty Images Vivid Dreams and Nightmares Nightmares are disturbing, well-remembered dreams that usually incite anxiety and fear. They typically occur later in the evening during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and cause a person to wake up abruptly. Some experts believe that nightmares in people with bipolar disorder may predict upcoming mood shifts. Nightmares in Children Children who have bipolar disorder may suffer disproportionately from nightmares. Dreams of explicit violence, gore, and death as well as dreams that signal a fear of abandonment have been reported. Of course, most children experience nightmares on occasion. Children with bipolar disorder, however, can experience these more significantly. Night Terrors Night terrors are also common in people with bipolar disorder. Unlike nightmares, night terrors do not occur during REM sleep. A night terror isn't a dream, but rather an abrupt awakening accompanied by physical symptoms like feelings of intense fear, screaming or thrashing, and elevated heart rate and blood pressure, among others. During a night terror, the person awakes in a state of terror and is typically confused and inconsolable. They may or may not recall the episode in the morning. Night terrors are rare in adults, yet many who experience them have other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. In these episodes, people may abruptly sit up in bed, sometimes screaming or thrashing around in fear. They seem confused and don't recognize anyone; some even run from the bedroom in an apparent attempt to avoid harm. Imagery Rehearsal Therapy to Treat Nightmares With PTSD Lamictal and Dream Abnormalities Lamictal (lamotrigine) is a mood stabilizer approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat bipolar disorder and certain seizure disorders. It effectively prevents the recurrence/relapse of mood episodes in both bipolar I and bipolar II. However, some people who take Lamictal can experience a variety of sleep-related side effects, including an increase in nightmares and abnormal dreams. If you think Lamictal is causing abnormal dreams, talk to your doctor. Remember that it's never a good idea to stop taking a medication cold turkey or change the dose of a medication without first consulting your healthcare provider. Coping Researchers don't fully know what causes people with bipolar disorder to experience nightmares and night terrors. What is known is that the continuation of these sleep disturbances increases the severity and frequency of symptoms during both manic and depressive episodes. Getting a good night's sleep is essential to living a manageable life with bipolar disorder. If you're struggling with sleep disturbances such as nightmares or night terrors, experts recommend you do the following: Bedtime Establish a bedtime routine. Stick to a set of habits that help prepare you for rest each night. Take a bath, read a book, or listen to some music to calm your body and help set the mood for a sound night's sleep. Creating a routine can give your mind something to focus on instead of your worries and anxiety. Avoid Sleep-Interfering Substances Avoid substances that interfere with sleep. Some substances like caffeine prevent you from sleeping, while others such as alcohol or marijuana can help you fall asleep, but can affect the quality of your sleep. Avoid all for a more restful sleep. Exercise Exercise regularly. Exercise helps maintain good health. But if it's done late at night, it can significantly interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep, especially if you're living with bipolar disorder. Exercising in the earlier part of the day, on the other hand, can help support healthy sleep. Get Medical Help Talk to your doctor. If you're concerned about the frequency of your nightmares or night terrors, schedule an appointment to see your doctor. You might also want to ask your doctor whether any of the medications you're taking (both over-the-counter and prescription) cause sleep problems as a side effect, and whether an alternative option may be more suitable. Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder A Word From Verywell Adequate sleep is essential for both mental and physical health, and research suggests that poor sleep can contribute to relapses in bipolar disorder. Therefore, if you're troubled by vivid dreams, be sure to talk to your doctor about it. Some medications may be able to help you can get a more peaceful night's sleep. 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Pancheri C, Verdolini N, Pacchiarotti I, et al. A systematic review on sleep alterations anticipating the onset of bipolar disorder. Eur Psychiatry. 2019;58:45-53. doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2019.02.003 Baroni A, Hernandez M, Grant MC, Faedda GL. Sleep disturbances in pediatric bipolar disorder: A comparison between bipolar I and bipolar NOS. Front Psychiatry. 2012;3:22. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00022 Ohayon MM, Guilleminault C, Priest RG. Night terrors, sleepwalking, and confusional arousals in the general population: Their frequency and relationship to other sleep and mental disorders. J Clin Psychiatry. 1999;60(4):268-76. doi:10.4088/jcp.v60n0413 Chang JS, Moon E, Cha B, Ha K. Adjunctive lamotrigine therapy for patients with bipolar II depression partially responsive to mood stabilizers. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2010;34(7):1322-1326. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2010.07.020 Additional Reading Ameen S, Ranjan S, Nizamie SH. The reinterpretation of dreams. Mental Health Reviews. 2002;13:2011. Bajwa WK, Divakaran S, Demotts J. Dose related psychiatric adverse effect of lamotrigine in management of bipolar disorder. J Psychiatry Psychiatric Disord. 2017;1(4):208-214. Beauchemin KM, Hays P. Prevailing mood, mood changes and dreams in bipolar disorder. J Affect Disord. 1995;35(1-2):41-49. doi:10.1016/0165-0327(95)00036-m Harvey AG, Talbot LS, Gershon A. Sleep disturbance in bipolar disorder across the lifespan. Clin Psychol. 2009;16(2):256-277. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2850.2009.01164.x By Marcia Purse Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.