How Does Psychosis Affect Insomnia?
Last updated: September 2023
As my mental health continues to suffer, my fear of one of the most disturbing symptoms I have ever experienced increases. I have dealt with psychosis in the past, and I hope to never go through it again.
During bouts of psychosis, my sleep patterns were affected in a number of ways. Adding more sleep issues on top of my insomnia is never a good thing.
What is psychosis?
Psychosis is a symptom of bipolar disorder type 1. It was the defining symptom that resulted in my diagnosis of type 1 bipolar disorder. It involves visual, auditory, or olfactory hallucinations.
Some people experience more than one type of hallucination. I had all 3 types. I would see shadows out of the corner of my eye and hear whispering voices while smelling a variety of odors. The shadows became visions of people. The voices became clear and the odors were familiar. The more real the hallucinations become, the scarier psychosis is.
Psychosis is like an ongoing nightmare
Over the years I have described psychosis in many ways, but one description is most accurate for me.
Imagine having a nightmare and waking up to find the nightmare has not gone away. It is playing out while you are awake. Imagine how terrifying it is to not escape a nightmare by waking up from the dream. Try to imagine how scary it would be for the monsters chasing you in your dreams to continue pursuing you after you wake.
Psychosis is like living a nightmare for me.
How does psychosis keep me awake?
During an episode of psychosis, I once saw a snake on my chest while lying in bed. Snakes are my worst fear, and the hallucination was so real that I believed there was an actual snake. I could feel the weight of it on my chest. That's how real these hallucinations are.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between a hallucination and reality. I saw snakes and people trying to attack me as I was lying in bed. This is terrifying, and it is impossible to go to sleep when you are terrified.
I already have issues falling asleep, but a bout of psychosis makes it so much harder to go to sleep.
How does psychosis keep me from staying asleep?
While having an episode of psychosis, I quite often have nightmares. These terrifying dreams will wake me multiple times throughout the night. After taking so long to fall asleep, I cannot stay asleep. Then it's even harder to go back to sleep.
Imagine this: I take the monsters I hallucinate into my dreams, and those same monsters follow me out of the dream and back into my bedroom. There is no escaping the horrors of psychosis. I can't sleep through it, and I can't leave behind the nightmare by waking.
How do you treat psychosis?
Psychosis is treated with a class of drugs called antipsychotics. There are a number of these drugs, and I have had varied success with them in the past.
Some drugs made it possible to tell the difference between hallucinations and reality but did not stop the hallucinations. This was helpful but was not a cure. A medicine change was able to completely resolve the issue in a short time. If a medication doesn't fully resolve the symptoms, an adjustment of the dose or a change in medication is needed.
Dealing with psychosis and insomnia
During my bouts of psychosis, I slept very little. Getting less sleep can make the hallucinations worse, so this creates an even bigger problem.
If you are experiencing psychosis and having trouble sleeping, it is important to get treated for one or both issues right away. The sooner you start treatment, the easier it is to get rid of the symptoms.
I am currently monitoring my symptoms closely so I can detect any signs of psychosis as soon as they appear. Have you experienced an episode of psychosis? How did it affect your sleep? I would love to hear about your experience.
What do you do at night when you can't sleep?