Sleep patterns and pediatric bipolar disorder


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Can sleep patterns help identify pediatric bipolar disorder earlier?

Some people are more morning people than others. Most night owls that I know can’t understand morning people, not only wondering why they can possibly be functioning so early but also how they can relax enough in the early evening to get to sleep. Researchers refer to this as “circadian preference“, and have used this trait as a marker for different personality types. It’s just one of the many things that makes us each unique.

In this study, scientists looked to see if circadian preference might be used to help make an early diagnosis of bipolar disorder in kids. Early diagnosis is the holy grail of medicine, since the earlier something is diagnosed, the sooner doctors can do something about it and hopefully prevent bigger problems down the road. They looked at 30 kids aged 7-17 with known bipolar disorder and compared them with 45 kids without the disorder, and surveyed their preference for morning or evening. No differences were noted between the groups in younger kids, but there was a significant difference in the adolescent age group. Older kids with bipolar disorder preferred evenings over mornings, which was consistent with findings in adult populations in other studies.

A couple of points were notable in this abstract. One was that the incidence of pediatric bipolar disorder is on the rise for some reason, with many more cases being diagnosed over the past 30 years. It makes one wonder why, although that’s a subject for another day. But the main point of the paper was to show that we as parents may be able to watch our kids a little closer to see if they begin to change their sleep patterns. Especially if there is a family history of manic-depression, a developing pattern of staying up later and difficulty falling asleep at a decent time may be a signal to get your child evaluated by your Family Doctor. There may be something that can be done before bigger problems arise, whether it’s medication, counseling, or simply enforcing a healthy bedtime. Interesting, huh?


Kim KL, Weissman AB, Puzia ME, et al. Circadian phase preference in pediatric bipolar disorder. J. Clin. Med. 2014, 3, 255-266; doi:10.3390/jcm3010255


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