Hi, Welcome to the site!
Have you mentioned trouble sleeping with your p.doc or GP (regular doc)?
I struggled with insomnia for years and tried various things; lavender baths, milky drinks, cutting all lights (even the alarm clock) and making sure there were no electrical appliances in the bedroom. I also tried relaxation techniques. My problem was more waking throughout the night, I never had any trouble falling asleep, I just couldn't stay asleep.
I now take Zopiclone (probably called something different if you are not from the UK) this is a non addictive sleeping tablet. I've also been told that an antihistamine can help with sleep.
I am attending a sleep health clinic on Weds so I shall share any nuggets of wisdom I may pick up there. The guy running it reckons he can get me off the zopiclone and sleeping naturally in a 2 hour session - we shall see :-)
I'm also on lithium - same length of time as you and I've found my sleep more disturbed than it was before despite the fact that insomnia is not a side effect listed - yet drowsiness is ??
I am like bulldozer - I can go to sleep fine - it's the waking up during the nights. I haven't slept more than 2-3 hours at a time in YEARS. It's exhausting.
Luckily, with my stabilization of the Lamictal, I am actually able to sleep more than I used to - thank goodness.
Bulldozer - let us know how the sleep health clinic goes- I am curious. I have thought about doing the sleep apnea thing - since I can't sleep anyway! Will you start a new topic so we can find it when you finish?
Like Bulldozer and Rachael, I can generally go to sleep okay but keep waking up throughout the night. In the past, I've felt like sleep was my worst issue, and that if I could just sleep well that a lot of my other problems would go away.
It is tricky to give any advice because of potentially bad med interactions, so you'd need to talk it over with your doc. But I can tell you what's currently working for me. I currently take 1 to 3 capsules of stuff called Tranquinol by Premiere Research Labs that I got from my Naturopath. It's not prescription, but I don't know how generally available it is. I also take 5-HTP which, from what I remember, will partially convert into melatonin and partly into serotonin as the body deems fit. I only take 50mg at night of the 5-HTP, as I have had issues where it has actually made my sleep worse if I get too much built up over time.
I used to take trazodone, which was powerful and I could only take a relatively tiny amount, and I generally didn't like it, but I needed it because Wellbutrin messed up my sleep quite a bit. I'm taking Wellbutrin again and I feel very fortunate that the Tranquinol works, as it does so without any noticeable side effects.
Also of note is that my body often seems to work backwards to most people, in that Valerian as well as other commonly used things make my sleep worse, as does Lamictal. In fact, I'm only able to take a very small dose (6.25 mg) of Lamictal because it really screws up my sleep badly, and it generally helps people sleep better. I'm still hoping that my body will get used to it.
Now that I'm having restless leg stuff and some sort of muscle spasms, that adds a whole new layer on top of the usual sleep issues. Fortunately these symptoms generally come and go, so if history repeats, which I'm hoping for, I'm not stuck with these particulars forever.
Valererian kept me up all night so if it worsened things for you as well that must not be uncommon. Lamictal caused insomnia for me as well but one thing for sure is unlike Lithium or Valproate its not generally a sedating medication (Lithium isn't sedating right when you take it but overall you feel a bit sluggish and need to sleep more, I found the coated version known as Lithobid to be more tolerable and easier on my stomach).
As I've said before, Rozerem and Lunesta are two sleep aides that can be taken every day. Rozerem is the better of the two choices because it works in the same exact fashion as Melatonin but is a prescription medication. It actually adjusts the sleep cycle and has no potential of addiction. That is easily a good first choice. I can't personally reccomend Tradazone for reasons of concern I've already detailed before (and couldn't take it now) but I know for some people its helpful.
I shall certainly post and let everyone know how the sleep clinic goes.
I'm wondering whether to take my blanket, teddy and pyjamas :-)
Lithium is not remotely sedating - its not psychoactive - it does make people feel sluggish to start with as its moderating moods and its very effective at that - I think what people miss is that Lithium is a real mood stabiliser.
The mood stabilisation effects of Abilify, Seroquel etc etc are side effects of the drugs not their intended usage - these drugs are after all designed to be anti epileptics and anti psychotics not mood stabilisers.
I take Valium to sleep, good old, effective valium - its safe, easily tolerated, nowhere near as addictive as people make out and its a natural sleep because it does not work as a sleeper - its a muscle relaxant and it calms the thing that keeps most of us awake nights - the racing mind and cluttered heads.
I do take Temazepam when needed but its not as effective.
Id say speak to your doctor and get advice but avoid the big league sleepers as these can be bad news for bipolars and normal people alike.
Big part for me when I am normal (not now) is to make sure i calm my mind, lie down and read for 15-30 minutes before I sleep, disengage, go to bed same time every night where possible - build a routine like any other thing in life.
And for gods sake steer clear of herbal remedies for sleep (or anything in my mind) - Valerian does not work for many normal people despite the anecdotal evidence and its not been examined for bipolars - like St John's Wort it might be dangeorous.
PS daledude - Tranquinol has valerian in it among other things... Might be worth reading about herbal meds as well as other meds - I cannot stress enough that most Natural Therapists have little to know knowledge or mental illness just like most GP's - you have a good one perhaps but I would need to be even crazier than I am now to trust any natural therapist to prescribe drugs to me - most herbal treatments have not been tested for mental illnesses and if you get one with st johns wort or some other compounds as a hidden or unlabelled ingredient then you can be REALLY in trouble.
Especially if taking other MS or AD drugs.
Oh and bulldozer - Despite the claims Zopiclone has now been found to be habit forming and addictive....Sorry but there really is no such thing as a non addictive sleeper taken long term, Like and AD or an MS you become dependant on them after time. BTW Zopiclone also screws with REM sleep which is not a good thing.