Seasonal changes in light exposure and other environmental factors may disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms. This may lead to increased symptoms of mania during the spring or other seasonal patterns in bipolar disorder symptoms.

Circadian rhythms are behavioral, mental, and physical changes the body experiences over a 24-hour cycle. They affect hormone release, sleep patterns, and other body functions, which can influence a person’s mood.

Exposure to light during the day and darkness at night helps regulate circadian rhythms. Seasonal changes in light exposure may disrupt circadian rhythms and trigger a mood episode in people with bipolar disorder.

According to a 2021 review, some studies have found that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience manic episodes during the spring or summer. Depressive episodes are more common in the winter.

Several studies in a 2023 review also found that hospital admissions for hypomanic or manic episodes are higher in the spring, the summer, or both seasons.

Read on to find strategies for managing spring mania or other seasonal shifts in bipolar disorder symptoms.

It is crucial for people with bipolar disorder to follow their recommended treatment plan at any time of year.

A person’s treatment plan for bipolar disorder may include a combination of medication, psychotherapy, or other therapies. Many people need to try multiple treatments to find what works for them.

Lithium is a common mood-stabilizing medication for bipolar disorder. A 2018 review found that lithium may help regulate circadian rhythms, which has potential benefits for regulating mood.

Other treatments may also help limit mood changes and other symptoms of bipolar disorder.

It is important for people to speak with a doctor immediately about any noticeable changes in mood or other symptoms.

Following a consistent routine may help regulate circadian rhythms and mood in people with bipolar disorder.

For example, it may help to take medication, eat meals, and wake up and go to bed at the same time each day.

Additionally, following a consistent work schedule can help.

Although it is generally advisable to follow a consistent sleep schedule, there might be times when a doctor recommends more or less sleep than usual.

A doctor may prescribe short-term sleep deprivation therapy to help treat a depressive episode that does not respond to other treatments. However, it is possible that sleep deprivation might trigger or worsen a manic episode.

A person can speak with a doctor or therapist to learn whether changes in sleep schedule or other parts of a daily routine would be beneficial.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) aims to stabilize a person’s social interactions and daily routine, which may help regulate their circadian rhythms and mood.

A therapist who practices IPSRT can help someone with bipolar disorder:

  • understand the links between their biological and social rhythms and mood
  • develop a consistent routine to help regulate their rhythms and mood
  • develop strategies for coping with disruptions to their rhythms or mood

It is crucial for people with bipolar disorder to talk with a therapist about changes in symptoms, including spring mania or other seasonal shifts.

A doctor can provide a referral to a therapist who practices IPSRT.

Exposure to bright light in the morning or early afternoon may help limit depressive symptoms in winter or other times of the year. Although more research is necessary, increasing light exposure in the winter may help limit the effects of increased sunlight exposure in the spring on circadian rhythms and mood.

Going for a daily walk or taking part in outdoor activities, such as gardening, at bright times of the day can increase sunlight exposure in the winter.

Bright light therapy in the winter may also be helpful. This often involves using a light therapy lamp or lightbox to receive a dose of bright artificial light each morning or early afternoon.

A 2020 review suggests that light therapy may help reduce depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder, although it may potentially trigger a hypomanic or manic episode in some people.

Based on this research, a doctor might advise taking a small dose of light therapy to start and then gradually increasing the dose over multiple weeks to manage the risk of hypomanic or manic symptoms.

For those who experience hypomania or mania symptoms due to this exposure, reducing the dose or stopping light therapy altogether may be recommended.

As with any treatment, a person should consult a doctor first about whether this type of therapy would work for them. A doctor will determine the best option based on an individual’s symptoms and response to other therapies.

Studies show that dark therapy may be effective for treating manic symptoms in people with bipolar disorder.

Dark therapy, also known as darkness therapy, involves reducing light exposure during the evening and overnight to help stabilize circadian rhythms and mood.

Some types of dark therapy involve spending the evening and night in a light-sealed room with no natural or artificial light sources. Other types include wearing blue-blocking lenses, which block a specific type of light that can shift circadian rhythms.

Although more research is necessary, it is possible that simply closing curtains or blinds and dimming indoor lights in the evening and overnight may also have benefits for regulating circadian rhythms and mood.

It might also help for people to limit digital screen time in the evening and remove devices with bright lights from the bedroom.

A person should consult with a doctor before attempting these methods to determine whether they would be helpful.

Seasonal changes in sunlight and other environmental factors can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms, which may affect mood in someone with bipolar disorder.

Some research has found that manic episodes tend to increase in the spring or summer, and depressive episodes tend to escalate in the winter. Hospital admissions for manic episodes also increase in the spring or summer.

Treatment plan adherence and establishing a consistent daily routine are crucial for managing bipolar disorder, including symptoms of spring mania or winter depression.

It might also be helpful to work with a therapist who practices IPSRT, which aims to regulate biological and social rhythms.

Increasing morning or midday light exposure might help limit depressive symptoms, and decreasing light exposure at night might reduce manic symptoms. Morning light and nighttime darkness help regulate circadian rhythms.

People can talk with a doctor to learn more about IPSRT, light therapy, darkness therapy, or other strategies that may help manage seasonal symptom changes.