“I sleep more during the day than I do at night.” This is a common phrase from people who unknowingly suffer from circadian rhythm sleep disorder. If you have trouble observing the normal sleep routine then you are not alone. Quite a number of people suffer from circadian rhythm sleep disorder.
What is circadian rhythm?
These are physiological and behavioral changes that occur in the body on a 24 hour cycle, usually referred to as the body clock. Circadian rhythm allows human beings to anticipate changes intending to occur so they adjust their physical and behavioral ways accordingly.On a normal day, human beings produce, on average, a cycle that lasts 24 hours, though this one varies with an individual.
The internal rhythms are influenced by external factors like sunlight, darkness or even bright light.The most noticeable feature of the circadian rhythm is the sleep and wake cycle. Here are other features of proper circadian rhythm:
- Hormonal changes
- Body temperature
- Alertness and productivity
These rhythms are in entangled with each other meaning that there is a lot of wakefulness during the day and sleep during darkness. A perfect example is when you go to sleep between 10pm and 1 am and wake up 7-8 hours later with no problem.
What is circadian rhythm sleep disorder?
These are abnormalities of the internal body’s clock, the circadian rhythm. The main symptom is inability to sleep during bedtime while you’re able to sleep during any other time of the day.Normally, the length of the internal circadian rhythm is a bit shorter or longer than 24 hours. The rhythm is influenced by the external factors such as light. If at all the rhythm is not influenced by the external factor because it is further away from the normal range, then circadian rhythm disorder occurs.
- Circadian rhythm disorder may lead to some hormones changing their normal cycle; especially sleep hormones leading to the following disorders:
1. Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS)
This is a type of circadian rhythm disorder that is characterized by an individual’s internal body clock being delayed in respect to the day and night cycle.
- A person with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome usually falls asleep late at night, typically between 1am and 6 am, and awakens in the late morning or in the afternoon. There is an inability to fall asleep earlier, typical bedtime. As a result of this they are labeled insomniacs.
A solution to delayed sleep phase syndrome would be to avoid destructive physical and mental deterioration, sleeping late than recommended often results in difficulty meeting the demands of education, employment, relationships and parenting.
2. Non-24-hour sleep wake disorder
This is a circadian sleep disorder that is characterized by an individual sleeping late each day. Its circadian cycle corresponds to 25-26 hours by delaying one or two hours.This disorder can be depressing as it sometimes make it difficult for one to maintain schedules in life that occur at regular times like employment, appointment, marriage and family life and other social interactions.
Symptoms of Non-24-hour sleep wake disorder.
- Isolated lifestyle
- Difficulty sleeping
3. Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS)
This is a circadian sleep wake disorder that is characterized by going to bed early and waking up much earlier than normal. Sleep quality is not affected nonetheless.
There are no problems associated with this disorder as an individual would maintain a 9pm-5am sleep schedule.
4. Irregular sleep-wake disorder
Irregular sleep-wake disorder is characterized by at least 3 or more sleep episodes in a 24 hour period, irregular from day to day.It mostly occurs in older generation especially those suffering from dementia. Children with developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorders are also among those affected.
- Irregular sleep-wake disorders are often a complication of brain tumors or traumatic brain injury.
5. Shift work disorder
Shift work disorder occurs when work schedules dictates that one has to be working when they should be sleeping. Night shifts results to circadian sleep disorder in those people whose body clocks can’t shift sufficiently. Shift work disorder may eventually lead to sleep deprivation.
Jet lag occurs when an individual travels across 5 or more time zones. Nighttime begins early or late in different time zones. As a result, the sleep-wake cycle shift as all other circadian rhythms change.The change in sleep hours causes significant tiredness. Additionally, the desynchronization of the various circadian process causing fatigue and insomnia.
Are circadian rhythm sleep disorders treatable?
Yes, something can be done about these disorders. Here are various ways to deal with circadian rhythm disorders:
1. Behavior therapy
Some behavioral therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of the disorders. Behavioral therapy indicates that you:
- Maintain regular sleep-wake times
- Avoid naps
- Get into regular exercise
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine
2. Bright light therapy
Light therapy can be used to help advance or delay sleep by using a high intensity light box. This is achieved by the help of an expert.
Medications can be administered depending on one’s condition. Melatonin drugs can be of great help in regulating sleeping cycles.
Circadian rhythm disorders can significantly reduce the quality of one’s social, economic and emotional life. It is paramount that you visit your physician for proper diagnosis and management. Everyone deserves a regular sleep routine so do you!
SOURCES AND REFERENCES
- Circadian rhythm disorders (January 2015)
- Treatment for circadian rhythm disorder.
- Circadian rhythm sleep disorders (August 2014)