What Is Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder?

Circadian rhythm sleep disorder is part of the family of disorders that affect (among other things) the sleep timings of people. People suffering of this disorder have problems waking up and going to sleep at timings of work, school and other social needs. In other words, it is a condition in which an individual’s sleep schedules are out of synchrony.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Understanding the Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Wouldn’t it feel much nicer to live normally? Waking up as the sun rises and going to bed when the sun sets. It will doubtless be a much less complicated daily routine.

The body naturally has its own schedule, called the circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep and wake cycle as well as other functions. While you are sleeping, your body does not rest rather it is constantly rebuilding and revitalizing itself. This includes the brain too, which takes its time to process while people are asleep. The circadian rhythm sleep disorder occurs as a result of any disruptions the body’s faces in its circadian rhythm. It can be classified into two categories; extrinsic or intrinsic.

The extrinsic types are those in which the disorder is caused by the alterations in the environment relative to the sleep timings. These consist of:

  • Jet lag – this can be overcome by returning to the normal sleep schedule.
  • SWSD (shift work sleep disorder) – shift workers have increased risks of problems such as digestive disturbances, mental problems, heart problems, etc. Proper medication can help overcome this disorder.

The intrinsic types on the other hand, occur due to the alteration of the internal body clock, relative to the environment. These consist of:

  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome – this occurs as a result of de-synchronization pattern between the persons biological clock and external environment. It leads to the development of different types of health problems over time.
  • Non-24-hour sleep-wake cycle – in this disorder, the body insists that the day is longer than 24 hours and refuses to get adjusted to the external light/dark environment or cycle. This makes it impossible for people to sleep at normal times.
  • Irregular sleep-wake patterns – in this disorder, people’s sleep patterns do not follow the normal night timings. The timings get so disorganized that there is no precise sleep-wake pattern.
  • Advanced sleep phase syndrome – in this disorder the normal sleep episode is more advanced or prolonged as compared to the biological clock. This results in symptoms such as early sleeping timings, excessive evening sleepiness and early awakenings.

Adjusting to completely new sleep timings causes the “jet lag” circadian ryhthm sleep disorder. For example, when a person travels to different time zones, he/she will need to get adjusted to the new timings. Similar to this, the body struggles to adjust to different timings when regular sleep has been interrupted. This can be especially difficult for people working in different schedules or shifts.

Apart from the main symptom (unusual sleep timings), other symptoms include:

  • Depressed & irritable moods
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Impaired functioning
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia

How Do You Know If You Have Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder?

The rate at which circadian rhythm sleep disorder occurs is generally unknown. It may be diagnosed as a temporarily disorder while other investigations or tests must be carried out. It usually turns out to be the final diagnosis if no patterns or causes are detected. To find out whether one is suffering of this disorder, the following questions may be asked:

  • Does the sufferer sleep at wrong timings?
  • Does the sufferer’s sleep problem keep him/her from sleeping properly?
  • Does it make him/her have a lot of sleepiness during the day?
  • Does the sufferer’s problem have none of the following causes? Shift work, drug use, medical condition, or jet lag.

If yes, then the individual is surely having circadian rhythm sleep disorder and needs the help of a physician immediately.

How Is Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder Treated?

The treatment of this disorder is aimed at helping people have a long “awake time” during the day and one lone “sleep time” at night. The physician would likely recommend a good sleeping behavior or sleep hygiene, which will improve the circadian rhythm. Sleep hygiene is a very important factor to help people maintain their sleep times. Some scheduled activities and exercises help in increasing the stimulation of the body as well as resetting the subconscious sleep clock. The progress of the sufferer may be monitored by having complete sleep logs during the treatment. The physician may prescribe medications to help the sufferer sleep better at night and stay awake during the day time. These medications may also be changed depending on the sufferer’s response to the medicines.

It is highly important to visit a physician at the first sign of any symptoms, as they can lead to very dangerous consequences. The circadian rhythm sleep disorder not only affects the sleep and other bodily functions, but also the overall well being of a person. Circadian rhythm sleep disorder is part of the family of disorders that affect (among other things) the sleep timings of people.