All About Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Circadian Rhythm is the physiological process of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and even some bacteria, according to the official definition. But we’re here to discuss this process in humans.

A normal circadian rhythm cycles over a twenty four hour light-dark period involving biological activity such as cell regeneration and hormone production (while we sleep). There is also significant brain wave activity that takes place in this process.

But what if you don’t sleep right?
Perhaps your work schedule prevents you from sleeping at night. Pregnancy is a factor in sleep rhythm disruptions as well as time zone changes or other changes in routine. Medications, mental health diagnoses and medical problems including Alzheimer’s are also conducive to circadian rhythm disorders.

There are also common disorders associated with circadian rhythm such as follows:

  • Jet Lag (or Rapid Time Zone Change, Syndrome) – if you travel out of your time zone often you may experience symptoms that include excessive fatigue low alert levels.
  • Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) – this disorder relates to sleep timing. People with DSPS may not fall asleep at a regular hour and instead stay up later, making it more difficult to wake in the morning.
  • Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPD) – Basically DSPS in reverse, this person goes to sleep earlier and wakes earlier than desired resulting in symptoms of evening fatigue.
  • Non 24 Hour Sleep Wake Disorder – because the circadian clock is set by night and day, or light and dark cycles, this disorder tends to affect those that are totally blind.

Therapy for these disorders can become quite complicated. Initially your doctor may recommend and/or prescribe Melatonin, a natural hormone thought to be concerned with regulating the reproductive cycle but also that which acts directly in regulating the sleep cycle. Other therapy includes sleep hygiene techniques and what is known as external stimulus therapy such as bright light or chronotherapy. Chronotherapy is a behavioral technique meant to adjust bedtime schedules until a desired bedtime is achieved. Bright light therapy is designed to reset the circadian rhythm to a desired pattern.

Some things to consider if you struggle with your sleep schedule – dietary changes

  • Even while studies have yet to prove their effectiveness, herbal teas like lemon balm, chamomile, hops and passionflower are all marketed to help you with sleep
  • You could try a sleep supplement – again doctors will most likely prescribe melatonin because it is a natural substance. Any other supplementation should be approved by your doctor.
  • Make sure you’ve cut caffeine from your daily intake. If you can’t stay awake without it, make sure to limit it to mornings only.
  • There are many dangers of sleep deprivation including simple activities such as driving your car. If you haven’t slept well, there is raised risk of accident – comparable to driving drunk.

Generally, sleep is divided into two types: REM and Non REM (NREM).

REM – stands for Rapid Eye Movement (sleep) – characterized as the deep sleep in which we dream.
NREM – as it would seem, this stands for NON Rapid Eye Movement and is characterized by distinct electroencephalographic stages.

Whether you suffer from lack of sleep or you’re living with someone that does, it’s important to do your best to find a remedy that works for you and/or your partner. Lack of sleep can lead to a slough of other health issues that can make therapy for the sleep issues much more complicated.

When you think you’ve tried everything – try something else. Try something more.

Turn off the TV. Turn off lights. Put your appliances (ie) tablets, cell phones, computer/laptops, away. Sleep specialists recommend logging off of devices at least thirty minutes before laying down to rest.

Get plenty of exercise, early in the day. It will improve your overall health and research shows that at least thirty minutes of moderate to intense exercise 7 days per week can help you sleep. What’s more, the quality of sleep is better.

Finally – a few tips to keeping your bedroom/sleep space as tranquil as possible –

  • Wear pajamas to bed
  • Keep a moderate temperature in the bedroom (sleep can be disrupted at temps below 54 and above 72 degrees fahrenheit
  • Invest in a comfortable mattress, your comfort is important for a good night’s rest
  • Use a pillow that supports your neck and head
  • Find a white noise machine or play soft music
  • Use breathable linens to avoid irritation in your sleep.

If you’re struggling to sleep for more than a few weeks and you’ve tried everything listed here – it’s definitely time to talk with your doctor. He/she may recommend you to a sleep specialist who can further develop a sleep routine that will work for you.

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