What Are Circadian Rhythm Disorders?

Sleeping Man 4.20.18Having irregular sleep hours or other sleep issues can leave you exhausted in the morning and out of sync with your work or school schedule. The cause of your problem could be a circadian rhythm disorder, which can be treated once it’s diagnosed.

What Are Circadian Rhythm Disorders?

Circadian rhythm disorders are a type of sleep disorder that can make it difficult for you to fall asleep and wake up when you need to.

Your body clock normally regulates a daily rhythm that lets your body know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to get up. But when your circadian rhythm is disrupted, you won’t get enough sleep, which will cause you to feel sleepy during the day.

What Are the Types of Circadian Rhythm Disorders?

There are several different types of circadian rhythm disorders, including the following:

Delayed Sleep Phase

This disorder makes your internal clock want to say up two or more hours too late at night and sleep late in the morning. People with this disorder are often referred to as “night owls,” and although they don’t necessarily have problems staying asleep, their schedule can interfere with work and school.

Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase

Advanced sleep wake phase disorder makes patients want to go to sleep several hours before a normal bedtime and wake up hours before most other people do. These “early birds” tend to wake up between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Jet Lag

Traveling across two or more time zones can cause a temporary condition that makes it difficult to adjust to a new schedule.

Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Rhythm

People with this type of disorder fall asleep and wake up a little later each day. Many people who have it are blind, since they can’t rely on light to properly reset their internal clock.

Shift Work

Shift work can result in a conflict between your irregular work schedule and your body’s circadian rhythms. If you work at an unconventional time, you may have trouble sleeping or feel exhausted.

Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm

People with this disorder may take a series of naps, much like infants sleep – just a few hours at a time.

How Can You Avoid This Type of Sleep Disorder?

A few ways to get yourself a better night’s rest:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends
  • Avoid napping
  • Use your bed only for sleeping and intimacy
  • Exercise early in the day, but avoid it for four hours or less before bedtime
  • Don’t eat or drink a lot before bedtime
  • Don’t get overly tired
  • Avoid stress
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes
  • Have a comfortable place to sleep, including a dark, quiet environment

How Are Circadian Rhythm Disorders Treated?

Medications can be used in some cases, either alone or in combination with one of the following behavioral therapies:

  • Chronotherapy – gradually shifts your sleeping time until you’re at your desired bedtime
  • Bright Light Therapy – exposure to bright light can “reset” your internal clock to a new time. Improving environmental cues – keeping your room dark and quiet for sleep, being exposed to light when you wake up, and following regular hours for eating and other activities

If you have difficulty sleeping, make an appointment today with Sleep & Neuroscience Associates in Greenwich, CT. Dr. Malhotra specializes in the accurate diagnosis of and effective treatment for sleep disorders, including circadian rhythm disorders, and can help you get the rest you need to feel and function your best!

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