Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are related to the timing of sleep within the 24-hour day. People with such disorders do not have a problem maintaining sleep once they are asleep, but their sleep-wake routine is out of synchronization with the norm.
This is a problem only if they are required to sleep or wake up at times that disrupt their sleep cycles so that do not get enough sleep. It can lead to symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness. The circadian rhythm is affected by light exposure, the levels of melatonin- a sleep hormone in the body and the activities that one engages in.
1. ADVANCED SLEEP PHASE SYNDROME
The person has a natural circadian rhythm that is shorter than 24 hours, leading to his bedtime becoming earlier and earlier over time. This syndrome results in sleepiness in the evening and the early onset of sleep so the person awakens in the early hours of the morning. It is often brought on by age and is fairly common among the elderly. It is not an issue if the person can adjust his lifestyle to match his sleeping hours- which is easier to achieve if he has retired from work.
2. DELAYED SLEEP PHASE SYNDROME
This is the opposite of advanced sleep phase syndrome. People with this syndrome- typically adolescents and young adults- tend to fall sleepy later and later. It is usually caused by performing mentally stimulating activities and exposure to light at night. They may not be able to fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning, which makes it difficult for them to wake up in time for school and work.
3. JET LAG
This results from a person crossing time zones too rapidly for the body's circadian clock to keep pace. The body clock remains aligned to the home environment. The adjustment process is often slow, averaging about one hours of phase alignment per day after ease-bound flights and 1.5 hours per day being on west-bound flights. So symptoms can last several days.
Morning larks report less jet lag than night owls when traveling east, but the latter group does better when traveling west. Young travelers and those who exercise regularly suffer less jet lag than those who are older and sedentary.
4. SHIFT WORK SLEEP DISORDER
At night, a person's body temperature falls to its minimum just before he goes to sleep. The body also produces more melatonin, the body's natural sleep hormone, at night. Working at night goes against natural sleeping patterns. So people who frequently rotate shifts or work at night may develop shift work sleep disorder.
After a night of work, they may find it difficult to sleep during the day because of daytime noise, bright sunlight and social obligations, such as attending to their children's needs.
Changing your habits...
The key to good sleep starts with good habits. Habits which promote good sleep include not engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as watching TV in the bedroom, and avoiding heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine and smoking before bedtime.
While it is all right to catch up on sleep during the weekends, do not sleep in more than two hours beyond your usual wake-up time so as not to disrupt the internal clock. Doctors usually advise those suffering circadian rhythm seep disorders to make use of light to adjust their internal clock.
Exposure to light in the evening shifts the clock to a later time. Similarly, light exposure in the morning shifts it to an earlier time.
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