Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Circadian rhythm sleep disorder occurs when your internal body clock and the external light/dark cycle become misaligned.

Symptoms include waking up frequently during the night, having a difficult time initiating sleep, waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, and having poor quality sleep. 

The various forms of this sleep issue include the following conditions.

  • Shift work disorder. Shift work disorder occurs because your work schedule requires you to work when your internal body clock expects to be asleep and go to sleep when your body expects to be awake.
  • Jet lag disorder. Jet lag occurs when you travel across time zones. Your internal clock expects to be awake and asleep at different times. This can ruin a trip if you don't plan for it. 

  • Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSP). People with DSP fall asleep late every night and therefore wake up in the late morning or afternoon on a regular basis.

  • Advanced phase sleep disorder (ASP). People with ASP typically wake up between 2am and 5pm and go to sleep between 6pm and 9pm.

  • Free running (nonentrained) type. People with free running (nonentrained) type have sleep times that shift a little later each day.

  • Irregular sleep-wake rhythm. People with irregular sleep-wake rhythm take naps off and on over a 24-hour period.

Who Is Affected?

The prevalence of a circadian rhythm sleep disorder in the general population is unknown, but DSP is more common in teens and young adults and ASP occurs more frequently as people age.

Irregular sleep-wake rhythm is more likely to occur in people who have little exposure to light and participate in few social activities, such as nursing home patients. The free-running type is common in people who are blind.

As the name suggests, shift work disorder affects people who work night shifts and early-morning shifts, and jet lag’s effects last longer in older people and those who fly eastward across several time zones.

Should I See a Sleep Specialist?

In addition to insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness, circadian sleep disorders can cause depression, disrupt social schedules, put stress on personal relationships, and impair work performance.

To avoid becoming isolated and having trouble maintaining relationships and responsibilities in your life because you sleep and wake up at different times than your friends and family members, see your doctor or a sleep specialist for treatment.

The goal of treatment for circadian rhythm sleep disorder is to ensure that you sleep for one long period at night and stay awake for one long period in the daytime.

Treatment may include lifestyle changes, such as strategically scheduling naps, adjusting exposure to daylight, and making changes to daily routines.

Your provider will teach you about good sleep hygiene and advise on developing healthy sleep habits. He or she may recommend bright-light therapy and exercise to assist you in resetting your internal clock.

In addition, medications, such as hypnotics or stimulants, may be prescribed to help you stay awake or fall asleep. A supplement of Melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain at night, may also help to alleviate the symptoms of circadian sleep disorder.

Related - Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Blue Light and How It Impacts Sleep 
Shift Work Sleep Disorder 
Establishing Good Sleep Hygiene 
Addressing Issues with Insomnia 
Healthy Sleep Habits

  1. Better Sleep Guide HOME
  2. Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Share Sleep Tips

Do you have a great tip to share with others who are struggling with sleep? What works for you might help someone else. 
Click here to post >>

Mobility and Disability Resources