If you’re having trouble adapting to the annual time change, you’re certainly not alone. Many of us are suffering from “circadian rhythm sleep disorder” caused by the switch.
What’s going on? This is just one of multiple sleep disorders that rob the body of restorative sleep.
Understanding Circadian Rhythms
The circadian rhythm is our internal body clock, the 24-hour cycle which maintains our biological processes, including the sleep/wake cycle.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are problems affecting this body clock and result in issues sleeping. This causes troubles falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up early and not feeling refreshed by sleep.
The 24-hour body clock is set by the daily cycle of light and dark, as well as other factors including the hormone melatonin, plus social and lifestyle influences. Sleep disorders can arise when the normal rhythm of the body clock is disrupted, affecting your regular sleeping patterns.
This can be as a result of internal and external factors, including:
- Shift work
- Jet lag
- Certain medications
- Lack of routine and habits which promote sleep
- Regular changes to bedtime routine, such as staying up later
- Dementia and other medical conditions which result in brain damage
- Extended periods involving a lack of sunlight
A poor sleep pattern leads not only to health issues but will also troubles with concentration and performance, both in personal and professional lives.
Symptoms To Watch For
There are a number of symptoms which could indicate a disorder of the circadian rhythm. These include:
- Excessive fatigue
- Lack of sleep
- Finding it hard to wake up in the morning
- Reduced productivity at work
Such symptoms could point to other health-related issues, making it hard to initially recognize this particular sleep disorder. Your doctor may ask you to maintain a sleep diary or recommend you undertake a sleep study to try and help pinpoint the exact problem.
Types of Circadian Disorders
Shift Work Disorder
Work schedules which involve night work or a regular change in shift patterns can result in this sleep disorder. It can have an impact on the body clock which sees you sleeping less hours each night, resulting in daytime fatigue and possible insomnia. Anxiety and mood disorders may also be a result of a shift work disorder, as can increased gastrointestinal problems, certain cancers and high blood pressure. The conflict caused to the body clock by this disorder is often seen in those who are on early morning or night shifts.
Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
This is a disorder which is quite common in teens and young adults. It affects sleep timing, resulting in going to sleep and waking a couple of hours after what is considered the average time. This is a disorder which can run in families, but will often see you viewed as lazy or lacking motivation.
As you would tend to be going to sleep in the early hours, you are often drowsy the following day if you are required to wake early. On the flip side you will often find you are at your most creative and productive in the later hours of the evening.
Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder
Those experiencing this disorder will find they go to sleep earlier and awake earlier than the average sleep/wake cycle. You may drop off to sleep in the early evening and awake in the early hours of the morning. As a result of this sleep/wake cycle, you will find yourself tired during the latter part of the afternoon and may experience insomnia. This disorder can also run in families, but this is more likely to affect adults of middle age and older.
Jet lag affects people who travel across time zones, particularly when travelling eastward. Your body clock can be disrupted once you travel across a couple of time zones or more, causing you to find it hard to function properly on arrival. As well as fatigue, jet lag can also cause changes to their appetite, plus changes in stomach and bowel functions. An individual’s mood may also be affected by the impact on the body clock caused by jet lag.
Non-24-Hour Sleep/Wake Disorder
The body clock is heavily dependent on being set by the daily cycle of light and dark. This is a disorder which can be more common with blind people. You may still sleep the same length of time, but the body clock is running over a longer time span than 24 hours. Therefore, the timing of the sleep/wake cycle can be affected on a daily basis, being pushed further back each day by an hour or two.
Irregular Sleep/Wake Rhythm Disorders
This disorder is born out of circadian rhythms which have no real order or pattern. Those with this disorder may sleep in a series of naps over the 24 hours of the day and although they may sleep the same total of hours as someone with a regular sleeping pattern, they will have less deep sleep. This results in insomnia and excessive fatigue. The disorder is more common in those with neurological conditions, including dementia.
Treatment Will Help
Treatment for sleep disorders linked to the body clock depend on individual circumstances and the type of disorder diagnosed. Options include:
- Lifestyle therapy – This involves lifestyle and behavioral changes to encourage a better sleep pattern. This can include regular exercise as well as reducing or avoiding alcohol and caffeine.
- Medication – Certain medications may be recommended to adjust a sleep/wake cycle to a more desirable pattern.
- Bright Light Therapy – This involves a high-intensity light to reset the body clock. It can be used to advance or delay sleep and is carried out under specialist guidance.
- Chronotherapy – This can take weeks to produce results and uses a progressive alteration to your sleep time to gradually move the sleep/wake cycle.
Speak With a Sleep Specialist
If you are experiencing symptoms, consult with a sleep professional at SleepQuest to determine the underlying cause.
If you have another underlying sleep disorder -- like sleep apnea -- our sleep specialist can also guide you to treatment that will stabilize your sleep pattern.
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that depletes the body of oxygen while you sleep. Airways close off periodically throughout the night, which interrupts oxygen flow into the body.
Snoring is the primary symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form of this disorder.
Sleep apnea is very serious -- as this takes a toll on overall health, affects concentration during daytime, and leads to drowsy driving and high risk of accidents.
Sleep is restorative to the body, and is essential to your overall health. Without treatment, you risk chronic health problems like heart disease, diabetes, even dementia.
Take the first step, and speak with a SleepQuest sleep specialist for clarity on your sleep problems. With at-home sleep testing, you can get on the path to treatment that will restore your good night’s sleep.