Circadian Rhythm Disorders
Modern life has brought many changes to our daily habits. In countless ways, these changes affect our lives. While much the progress our societies have made has been to our benefit, there can occasionally be side effects. One such byproduct is circadian rhythm disorders.
At our sleep clinics in NYC, we are dedicated to helping patients overcome any sleep-related concerns. With our expertise and experience, we work towards equipping our patients with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve better sleep. Continue reading to learn more about circadian rhythm disorders and how you can address them.
Our circadian rhythm is often referred to as our internal clock. It operates on a 24-hour cycle, telling your body what to do throughout the day. The most evident effect of your circadian rhythm is the cycle of wakefulness and sleepiness you likely experience every day.
In addition to affected sleeping and waking, your circadian rhythm also manages:
- Hormone production
- Cell repair and regrowth
- Brain wave patterns
When your circadian rhythm functions correctly, you will likely not notice, since everything is running smoothly. However, once something goes wrong, you may suddenly find yourself with symptoms that interfere with your daily life.
Some symptoms might go unnoticed, as they will manifest in almost undetectable changes in hormone levels or cell activity. The most noticeable symptoms tend to relate to sleep.
You may notice:
- Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
- Not feeling refreshed when you wake up, even from a full night’s rest
- Waking up earlier than you want, but you can’t get back to sleep
The symptoms alone don’t pose any immediate health threats. However, sleep deprivation can lead to, among other things, an increased risk for:
- Heart disease
- Chronic fatigue
Common causes of these disorders are related to aspects of modern life. Changing time zones or working irregular hours are two leading contributors. Below is a list of the most common causes for circadian rhythm disorders
- Working late or irregular shifts
- Drastic time zone changes
- Irregular routine and sleep schedule
- Pregnancy or menopause
- Medical problems (especially progressive disorders such as Alzheimer’s)
This is more commonly referred to as jet lag. While traveling across the planet in a handful of hours is convenient, it takes a toll on your body. Traveling across time zones eastward can be harder on your body than going westward.
DSPS affects the timing of your sleep. Those who suffer from DSPS are often awake later into the night, but then struggle to wake up in the morning. Young adults often suffer from this condition.
ASPS works opposite to DSPS. Sufferers find themselves falling asleep earlier than they intended, and then way wake up earlier than they want. Sometimes they might wake up as early as 1 a.m. and find themselves unable to return to sleep.
This disorder can profoundly interfere with your life. Your circadian rhythm is so mixed up that you don’t have a single period of full-sleep. Instead, sufferers can only manage to get a few naps throughout the day.
Though rare, this condition causes severe disturbance in your circadian rhythm. It tends to affect blind individuals who cannot sense the light-dark cycle that usually dictates your circadian rhythm. Quality of sleep plummets, and you may be sleepy during daylight.
For many, the symptoms of this disorder will go away on their own. Jet lag fades in the following days, and teens grow up, changing their sleeping patterns.
For many, circadian rhythm disorders can have a severe and chronic negative impact on their quality of life. In these cases, seek out a sleep specialist. Some treatment plans include:
Sometimes, dealing with this disorder is as simple as changing some habits. Common changes include avoiding light exposure before bed, limiting caffeine, and cutting down on nicotine/smoking. Improving your “sleep hygiene” can also help. This usually involves changes to your nighttime routine and the environment where you sleep.
From simple melatonin supplements to prescription drugs, some medications can help regular your internal clock.
By exposing yourself to a bright light a particular time daily, you can reset your rhythm.
By adjusting your bedtime slowly, you can progress toward falling asleep at the desired time.
Even though circadian rhythm disorders themselves are not dangerous, they can have a severe impact on your life. If left untreated, the byproducts of them can become dangerous. Fatigue can lead to decreased performance and alertness while working or driving. Poor sleep can affect your mood and even contribute to depression. Schedule a consultation today to take back control over your sleep.
Dr. Shukla is an experienced sleep specialist who has helped countless patients regain the chance for a full night’s rest. With his skill and knowledge, he can help you get back on your feet and get the rest you need and deserve.