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Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

kieferpix / iStock /

kieferpix / iStock /

The circadian rhythm is our biological clock, or “body clock,” which is a daily cycle of biological activity based on a 24-hour period. The circadian rhythm works with environmental factors such as day and night to promote alertness and rest. Interestingly enough, the circadian rhythm affects more than humans, it is the guider to allow flowers to close, angiosperms to open and is an “alarm clock” for wildlife animals too. In humans, modern day scheduling and lack of rest alters our rhythm thus affecting sleep. It affects tissue growth, hormone release and cell regeneration when the clock is not ticking properly. Below are some common sleep disorders caused by circadian rhythm disruption.

Jet Lag or Rapid Time Syndrome
Jet lag occurs when a person is put into another time zone and must be awake while the body’s clock is on sleep mode, and vice versa. The symptoms are worse when more time zones are crossed. The body seems to have more difficulties with eastward travel versus westward travel. Jet lag is temporary unless you fly for a living. Long-term jet lag leads to sleep disruption and severe insomnia, especially when caffeine overtakes hydration and plane TV’s lights overtake sleep time.

Shift Work Disorder
Humans must rest, and that rest comes at night. However, due to around the clock work and shifts SWD leads to severe sleep and health risks. First, it is natural to be sleepy and not so alert during regular sleeping hours. If someone works a consistent schedule, the circadian rhythm can adjust to the new schedule, but not for those hospital jobs where the schedule and days off persistently change. For those who are “morning” people and work an overnight shift may find overall decreased sleep. This adversely affects the health with stress and cardiovascular dysfunctions.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)
This disorder is issued due to sleep timing. These night owls stay up late and find it challenging to wake in the morning on time for work or special occasions. People with DSPS find benefits with obtaining a regular sleep schedule.

Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS)
This disorder is when people go to bed earlier and wake up earlier too. For example, someone wants to fall asleep at 6:00pm, but wake up to start the day around 3:00am. For those who are chronically tired after work and sleep, check with your doctor to see if you are susceptible for ASPS.

Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm
This issue is when a person has a sleep-wake cycle that is undefined or not on a rhythm.  This cycle of sleep is seen with periodic naps that occur throughout the 24-hour day. Therefore, they do not get a full night of sleep along with naps. This leads to chronic insomnia, excessive fatigue or both. This maybe a symptom of a neurological disorder such as dementia, thus it is important to contact your doctor if experiencing this issue.

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