Understanding Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders can account for many sleep problems. There are many people who have an irregular body clock and they just don’t know it. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders occur when there is a mismatch between the sleep-wake cycle required by your environment and your own internal sleep wake cycle.

There are 5 main types of circadian rhythm disorders. They are delayed phase sleep disorder, advanced phase sleep disorder, Non-24 hour sleep wake disorder, shift work and jet lag.

Delayed phase sleep disorder occurs when you can’t seem to get sleepy until very late in the evening — typically between 1am and 6am. This is despite your best efforts to settle down and get to bed hours earlier. And because you feel asleep late, you are are naturally driven to sleep until late morning or early afternoon.

Sleeping late becomes a problem when you have an inflexible morning schedule. Let’s say you have to wake up at 6am to go to work so you can’t afford to be awake at 2am. For those who have flexible schedules, they can simply sleep later and end up getting a full 7-9 hours of sleep.

There is an adolescent version of this that is usually hormonally driven and seen in about 10% of teenagers. It’s tough when they are trying to get up to go to school, but they often grow out of it by early 20’s.

People with advanced phase sleep disorder have the opposite problem. They have trouble keeping her eyes open early in the evening and want to go to sleep between 6 and 8pm. This tends to be less disruptive a problem for the person who has a 9-to-5 job. But here is where it can cause problems: you get home from work and fall asleep on the couch at 7pm and wake up at 11pm. You then can’t go back to sleep until 2 AM and sleep until 5am. Cumulatively you’ve gotten seven hours of sleep. But you still don’t feel rested because your sleep is choppy and your natural progression and flow of your sleep cycle was interrupted.

Then we have the non-24-hour sleep wake disorder. For this person, their body clock is longer than 24 hrs, lets just say 25hr. So what happens is they naturally go to sleep later and later each night. Eventually they have complete day-night reversal. This sleep disorder is more commonly seen in people who are blind, but does occur is sighted people as well. It tends to be very debilitating as the person has no reliable or consistent sleep pattern.

I will talk about solutions to these problems in a later videos. I will talk about shift work and jet lag in the lifestyle interference video, but just know that they are classified as circadian rhythm disorders.

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