Circadian rhythm disorders

What is this disorder?

It occurs when the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is disrupted, and when you are not able to fall asleep at the appropriate time. This is when you go to bed much later (delayed) or much earlier (advanced) than anticipated. This usually happens with people that do shift work or who travel a lot, and suffer from jet lag.

When working night shifts it means that you will need to sleep during the day or afternoon, this will in turn interfere with one’s personal and social obligations and responsibilities, and thus making it difficult to get a full rest period.

What can be done to alleviate these symptoms?

Many people will resort to medication such as sleeping pills, while some people will just sleep less and use more caffeine and stimulants to stay awake. However there are no definitive treatments, but these to try:

  • Behavioural steps
  • Medications
  • Manipulate your sleep schedule with bright light therapy
  • Melatonin
  • Chronotherapy (adjusting your bedtime intentionally to speed up adjustments)

For patients who suffer from this disorder due to shift work, can improve over time through a sleep specialist that can develop a treatment program which will improve the situation, which will have great benefits.

The most common conditions caused by this disorder is sleep breathing disorders or sleep movement disorders. Many patients show a huge improvement with their shift work or jet lag once these sleep disorders is addressed. 

Sharon Izak Elaine Chat staff