Tick Tock…

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Everyone in the world, and even some other species, have a circadian rhythm. It pretty much dictates our life… It is our own personal clock – our body clock. Per dictionary.com, the circadian rhythm is defined as “a daily cycle of biological activity based on a 24 – hour period and influenced by regular variations in the environment, such as the alternation of night and day.” The circadian rhythm tells us when to eat, when to sleep, and when to wake up, but there are a few issues that can disrupt our body’s natural clockwork.

One of those issues is called Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase (DSP). This disorder typically delays sleep by two or more hours. Someone who suffers from DSP has an internal clock that is “shifted later at night and later in the morning,” according to sleepeducation.org. As soon as said person is able to fall asleep, the process is back to normal, however it is the falling asleep and waking up that presents the issue. They will stay up later than what is considered ‘normal,’ only going to bed when they are tired, and wake up much later than ‘normal,’ once they will rested. Often times, DSP is confused with insomnia, but the symptoms are a little different. Although it is not known what percentage of American suffer from DSP, it is thought that teenagers and young adults are more likely to suffer form this disorder. Sleepeducation.org believes that there is a genetic tie to this disorder, saying that “a family history of DSP is common in about 40% of people with this disorder.” If you feel that this something that you suffer from, then the best thing to do is to speak with your doctor about the symptoms that you experience. At that point, he/she may recommend trying melatonin. The timing and dosage of the melatonin should be discusses in extensive detail as they both are key players in achieving a ‘normal’ bedtime.

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Another disorder similar to DSP is ASP which stands for Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase. I like to think of DSP as the ‘night owl syndrome’ and ASP as the ‘early bird syndrome.’ Those who suffer from ASP tend to fall asleep much earlier than ‘normal,’ and wake up much earlier than ‘normal.’ Typically, said person falls asleep between the hours of 6 – 9 PM, and wakes up between the hours of 2 – 5 AM; like DSP, the sufferer sleeps well, and is rested through the time of sleep. They just have an irregular sleep schedule. Again, this disorder is often mistaken for insomnia, and can sometimes be thought of as depression as well. Although it is not caused by insomnia, secondary insomnia maybe a side effect of this disorder. ASP is not very common among Americans, in fact, “it is estimated to occur in only 1% of middle-age adults. It is more common in older adults and seniors. Men and women are affected at an equal rate. A genetic link has been shown in some families.” If you suffer from ASP, making plans or working a late shift during the evening hours is not recommended. Caffeine and other stimulants are to be avoided as well as they may worsen you sleep.

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Moving on: Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm. As you may have already guessed, this disorder is similar to the two we have previously discussed, the only difference is that someone suffering from this disorder has a really messed up internal clock. They don’t fall asleep too early or too late, rather they fall asleep frequently throughout the day – “the sleep of patients with irregular sleep-wake rhythm is so disorganized that there is no clear sleep or wake pattern.” Those who suffer from this disorder are often compared to infants as they have close to the same sleep schedule: awake for a few hours, then asleep, awake, and asleep. Per the website, “there is not one main sleep time that occurs at any time of day.” Symptoms for this disorder include sleeping on and off throughout the day and night (naps), no regular sleeping pattern, difficulty sleeping well, having a total sleep time that is not considered normal for their age. Not a whole lot is known about this disorder, although is believed that certain neurological conditions, such as dementia or brain damage, can play a factor.

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The last circadian rhythm that I want to discuss is known as Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Rhythm (jeez, that was a mouthful!) This disorder is interesting because unlike the others that have a definite time frame this does not –it changes every single day. “The sleep time of people who have Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Rhythm shifts a little every day. Sleep time and wake up time continue to move later and later everyday. Sleep times go in and out of alignment with other people as weeks go by.” This disorder is often confused with DSP, because of the late sleep time, but as time goes on, you find that you fall asleep in the morning, then you fall asleep in the early afternoon, then in the evening, and then at night – this is what differentiates the two from one another. Sleepeducation.org says that, “more than half of blind people have Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Rhythm.” This is because light plays a major role in resetting of our internal clocks. “Everyday, morning light and other behaviors reset the sleep-wake clock to a 24 hour schedule. Without light and this clock resetting, people’s sleep time will drift later and later. Light is the major influence on resetting the brain’s clock.” Although most of the blind population suffer from this disorder, not all do. We are not sure why a portion of the blind suffer and not the entire population.

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So, with all this new information, what are your thoughts? Do you think you perhaps suffer from any of these disorders? Or do you think you know someone who suffers from them? It’s pretty amazing that there are so many different things that can disrupt something as simple and essential like sleep, but, hey, the more you know, right?

For more information on each disorder, please see: http://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/circadian-rhythm-disorders
For more information on sleep apnea, please see: www.cpapoffice.com

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