Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Circadian Rhythm Disorder Specialist Chicago

Circadian rhythm disorders affect many Americans, there are several kinds of circadian rhythm disorders, but the term generally refers to disruptions in a persons circadian rhythm or biological clock. A key feature of circadian rhythm disorders is a continuous disruption of sleep patterns. What this means is that during the day the person may feel very tired and then go to bed at night and feel wide awake. Frustrating right? 

Amongst the types of circadian rhythm disorders are delayed phase sleep disorder where sleep onset doesn’t come until 2-3 a.m. Often times individuals with delayed phase sleep disorder can be perceived as lazy during the morning because they are tardy for their events. They’re also more creative and productive late at night.

Advanced Sleep Phase disorder is often seen int he elderly with early bedtimes from 6-9pm and early morning awakenings between 2-5am. People with advanced sleep phase disorder often complain of early morning insomnia as well as sleepiness in the late afternoon or early evening. 

Shift work disorder affects people who work late shifts that contrast with the body’s natural circadian rhythm.

General symptoms include…

  • Difficulty initiating sleep 
  • Difficulty maintaining sleep
  • Nonrestorative sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Impaired cognitive performance 

Most of the time a persons circadian rythm is in synchronization with the 24 hour day and night environment but a tiny bit longer. Seeing sunlight each morning helps to signal to your body that it’s the morning and it should be awake. However if an individual is not getting any sunlight, or his body doesn’t notice that it’s the morning he/she has a circadian rythm disorder. Common causes include…

  • Jet lag
  • Neurological diseases like Alzheimers
  • Shift work changes that have an individual working through the night
  • Low levels of light for an extended period of time (think a winter in Chicago)

Circadian rhythm disorders are typically treated with lifestyle changes as a first line of defense however there are some drugs that can be used in tandem to help maintain normal sleeping cycles.

  • Proper sleep hygiene techniques
  • External stimulus such as light therapy where a lightbox is used in the morning
  • Chronotherapy where a patient delays sleep by 2-3 hours every day until the desired bedtime is reached
  • Melatonin to help encourage sleeping during the evening
  • Wakefulness drugs such as Provogil during the day to improve alertness and fend off sleepiness