Get back into the Rhythm of things
We all have an internal clock that regulates certain biological functions over a 24-hour period. That clock is referred to as your circadian rhythm. Disorders associated with them refer to the disruptions in the timing of sleep and wake and the consequences associated with them. As with many body functions, your circadian rhythm can get out of alignment for a variety of reasons. For example, the demands of a job, newborn baby or travel can disrupt your body clock. When your internal rhythm is off, it can affect your sleep as well as your wake time.
Every person’s circadian rhythm is slightly different and is often associated with melatonin, which helps your body regulate sleep. Melatonin production is affected by sunlight. When you’re exposed to light, melatonin levels are low. But when light decreases, such as in the evening, your body makes more melatonin, which in turn makes you sleepy.
Keep in mind; there are individual variations in a person’s internal clock. For example, you might feel you are naturally a morning person, or maybe you consider yourself a night owl.
Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders
Jet Lag: most apparent jet lag is caused by changing time zones, which can disrupt light cues and regular bedtimes. In most cases, jet lag is temporary and regular sleep patterns return.
Sleep Shift Disorder: when you work different hours and rotate frequently, your body cannot get into a schedule. What happens is when you work overnight, your body needs to stay awake, which goes against your natural circadian rhythm. The conflict between what your internal clock wants to do and what you are forcing yourself to do disrupts normal sleep.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome: When you cannot fall asleep under “normal” bedtimes, making you stay awake till 2 or 3 am. Since bedtimes are much later than typical, people with the syndrome usually wake up later in the morning. The problem for people with delayed sleep phase syndrome is their sleep pattern may not match their school or work start time, which leads to excessive daytime sleepiness.
Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder: Opposite of above, this is when you fall asleep very early and wake up too early. For example, people with advanced sleep phase syndrome may fall asleep at 7-8 pm and wake up very early at 3-4 am.
Non-24 Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder: This is when your cycle runs on a longer period than 24 hours. Your sleep and rise times drift a little later each night. Sleep times continue to change and eventually may go all the way around the clock. The condition is most common in people who are blind.