A large percentage of people in the U.S. suffer from some type of sleep disorder that disrupts their daily life. There have been some reports that shows around 20% of people get less than six hours of sleep a night, which is well below the recommended eight hours. This lack of sleep can cause real problems, from depression to poor work performance to driving accidents. In this article we will take a look at some of the different types of sleep disorders caused by a disruption of the circadian rhythm and how they can be treated.
Types of sleep disorders
There are dozens of different sleep disorders ranging from restless leg syndrome to narcolepsy. In this article we will be looking at sleep disorders that fall under the disrupted circadian rhythm category. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that works on a 24-hour cycle. It is the cycle of changes in the biochemical, physiological and behavioral processes that takes place in the body over the course of the day. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, it can cause a range of different sleep problems. These sleep disorders include:
Jet lag: Jet lag occurs when traveling across multiple time zones. The body still thinks it is in it’s own time zone, causing you to feel tired during the day and wakeful during very late or very early hours. The symptoms of jet lag generally reset after a few days of being in the new place.
Delayed sleep phase syndrome: Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) is a disorder where the patient falls asleep late at night (usually hours after midnight) and has trouble waking in the morning. People with this disorder usually sleep fine and can maintain their sleep once they have gone to bed.
Advanced sleep phase syndrome: Advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS) is a condition where the patient feels very sleepy early on in the evening (around 6pm) and has a tendency to wake very early in the morning (around 3am).
Shift work sleep disorder: Shift work sleep disorder is a condition caused by working late night shifts or by constantly rotating shift times. The symptoms include insomnia and excessive sleepiness.
Irregular sleep-wake rhythm: This is a rarer form of sleep disorder that is characterized by the need to nap frequently throughout the day with no main nighttime sleep pattern.
Non 24-hour sleep wake disorder: This is a condition where the individual’s body lives in a 25-hour day. This means the person’s sleep pattern is inconsistent, with insomnia happening at different times every night.
Blue light therapy
One effective and safe treatment that can be used to treat circadian rhythm sleep disorders is the use of circadian blue light therapy. This bright-light therapy works by having the patient sit in front of a full-spectrum light (usually 10,000 lux) for a couple hours each day at a specified time. The lamp mimics the light you would receive from sunlight and stimulates wakefulness in the brain as well as the production of important chemicals. To get the most out of your light box, make sure it is bright enough and that you use it in the morning if you suffer from DSPS or in the evening if you have ASPS. Try using it consistently everyday in the same place in order to see results.