What is Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Updated: Sep 21

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder, or "CRSD" is a disease that causes sleep to be desynchronized with an individual's circadian rhythm. CRSD occurs when a person’s typical sleep times are misaligned or out of sync with the environment. This often results in the patient being unable to fall asleep at night, and staying awake throughout the day. CRSD can be caused by genetics, environmental conditions or other factors.



The body's internal clock is made up of 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms that work in the background to carry out vital processes and functions. The sleep-wake cycle is one of the most significant and well-known circadian rhythms. The cycle of sleeping at night and being up during the day is one example. Your body's circadian rhythm is made up of a number of elements. All living organism species have circadian rhythms. It prevents nocturnal creatures from leaving their shelter during the day, when they would be more vulnerable to predators, they can, for instance, assist flowers in opening and closing at the proper times.


Circadian rhythms in people coordinate all bodily mental and physical systems. For example, to coincide with the regular timing of meals, the digestive system creates proteins, and the endocrine system controls hormones to coincide with energy expenditure. The Master clock is the biological clocks in the brain, which keeps the the circadian rhythm synchronized. The suprachiasmatic nucleus, often known as the SCN, is a structure that makes up a group of roughly 20,000 nerve cells (neurons). It is largely affected by light. Direct input from the eyes is sent to the SCN, which is located in the hypothalamus region of the brain. With time, a person's sleep pattern develops and changes.



(Image credit: NIGMS)

Teenagers frequently stay up later than younger kids or adults because of this. As we age, we have a tendency to go to sleep and wake up earlier in the day.



Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder


Circadian rhythm sleep disorder has negative effects on the daily lives of people. People with CRSD will have trouble falling asleep and waking up at the normal times because their body thinks it should be sleeping at a time when they are awake, or vice versa. There are several different types of circadian rhythm sleep disorders, each with its own symptoms and characteristics. In general, most people with circadian rhythm sleep disorders have one or more of these symptoms:

· Difficulty going to sleep

· Difficulty staying asleep

· Not feeling refreshed after sleeping

· Feeling less alert

· Memory issues





6 Types of Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders:



Advance Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder This disorder causes the afflicted to go to sleep earlier than normal and wake up earlier than normal. The prevalence rate for this illness in young adults and adolescents is 7 to 16%; many people with it are categorized as evening chronotypes or night owls.


Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder This disorder happens when a person’s sleep is delayed by two hours or more beyond what is considered an acceptable or conventional bedtime.



Non-24 Hour Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder

Also known as free-running disorder, this disorder causes the affected to have sleep patterns that don’t line up with the 24-hour day. When their sleep cycles conflict with the timetable of their social and professional lives, people with this illness may experience the symptoms of insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness. Their sleep times become later until they’re eventually sleeping during the day.



Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder This disorder causes the afflicted to sleep for short periods that aren’t timed by their circadian system. As a result, they’ll sleep for several short naps spread across the 24-hour day, with periods of wakefulness in between. The majority of those who suffer from irregular sleep-wake cycles have neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative disorders.



Jet Lag Disorder This is a disorder commonly known simply as “jetlag”. The body struggles to adjust to the new time zone. The severity of the symptoms increases with the distance between time zones. Most often brief, some persons are more affected by jet lag disorder than others.



Shift Work Disorder Those who work overnight or in the early morning tend to develop this illness. People with shift work disorder have trouble making up for lost sleep at night by sleeping enough during the day.






How to Maintain a Healthy Circadian Rhythm


(Image credit: National Institute of General Medical Sciences)



It may sometimes be difficult to control the circadian rhythm, owning to our hectic and busy lives. Here are some simple tricks to help:


1. Seek out sunlight The strongest circadian cue is strengthened by exposure to natural light, particularly early in the day.

2. Follow a consistent sleeping schedule Changing your bedtime or wake-up time each day can make it harder for your body to become used to a regular circadian rhythm.

3. Get moving Activity during the day can support your internal clock and help make it easier to fall asleep at night.

4. Blackout your room Before going to bed, lower the lights, putting electronics away, keeping electronics out of the bedroom, and keep electronics away from your mattress.

5. Avoid that cup of caffeine Caffeine and other stimulants might keep you awake and disturb your body's normal sleep-wake cycle. Avoid coffee after midday if you have difficulties falling asleep.

6. Keep naps short and in the afternoon Late and long naps can push back your bedtime and throw your sleep schedule off.



Your health depends on getting adequate sleep. Your chances of developing depression, a weakened immune system, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases may increase if you have a circadian rhythm sleep disturbance.


You may be able to modify your sleep schedule by making little modifications to your sleeping routine. Although good sleep hygiene can help sustain a healthy circadian rhythm, other measures may also be required, depending on the circumstances.


It's crucial to speak with a doctor who can accurately identify the cause of your sleep issues and recommend the best course of action if you experience chronic or severe sleep issues, daytime sleepiness or a troublesome sleep routine.


Author Credit: The Air Station Healthcare Professionals & Customer Service Team

References:

Anon, National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Pacheco, D. & Rehman, D.A., 2022. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Sleep Foundation.

National Institutes of Health. (2020, July 13). Circadian Rhythms.





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