Is Stress Giving You a Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder?

“Circadian” comes from a Latin word that means “around the day,” and most of us have heard the term “circadian rhythm” in the context of a condition popularly referred to as jet lag. But did you also know that there are over a half dozen other sleep disorders associated with the body’s internal 24-hour clock?

As defined by the Circadian Sleep Disorders Network, “CRSDs are neurological disorders in which the sleep-wake cycle is out of sync with the day-night cycle.” Not surprisingly, chronic stress is a common trigger for many of us that directly impacts both our sleep patterns and the quality of sleep we get. This ongoing disruption of our body’s natural desire to sleep and wake can eventually take its toll, at which point we may be diagnosed as having a serious disorder.

What Are the Symptoms of Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, every CRSDs is marked by at least one of the following:

  • Initiating sleep is difficult.
  • Struggling to maintain sleep, waking up frequently during the night
  • Waking too early and unable to go back to sleep
  • Lacking proper quality of sleep; it’s nonrestorative

Most Common CRSDs

  • Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder: A disorder that occurs when the onset of the body’s natural sleep cycle is intentionally delayed. The term “night owl” describes this person, as he/she is often most alert and creative late at night.
  • Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder: Results from extremely early bedtimes (e.g., 6 PM to 9 PM) and wake up times (2 AM to 5 AM), making this the opposite condition of Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. Elderly people are most commonly afflicted with this type of CRSDs.
  • Jet Lag: Jet lag happens when the body’s internal clock get confused when traveling across time zones. Interestingly enough, eastward travel is said to be worse than westward travel because it’s easier to keep sleep at bay than it is to get to sleep earlier than usual.
  • Shift Work Disorder: Most often affects people who work night shifts or have rotating work schedules. This type of schedule is problematic in that sleep interruption is a regular problem, which leads to insomnia or excessive tiredness.

How to Treat a Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Research conducted by the Cleveland Clinic identifies the following three treatments as effective for Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders:

  • Behavior Therapy: A treatment that emphasizes a greater focus on keeping your sleep and wake times consistent every day. Other habits, such as nicotine and caffeine, will also need to be regulated in order to keep the body’s natural rhythm in sync.
  • Bright Light Therapy: Can be used to either advance or delay sleep, based on the critical time of your exposure to a high-intensity light (10,000 lux). With the help of a sleep specialist, this type of therapy can help reset your circadian rhythm.
  • Medications: Melatonin, wake-promoting agents, and short-term sleep aids are all pharmaceutical aids that can be used to help coax your body back into its natural rhythm. Melatonin is a hormone that’s available over the count and is particularly effective for jet lag.

Many sleep specialists recommend keeping a daily diary to begin developing a sort of database. This database will include and track what types of behaviors, dietary choices, etc. impact your sleep cycle. In addition to keeping a regular sleep schedule and shying away from caffeine, it’s important to assess your sleep environment. You need to make sure you’re getting quality sleep during those hours when actually in bed. For example, a luxury mattress from Spink & Edgar is made with natural materials that help your body regulate temperature properly throughout the night can go a long way in terms of helping you keep your circadian rhythm in sync.

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