Circadian Rhythm Disorder / Jet Lag

What are Circadian Rhythm Disorders?

Individuals who suffer from a circadian rhythm disorder may experience frequent sleep interruptions. Your body’s internal clock is set by light, specifically the brightness and type of light, the amount of time exposed to light, and when you are exposed. Other factors include melatonin levels, physical activity, and social behaviors. Your body’s internal clock regulates temperature and hormone levels.

Circadian rhythm disorders are classified by one of the following issues:

  • You have a difficult time falling asleep
  • You have trouble staying asleep
  • You cannot go back to sleep if you wake early

Erratic sleep patterns prevent the body from achieving optimal rest and recovery levels, which is why seeking treatment for circadian rhythm disorders from Gwinnett Sleep is extremely important to prevent other chronic conditions.

Common Circadian Rhythm Disorders

There are several common circadian rhythm disorders we can diagnose.

  • Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSP):
    DSP disorder occurs when your sleep-wake  cycle is pushed back more than two hours than what is considered normal. A delayed circadian rhythm. Those with DSP are typically considered “night owls”, and may not be able to fall asleep until 1 am and sleep as late as 3 pm. DSP is more common in young adults and teens.

Other common features of DSP are:

    • Alert, productive, and creative late at night
    • Sleepy during the day if you wake early
    • Incapable of performing tasks in the morning hours
  • Advanced sleep phase disorder (ASP):
    ASP disorder is similar to DSP, except that those with ASP disorder typically wake up several hours earlier than most. Those with ASP are considered “morning types” and wake up around 2 am to 5 am and fall asleep between 6 pm and 9 pm.
  • Jet lag disorder:
    Jet lag is a common, temporary circadian rhythm disorder. Jet lag is the fatigue you may feel after flying across several time zones. The rapid travel disturbs your normal body rhythms. When you travel across several time zones, your “day” is longer or shorter than 24 hours. Your body is out of sync with the local time zone. Your normal body rhythm fails to adjust to this shorter or longer day, resulting in jet lag.Traveling eastward, which shortens your day, is more difficult than flying westward, which lengthens it. West-to-East Coast trips may require one day of recovery for each  time zone crossed. East-to-West Coast journeys may require one day of recovery for each one and a half time zones crossed. The adjustment can be eased by breaking up a long journey with a stopover. If you have an important event or meeting to attend at your  destination, try to get there 2-3 days early.You can prevent or reduce jet lag with these tips:

    • Drink lots of beverages during the flight, but avoid those containing caffeine or alcohol
    • Eat high-protein, low-calorie meals before, during, and after your flight
    • If you fly eastward, go to bed earlier than usual for a few days before the trip
    • If you fly westward, go to bed later than usual
    • Schedule your arrival at about your usual bedtime, according to the time at your destination, or sleep on the plane and plan to arrive at your usual waking time
    • Set your watch to the destination time when you are halfway through your flight so you can start thinking in terms of the new time zone
    • Spend more time outside at your destination. This exposure to bright outdoor light will help you to adjust faster than if you stay in your hotel room
  • Shift work disorder:
    Shift work disorder occurs in those who have irregular work schedules, such as night shift. Shift work disorder interrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm and makes the sleep pattern adjustment difficult. This disorder can result in insomnia or excessive sleepiness.
  • Irregular rhythm sleep-wake disorder:
    This disorder is characterized by an undefined sleep-wake cycle. A person with this disorder may take several naps within a 24-hour period. Those with abnormal sleep schedules may experience chronic insomnia or excessive sleepiness.

What are the symptoms of a circadian rhythm sleep disorder?

Symptoms of each specific disorder may vary, however common symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, depression, impaired work performance, and disrupted social schedules.

Treatment for Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Treatment for circadian rhythm disorders will vary depending on the specific disorder. Typical treatment will include lifestyle changes, sleep hygiene, bright light therapy, and sleep medications.

If you struggle with sleep over a long period of time, it’s time to consult a sleep specialist. Seeking a specialist could also be beneficial if you believe you are experiencing a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. If you are looking to get quality sleep and improve your overall health, call Gwinnett Sleep at 678-582-1929 to schedule an appointment today.