The entire cycle in the human body that makes the transition from being awake to being asleep and back again to wakefulness is called the circadian rhythm and lasts about 24 hours. Your circadian rhythm helps you achieve normal sleep and waking patterns.

Circadian rhythm disorders refer to problems with the timing of sleep and wake or an upset of your body’s cirdadian rhythm. These include jet lag, shift work disorder, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and advance sleep phase syndrome. These disorders can be devastating to job performance and social life. The good news is that they can often be successfully treated with carefully planned light therapy, medications, and behavioral interventions.

Circadian Rhythms

Circadian rhythms are natural patterns of change in the body over a roughly 24 hour period. Most are due to natural factors, but they can be easily affected by signals in the environment. Light, for example, is an environmental factor which can greatly affect our circadian rhythm.

Circadian rhythms are found in almost all living things, including plants, animals, fungi, and any number of microbes.

Sleep wake cycles and a number of important bodily functions can be greatly affected, such as the release of hormones and changes in body temperature. Abnormal rhythms have been associated with diabetes, obesity, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Traveling across time zones can disrupt your circadian rhythm resulting in jet lag.

Alarm Clock

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

Exhausted Woman with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

People with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome usually fall asleep late and have a hard time waking up in the morning in time to get to work or school. Sufferers of circadian rhythm disorders are often referred to as “night owls”.  Most find it impossible to shift their schedule to a more normal pattern, although some people manage to get through the work week with little sleep and attempt to make up for it on the weekend.  Most really suffer and there are long term effects from living this way for any extended period. Their health, ability to function properly, safely, and productively can be seriously affected.

Those who find a way to live and work around their odd sleeping hours or circadian rhythm seem to do fine except for social and relationship problems that often occur, They simply live on a different time clock than the average person, typically going to bed between 2:00 and 7:00 AM and getting up far later in the day than the average person. Those who try to fight it in order to make a living or go to school, live with constant jet-lag-like symptoms.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome usually begins in early childhood or adolescence. It is not uncommon for people with this syndrome to develop some type of illness or depression.

Advance Sleep Phase Syndrome

People with this condition usually fall asleep in the early evening and wake up earlier than they would like to in the morning. This syndrome occurs most often in the elderly. Their circadian rhythm is such that they simply must go to sleep far earlier than what would be considered within the normal range. And they awaken in the wee hours of the morning, often between 1:00 and 3:00 AM. Efforts to change this sleep/wake cycle are unsuccessful.

People who suffer from advance sleep phase syndrome often have gastrointestinal problems, muscle aches and pains, ulcers, and a real sensitivity to cold. If you think you might be suffering from advance sleep phase syndrome it would be wise to consult a sleep physician.

Man in Bed Looking at the Clock
Man Working a Factory Shift

Shift Work

People who do shift work, whether switching from day shift to night shift or worki