Circadian rhythm disorders describe mismatch between the body’s internal clock and the external 24-hour schedule. These sleep-timing problems are called circadian rhythm sleep disorders because ‘circadian’ describes the body’s daily sleep/wake hormone regulation. Circadian is Latin that means ‘ for about a day’.
There are a couple of different types of circadian rhythm disorders.
- Delayed Circadian Rhythm Disorder (DCR) means your body clock is running slower than a normal circadian rhythm. A normal circadian rhythm is the 24 hours that we know to define as one day. In this case you may have difficulty getting started in the morning, you may feel a bit groggy or down during part of the day, and you may experience a second wind later in the evening.
- Advanced Circadian Rhythm Disorder (ACR)indicates a body clock that is running ahead of a normal 24-hour period. This means you tend to run out of energy before the ‘day’ or 24 hour period is through. ACR also tends to compress the sleep portion of your daily cycle, causing you to lose valuable sleep as you tend to wake up early and sleep less then eight hours.
- Circadian Amplitude Disorder (CAD) means your body clock may be producing lower or higher amounts of the hormones that are helpful for sleep. The most well known of these hormones is melatonin.
The symptoms of a circadian rhythm disorder depend on what type you have
If you have Delayed Circadian Rhythm Disorder your body you are a typical night owl. . You may oversleep, have trouble waking up and not be able to concentrate on tasks.
If you have Advanced Circadian Rhythm Disorder you may have insomnia early in the morning, need a nap half way through the day and feel run down.
Circadian Amplitude Disorder is signified by a lower quality of sleep and a lack of energy or concentration during the day.
Our daily activity and sleep rhythms are regulated by a control center in the hypothalamus region of the brain called the Suprachaismatic Nucleus, which is also known as the body clock.
The body clock needs to receive signals to tell it when to shut down and prepare for sleep and when to produce the active waking hormones. The most powerful signal is bright light such as sunshine.
When the body clock cannot receive the light signals correctly, it malfunctions, causing circadian rhythm disorders.
Coping With Circadian Rhythm Disorders
Treatment for a circadian rhythm disorder is dependent on the type that you have –
Light therapy is often usedfor Delayed Circadian Rhythm Disorders. This involves exposing yourself to bright light in the morning.
Dawn Simulation is used sleep labs and universities to help treat DCR. In a clinical atmosphere, specialists provide dawn simulation by sending a properly timed signal of light through the retina of the eye to the brain’s body clock in the hypothalamus. The light signal slowly increases in intensity, just like a morning sunrise, which helps to reset the body clock.
If you have Advanced Circadian Rhythm Disorder then bright light therapy that requires that you sit in front of a bright light for three hours every morning is required. At home you should also avoid bright morning light before 9:00 am.
If you don’t receive the proper amount or type of sleep, your energy, alertness and ability to function may also be diminished. The outcome of these disorders can depend on the individual and whether or not there is an underlying physical affliction or psychological problem that affects your sleep patterns. Often it is minor changes to routines or lifestyle advice that help an individual prevent and cope with this issue.
Naturopathic services provided at the Pinewood Natural Health clinic for autoimmune disorders include acupuncture, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies and dietary counseling and homeopathy. Our integrated practice has a focus on anti-aging therapies, weight loss, therapeutic massage and cancer support. Feel free to contact us online. You can also call us at our Toronto Clinic at (416) 556-8100 or at the Pickering Clinic (905) 427-0057.