Sleep & Your Lifestyle: Understanding Sleep-Wake Phase Disorders


 When your body has issues with sleep rhythms, you could experience circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders. The circadian rhythm is responsible for deciding the natural sleep-wake cycles based on the body’s temperature, hormone levels, and other external factors like mealtimes, exposure to light, etc. This is why it is also commonly called the body clock. When the circadian rhythm does not coincide with your normal sleep schedule, the subject feels a tremendous biological urge to sleep when they are usually awake or vice versa. They end up feeling tired very early in the day while staying up to the late hours. You may think your insomnia is a minor issue, or that you are just a night owl, but these distorted patterns might cause serious problems in the future and have an effect on your productivity, ability to socialize or even keep your job. Let us consider an example.

As per, sleep issues could be a crucial factor that explains why over 60% of the deaths among firefighters are caused by traffic accidents and heart attacks. This has been revealed by the findings of a new study that was published in the renowned ‘The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine’. The study involved 7,000 firefighters from all over the United States and it was revealed that 37 percent of the firefighters actually suffered from a minimum of one kind of sleep disorder such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, shift-worker disorder, etc. The findings revealed the effects of some sleep disorders and sleep issues on the health and safety of firefighters. Moreover, the study demonstrated how sleep disorders were connected to the two major causes of death or fatality among professional firefighters.

Identifying Sleep-Wake Phase Disorders

Here are some telltale symptoms by which you can identify circadian rhythm disorders or Disorders of the Sleep-Wake Phase.

  • Trouble falling asleep.
  • Inability to sleep consistently and peacefully for long periods every night.
  • Grogginess and other issues when you wake in the morning.
  • Significant delays or advances in your sleep period, by two hours or more.
  • Excessive sleepiness and sluggishness during a normal day.

Different Kinds of Sleep-Wake Phase Disorders

Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder: This condition is also referred to as Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome. This entails a circadian rhythm shift in terms of arousals and early bedtimes. Individuals suffering from Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder would be experiencing a major urge to go off to sleep in the evening usually, between six o’clock to 9 o’clock and wake up very early in the morning usually, between 2 o’clock to 5 o’clock. These people seem exhausted throughout the daytime and that makes them sleepy early the next evening. We know that an estimated 1% of adults are known to experience ASPD that seems to be far more prevalent among older adults.                                                

Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder: This condition takes place once the circadian rhythm actually shifts so sleep would be taking place much later within the 24-hour cycle. An individual suffering from Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder usually goes to sleep at least, a couple of hours or later than his preferred bedtime. He would be experiencing extreme difficulty in getting up in the morning and could be feeling very sleepy or drowsy during the daytime. Moreover, despite lack of sleep and very tired throughout the day, he would not automatically fall asleep but would stay awake at night. Since teenagers are known to suffer from a sleep-phase delay naturally during puberty, this condition is more common usually, in adolescents and generally, girls.

You need to opt for treatment if the sleep-wake phase disorder seems pretty severe and is impacting adversely your everyday existence. However, some adolescents are known to outgrow these issues naturally as they mature and treatment may not be necessary. When an individual experiences significant issues and difficulties in his professional and personal lives due to sleep-wake phase disorders he could opt for melatonin or light therapy at specific times as advised by the doctor.



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Claire Hastings
Claire Hastings is a design student, wanderer, and a writer. She writes as long as she can remember, and she is very passionate about fashion, running, other cultures, and her cat.

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