Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Circadian rhythm disorders are problems that occur when a child’s sleep-wake cycle is not properly aligned with the environment and interferes with daily activities.

The human body has a biological clock (also called the circadian clock) that controls timings of body functions and other activities also including the sleep and wake time. The biological clock cycles every day i.e. about every 24 hours. The body aligns the sleep-wake cycle with the environmental cues. Like for example, when we wake up, when we eat, when we are physically active and when we sleep. When the child’s biological clock gets out of sync with the environment, the child gets disruption in sleep leading to interference with daily activities. This is called a circadian rhythm disorder.

Types of Circadian Rhythm Disorders

The types of circadian rhythm disorders are advanced or delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, irregular or non–24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder, and shift work or jet lag disorder. The type of circadian rhythm disorder is based on the child’s pattern of sleep and wakefulness. The most type of circadian rhythm disorder seen in children is the delayed sleep-wake phase disorder.

Signs and symptoms of Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Children with circadian rhythm disorders sleep and wake up at socially unacceptable times. For example, children with delayed sleep-wake phase disorder sleep very late like 3-4 am in the night and would get up at 12 noon. If they get up early for going to school they will get a very short sleep leading to sleep deprivation. This leads to excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, lethargy and tiredness during the day, reduced alertness and poor concentration.

Treatment of circadian rhythm disorders

The plan of treatment depends on the type and the cause of circadian rhythm disorder. The treatment of circadian rhythm disorder includes light therapy, medicines to help fall asleep like melatonin, a healthy lifestyle, good exercise and steps to improve sleep habits or sleep hygiene.