Affecting Sighted & Blind Alike: Understanding Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder

Affecting Sighted

Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, also known as circadian rhythm sleep disorder, affects sighted and blind individuals alike. It causes a disruption of the individual’s natural circadian rhythm, making it difficult to get enough sleep and feel alert during the day. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of those who experience this disorder are completely blind and the other 30 percent are sighted. Therefore, if you experience sleep problems, an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment are essential. In this article, we’ll discuss understanding Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder and how it affects both sighted and blind individuals.

What is Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder?

Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder is a circadian rhythm disorder, caused by an individual’s internal circadian clock not being in sync with the earth’s 24-hour daily cycle. The internal clock, or circadian rhythm, tells an individual when to sleep and when to stay awake. When an individual has Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, the internal clock runs on a 25-27 hour cycle instead of a 24-hour cycle. This disruption results in difficulty falling asleep and also leads to excessive daytime sleepiness throughout the day.

Symptoms of Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder

The main symptom of Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder is insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Other symptoms of this disorder include sleepiness throughout the day, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. For those who are completely blind, other symptoms such as decreased appetite, irritability and depression can also occur.

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How is Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder is based on an individual’s medical history, current symptoms and a physical examination. The goal is to rule out other possible causes of insomnia and sleep disturbances. Additionally, a doctor may also recommend actigraphy — a non-invasive sleep monitoring technology — to confirm Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder.

Treatment for Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder

Treatment for Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder can include both lifestyle changes and medications. Lifestyle changes can include improving sleep hygiene, such as going to bed at the same time every night and avoiding caffeine or other stimulants in the evening. Additionally, bright light therapy and melatonin supplements may also be recommended. In more severe cases of Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, medications such as hypnotics or sedatives can be prescribed.

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Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder can have a major impact on an individual’s quality of life and health. Therefore, it is important to seek medical advice if you are having difficulty sleeping or staying alert during the day. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment can help you get back on track and allow you to get the quality sleep you need.

Keywords: Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Insomnia, Sleep Hygiene, Hypnotics, Sedatives, Bright Light Therapy, Melatonin.

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