Circadian Rhythm Disorders: How to Recognize and Treat These Disruptions

Circadian Rhythm

What is Circadian Rhythm Disorder?

Circadian Rhythm Disorder (CRD) refers to disruption or misalignment of a person’s biological circadian rhythm. It occurs when a person’s Circadian rhythm is out of sync with the 24-hour day and night cycle of their environment. Circadian Rhythm Disorders can have an effect on mental and physical health and can impact the ability to perform activities normally.

Signs and Symptoms of Circadian Rhythm Disorder

CRD can cause a variety of symptoms including fatigue, poor concentration and memory, irritability, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, digestive troubles, decreased immunity, and difficulty forming social connections. People with CRD may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, have frequent daytime naps, have difficulty waking up in the morning, have difficulty sleeping through the night, or have periods of alertness or energy during the night when they should be sleeping.

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Risk Factors for Circadian Rhythm Disorders

The main risk factors for CRD include: working at night, traveling across multiple time zones, jet lag, shift work, age-related changes, mental or physical health issues, changes in lifestyle or environment, and certain medications.

Diagnosis of Circadian Rhythm Disorders

CRD is typically diagnosed after a physical exam, medical history, and lifestyle assessment. The doctor may also recommend a sleep study to check for patterns of sleep that may indicate a CRD.

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How to Recognize and Treat Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Identifying Circadian Rhythm Disorders is the first step in successful treatment. If you are exhibiting symptoms such as frequent naps, difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, difficulty sleeping through the night, or have periods of alertness during the night, it may be time to seek medical attention.

Tips for Treating Circadian Rhythm Disorders:

  • Stay on a consistent sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends, adjusting your schedule as needed.
  • Use light to your advantage. Let the sun help you adjust to a new schedule and wake you up in the mornings by opening curtains and getting some natural light. Avoid bright light late at night.
  • Get some exercise. Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and your energy levels during the day.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol late in the day can improve your ability to fall asleep.
  • Consume a healthy diet. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with adequate vitamins and minerals can help improve sleep quality.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage symptoms of CRD. If a Circadian Rhythm Disorder is severe or impacting a person’s quality of life, it is important to seek professional help from a doctor or sleep specialist.

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