Non-24 Sleep-Wake Disorder: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Sleep-Wake Disorder

What Is Non-24 Sleep-Wake Disorder (N24SWD)?

Non-24 Sleep-Wake Disorder (N24SWD) is a rare and serious chronic circadian rhythm disorder that affects the body’s natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. It is mostly seen in people who are completely blind, influencing their ability to sleep and stay awake at the same times each day. It is estimated to affect nearly 70,000 people in the US and can severely disrupt daily life.

What Causes N24SWD?

The exact cause of N24SWD is not known, however, it is believed to be the result of abnormal signals in the brain. People who have been completely blind since birth have difficulty detecting environmental cues, such as light–dark cycles that help to regulate their sleep-wake cycles. This can lead to the disruption of the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, which can disrupt the timing of sleep and wakefulness each day.

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What Are the Symptoms of N24SWD?

Common symptoms of N24SWD include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Daytime exhaustion and fatigue
  • Mood swings and irritable behavior
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping

These symptoms can severely affect an individual’s quality of life, causing difficulty in managing daily activities and socializing with others.

How Is N24SWD Diagnosed and Treated?

N24SWD is typically diagnosed through the patient’s medical history and sleep logs. A sleep specialist can complete a physical examination or use specialized tests to diagnose N24SWD.

Treatment of N24SWD usually involves the use of light therapy, melatonin and other medications to help regulate the circadian rhythm and improve sleep. Other treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy and lifestyle modifications may also be considered.

What Are the Health Implications of N24SWD?

N24SWD can have severe impacts on a person’s physical and mental health. It can lead to a range of physical health problems, including poor appetite, weight gain or loss, memory problems, and poor immune system function. It can also cause mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and can interfere with relationships, occupational and academic performance.

Final Thoughts

Non-24 Sleep-Wake Disorder (N24SWD) is a serious but treatable disorder that can significantly disrupt a person’s life. Early diagnosis and treatment have been shown to improve quality of life and reduce the risks associated with this disorder. If you have been experiencing symptoms of N24SWD, it is important to seek medical advice and treatment.

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