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How to Balance Your Circadian Rhythm

Afshan Basher Aly

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How to Balance Your Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm of an individual is an internal biological clock that controls a variety of biological processes over an average duration of 24 hours.

Most of the body systems of an individual exhibit circadian variations. The sleep pattern, the body temperature system, and the endocrine system are the body processes with the most prominent circadian variations.

The circadian rhythms are controlled by circadian clocks or biological clock these clocks tell our brain when to sleep, tell our gut when to digest and control our activity in several day.

Determine Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder with:

  1. Poor concentration.
  2. Severe Depression.
  3. Daytime sleep disorder.
  4. Difficulty sleeping
  5. Decreased performance
  6. Diminished cognitive skills
  7. Recurring problems with balance or digestive system.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder Causes

Circadian cycle or biological clock dysfunction triggers circadian rhythm disruptions.  A sleep-wake cycle is a form of circadian rhythm disorder that can be divided into two main groups:

  1. Intermittent (short-term) disorders
  2. Chronic disorders.

Intermittent Sleep Conditions

It causes biological clock disturbances which include jet lag, destabilized sleep pattern due to working hours or social responsibilities, and disease.

Chronic Sleep Conditions

Chronic biological clock disorders are an irregular sleep-wake cycle, delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS) and advanced sleep-phase syndrome (ASPS).

The advanced sleep-phase syndrome is characterized by frequent early evening sleep start time (from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm) and early morning wake-up time (from 3:00 am to 5:00 am).

  • An irregular sleep-wake cycle involves numerous sleep periods with no identifiable ultradian (a sequence of shorter biological cycles occurring within 24 hours) or circadian sleep and wakefulness characteristics.

Delayed Sleep-phase Syndrome is characterized by a chronic (i.e. more than 6 months) inability to sleep and wake up at socially acceptable times.

Did you know: those with DSPS fall asleep late (e.g. early in the morning) and wake up late (e.g. late in the morning or early in the afternoon)?

For adolescents and young adults, this condition is more common than in older people.

  • When asleep, people with DSPS will remain sleeping and have regular maximum sleep times. In comparison, people without DSPS who are unable to sleep due to difficulties in initiating and sustaining sleep have a total sleep time that is lower than normal than those with DSPS.

War Zone: ASPS vs. DSPS

  1. ASPS happens less often than DSPS and is most often seen in elderly people and depressed individuals.
  2. In individuals with ASPS, DSPS, and an irregular sleep-wake cycle, total sleep time is normal.

Harsh Fact: Daily sleep logs show irregularity not only in sleep but also in daytime activities, like eating and other activities that could disturb the biological clock of the person.

Circadian Rhythm Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms typically found in people with a sleep-wake related circadian rhythm disorder may include the following:

  • Sleep-initiating difficulties.
  • Sleep induction difficulties
  • Sleep management difficulties.
  • Non-restorative or poor quality sleep.
  • Daytime sleepiness.
  • Low concentration.
  • Poor psychomotor control.
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort.

Imbalances Circadian Rhythm

These are some of the factors that contribute to circadian rhythm imbalance.

Environment

Light, higher noise rates and high room temperature are not conducive to good sleep and are important variables that need to be addressed in shift workers as well as night employees.

Travel

The frequency of the jet lag is related to travel direction and is more commonly seen in people travelling eastward. The number of time zones crossed also impacts the intensity of jet lag, with most people experiencing jet lag while passing three or more time zones.

Did you know: The modification frequency after a westward flight is 1.5 hours per day and after an eastward flight is 1 hour per day?

Neurological Disorder

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common examples of neurological disease correlated with circadian rhythm disturbance; but, in other neurodegenerative diseases, irregular sleep-wake patterns can also be seen. Sundowning, a common phenomenon in people with Alzheimer’s disease, is defined by waking and misunderstanding sleep disturbances.

Shift Work

The most common signs of a circadian rhythm disorder are sudden shift changes required by work. A circadian rhythm disorder may be compounded by behaviour and social pressure to stay up late.

Circadian Rhythm Treatment

Both cognitive and environmental interventions may be included in traditional circadian rhythm syndrome treatments.

Chronotherapy

This therapeutic procedure consists of sleep time slowly changing according to the preferred routine of the patient. An incremental lag of 3 hours per day is therefore recommended in DSPS, accompanied by stringent enforcement of a daily bedtime hour once the target date has been met.

Through ASPS, the aim of chronotherapy is to accelerate a daily bedtime hour for 1 week by 2-3 hours per night until an optimal timetable is met. People with DSPS who initially react to chronotherapy may slowly return to their old sleep patterns. In order to maintain long-lasting results, chronotherapy also needs to be repeated every few months.

Bright Light Therapy

People with a circadian rhythm disorder are reacting well to light therapy, particularly bright light therapy (over 600 lux). Clear room light can also be required overtime to change the circadian rhythm phase;

  • Nevertheless, a higher light intensity (more than 6000 lux over 30-60 minutes) is often required in order to make significant changes in sleep cycles.
  • Often critical is the pacing of light therapy because it determines the degree and intensity of the shift in rhythm.
  • Example: People with ASPS, early-night and night-time light therapy slows the process, while for people with DSPS, early-morning light therapy induces early-morning alertness and faster bedtime.

Healthy Light Exposure

This aspect of circadian rhythm disorder therapy is significant. People are encouraged to have a dim and silent space when they sleep and a well-lit environment when they wake up. It also helps to avoid bright light exposure at night and to enforce regular eating hours and other activities.

Lifestyle Changes

People with circadian rhythm disorders can respond by showing signs of sleep deprivation to changes in their activity phases. Teenagers, for instance, may have trouble keeping up late hours and waking up early in the morning. Shift workers may have trouble adjusting to different periods of sleep if their patterns switch too soon before their bodies have an opportunity to adapt.

In Conclusion

Having healthy lighting is going to solve half of your circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Don’t let a blue light become a strain on your mental health, switch to healthy lighting.

If you have further queries or suggestions regarding how to balance your circadian rhythm (circadian rhythm treatment), please share it with us in the comments below!

Afshan Basher Aly is a writer by day and a reader by night. Some of her favorite topics to write about include technology, lifestyle and healthy living.

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