Understanding Circadian Rhythm Disorders

The passing of Winter Solstice in December means that the clock will once again start to have more daylight minutes and hours as we move toward the spring and summer. The team at Sleep Center at Comprehensive monitor these twice-yearly shifts, as for some, the lack of daylight that comes with winter may make getting sleep more difficult.

Sleep schedules are set by internal Circadian Rhythms, which tell our bodies when to sleep and when to wake up. For those with challenges in getting proper sleep, this occurs when these rhythms are disrupted either by natural factors such as hours of daylight, and from lifestyles such as working late night or early morning hours.

When it comes to setting internal clocks to get the right amount of sleep, The Sleep Center at Comprehensive team start identifying issues by looking at Circadian Rhythm Disorders, conditions in which the sleep times are irregular or out of alignment and not able to follow a normal sleep schedule.

In a 24-hour city like Las Vegas many patients have a type of Circadian Rhythms Disorder called Shift Work, where someone has a non-traditional work schedule causing them to sleep at odd or inconsistent times. Looking at these factors, can help determine how different schedules might affect sleep patterns.

With a 24-hour city, it can be easy to misattribute challenges with sleep simply to adjusting to work schedules and time changes, when it could be something else that may require medical attention.

Sleep issues caused by Circadian Rhythm Disorders aren’t always directly related to work patterns, and Sleep Center at Comprehensive looks at other issues such as Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase, which occurs when a person’s sleep is delayed by two or more hours. This disorder causes someone to go to bed later, causing them to wake up later in the morning.

The Sleep Center also considers Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase, which occurs when someone goes to bed earlier than normal and wakes up earlier in the morning than a normal sleep pattern, as well as Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm, when a person’s sleep pattern is not regular at all. They have no defined pattern and may sleep at odd times.

There are many Circadian Rhythm Disorders to consider when diagnosing a patient including Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Rhythm, when a person’s sleep pattern changes little by little every day. There’s also challenges related to Jet Lag, which means we leave no stone unturned while working toward finding a solution.

Circadian Rhythm Disorders Symptoms

When finding causes of Circadian Rhythm Disorders, and other sleep disorders such as Insomnia, Parasomnias, and REM Behavior Disorder, it’s critical for patients to collaborate with their Sleep Center at Comprehensive team to find solutions. For patients, this includes careful monitoring of symptoms and reporting all of them to their doctor. Symptoms of Circadian Rhythm Disorder (and other sleep challenges) may include one or many of the following:

  • Difficulty initiating sleep
  • Difficulty maintaining sleep
  • Nonrestorative sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Impaired performance, including a decrease in cognitive skills
  • Poor psychomotor coordination
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal distress

Some tips for improving sleep on your own, include going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, avoid napping, avoiding stress, fatigue, and sleep deprivation, as well as avoiding rigorous exercise at least four hours prior to bedtime. Lifestyle choices that can improve sleep include avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine, as well as large meals and excessive fluids before bedtime.

The Sleep Center at Comprehensive finds that challenges with sleep can be overcome with some simple changes such as keeping your sleep environment dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. If you do all of that, and still suffer from poor sleep, you should know that help is available and it can change your life for the better.

Sleep Center at Comprehensive Can Help

If you do find yourself having difficulty getting decent sleep, Sleep Center at Comprehensive, a division of Comprehensive Cancer Centers and Lung Center of Nevada, provides patients with sleep disorders a wide range of treatment options. To schedule an appointment, please call 702-737-5864.


The content in this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.