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Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Your circadian rhythm is the official term for your body’s internal clock. It’s what makes you naturally more tired at night and more inclined to be awake during the day when it’s light outside. It’s approximately a 24-hour cycle that controls the patterns of the brain and biological activities like hormone production and sleep patterns.

When you have a regular sleep pattern characterized by a routine bedtime, wakeup time and sleep at night, you will likely have little to no sleep disorder issues. However, when you try to sleep during the day rather than at night or regularly disrupt your nighttime sleep pattern, you can develop a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

*5 Causes of Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

  1. Graveyard shift or late night/early AM shifts at work
  2. Pregnancy
  3. Medications that cause drowsiness during the day or provide a stimulating effect at night
  4. Travel across time zones
  5. Changes in daily schedule and routine

*5 Common Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

  1. Delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS)
  2. Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)
  3. Jet lag/rapid time zone change syndrome
  4. Advanced sleep-phase syndrome (ASPS)
  5. Non-24-hour sleep/wake disorder (Non-24)

Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome (DSPS)

Do you have a hard time falling asleep at night? Do you often end up awake until the wee hours of the morning and have a hard time waking up when the alarm clock goes off the next day? Delayed sleep phase syndrome is a sleep disorder that relates to the timing of your sleep. Treatment helps you to get onto a schedule that will help your body to be more functional when you need it to be and shut down when it’s time to rest.

Jet Lag/Rapid Time Zone Change Syndrome

Do you often travel for work, crossing time zones as you fly back and forth across the country – or around the world? If your sleep is disrupted or you often feel tired as a result, then the diagnosed issue could be jet lag or rapid time zone change syndrome. Treatment should focus on helping you to maintain your sleep schedule no matter where you are in order to maximize your awake time.

Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD)

If you have the graveyard shift during the week but the weekends off or alternate between work shifts that happen at night or late night and during the day, you can end up with shift work sleep disorder (SWSD). If it’s impossible to change your work schedule so you work all nights or all days, then treatment will focus on helping you to maximize your sleep time as well as your awake time.

Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder (Non-24)

If your body works on a 25-hour cycle as opposed to a 24-hour cycle, it can mean that you have a hard time getting to sleep at different times each night or wake up too late or too early. The inconsistency of your sleep patterns may make it difficult for you to function on a 24-hour schedule, and treatment will help you to adjust so you can be more functional in a 24-hour-a-day world.

Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome (ASPS)

Do you get tired early in the evening and wake up ready to start the day early in the morning – far earlier than you want to? When your major sleep episode in a 24-hour period starts earlier than you would like, treatment will focus on helping you to shift your sleep period to a more functional time.

Treatment for Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Depending upon the specifics of your sleep disorder, your treatment will vary. In general, however, the goal of your treatment will be to help you develop a sleep pattern that allows you to feel energized when you are awake and tired enough to get solid sleep when it’s time for bed.


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