Understanding Circadian Sleep Disorders (Part 1)

June 25, 2013

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

The word “Circadian” probably isn’t something you encounter every day. Well, unless your work or lifestyle revolves around things that include that subject matter, that is. But for any other regular person like you and me, it could ring a bell somewhere in your younger years and remind you of a Pokémon based off of the similarly-named insect. Well anyway, whatever that word reminds you of, it’s not what I want to talk about to you right now.

So yeah, simply put, the word “Circadian Rhythm” refers to any living creature’s biological clock within a day-to-day 24-hour schedule. Well unless there’s a living creature in another planet, then their day-to-day schedule won’t be 24 hours like here on Earth.

Anyway, in a pistachio nutshell, a Circadian Sleeping Disorder or Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder (CSD or CRSD) is a neurological disorder where the sleeping and waking-up cycle is not synchronized or consistent with the natural day and night schedule in one Earth-axis-revolving 24-hour cycle. Now, to clarify, there are about 6 different CSRD’s, and in this series of three articles, you can learn about them in order to understand them.

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

Even at a glance, the words “delayed” and “sleep” should not even be within two words in proximity in a sentence. I mean, come on. No one wants to delay their sleep more than they want to, since everyone likes to sleep. Having “Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder” or DSPD means that you are unable to fall asleep until very late at night. Whoa, whoa. Hold on, let me finish.

Before you self-diagnose yourself with DSPD, read the rest. The inability to fall asleep until very late at night (or dawn) is due to the delay of your body clock. You’re only able to even just feel sleepy until very late (and not just enduring the night sleepiness with coffee to stay up and watch more episodes of Anime or Pretty Little Liars) and that in turn only will make you wake up very late in the morning.

Please remember, however, that this is a medical condition in which you do not have a choice but to sleep late. I think it’s easy to differentiate a medical condition with bad sleeping habits. If you have this disorder however, it’s not uncommon that you’re mistakenly labelled as an insomniac. There’s a difference, though, since you know from our other articles that insomnia is difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep. However, people with DSPD have no problem staying asleep. You just sleep later than everyone else.

Non-24 Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder

The name of this CSRD is kind of self-descriptive, but it doesn’t hurt to understand it more. To provide a more firm context, I’ve already established the presupposition that the Earth revolves around its axis in one day, or 24 hours. To understand this disorder more, remember that every creature on Earth follows this 24-hour schedule and that their body clocks adjust according to the Circadian Rhythm.

A body without this CSRD disorder assumes that one cycle is 24 hours. However, with a Non-24 Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, it’s everything but that. If you have this condition, it means that your sleep-wake cycle is significantly longer or shorter than the natural daily 24-hour clock.

Your body might treat 2 days as just one day, so that means that you’ll feel completely and naturally (but technically, unnaturally) awake for 24 hours straight then downright asleep for the next 24 hours. Other variations would be that 1 and a half days, or 36 hours, might be treated as just one day, or even treating one day as two days. If you have this, it seems completely normal for you, but no matter how you call it, being in the wrong tempo as the rest of Mother Nature is still a disorder.

Sleep Disorders aren’t very fun, are they? Well that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Understanding is the first step to overcoming them. Now that you’ve covered 2 out of 6 articles, you’re almost close to getting a full general view of CSRDs. Don’t let any of those disorders stop you, however. At least get some rest (in whatever time you know you need it). Sweet dreams and seize the night!