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Circadian rhythm

If you are a troubled sleeper, can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep, there could be many factors at hand. Stress, too much caffeine, sleep apnoea, severe depression, anxiety, medication to name a few could all be reasons. But have you ever heard of circadian rhythm disorder (CRSD)? Your body runs on an internal clock that causes you to feel sleepier at night and more awake and alert during the day. This natural sleep wake rhythm is known as the circadian rhythm. A disruption of this rhythm may be considered a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

Most people with circadian rhythm sleep disorders have one or more of these symptoms:

Difficulty going to sleep.

Difficulty staying asleep.

Not feeling refreshed after sleeping.

Conditions that influence sleep include:

Light including technology (mobile phones, television, laptops, ipads…)

Levels of physical activity.

Social activities.

Levels of melatonin, a sleep hormone.

Disruptions of one or more of these factors can lead to a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

People who travel overseas and certain medications can also be factors in this.

The pineal gland in the brain is responsible for releasing melatonin. Patients with disorders that affect the brain are more likely to have a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

If you are suffering from CRSD, it is actually easier to treat than you think and does not typically require medical attention.

What you can do:

Behaviour therapy such as maintaining regular sleep-wake times, avoiding naps, engaging in a regular routine of exercise, and avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and stimulating activities such as exercises even walking within several hours of bedtime is important in the treatment of circadian rhythm disorders.

Technology screens: come off all technology including mobiles, laptops, television, ipads etc minimum 2 hours before bedtime. These evils zap melatonin which is required for sleep.

People with delayed sleep phase syndrome should minimise exposure to light in the evening and during the night by reducing indoor illumination and avoiding bright TV and computer screens. Those with advanced sleep phase syndrome should increase light exposure in the evenings by keeping lights on in the home or spending time outdoors.

Be asleep before 11pm and do not eat or drink at least 3 hours before bedtime. Make dinner the lightest meal of the day with no carbohydrates if possible.

See a TICM doctor for acupuncture for peaceful night sleep and relaxation therapy. They may even prescribe sedating herbs to be taken before bed.

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