Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Adequate sleep is essential to one’s overall health. The body needs sleep to rest both the mind and body and restore energy. Sleep is also the time where the body repairs itself—through sleep, the cells and tissues that has been damaged repairs it self. In addition to these health benefits, the body boosts and builds up the immune system through sleep. The immune system may experience breakdown and result to different ailments that would require medication and extended recovery times. Medical studies show that sleep seems to help recharge the immune system. However, there are many factors that may hinder individuals to have adequate sleep and therefore further hamper health developments. Disruptions on one’s circadian rhythm is one factor that may hinder quality of sleep.

Circadian Rhythm Disorders (CRD) are disruptions in a person’s circadian rhythm—a name given to the human body’s internal body clock. This body clock regulates the 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants. The circadian “clock” in humans is located in the brain and are significant in determining one’s sleeping patterns. Disruptions of the circadian rhythm may result in getting poor and insufficient sleep. One disruption in natural sleep conditions is night work or non-standard shifts. Working in the evening require a delay in the body’s sleeping time of as much as three to 12 hours. Because the human body is programmed to sleep at night, changing one’s sleeping time will not automatically produce a change in body temperature or other functions needed like body coordination and immune responses.

Another factor that may disrupt sleep and hamper one’s sleeping patterns is a condition called jet lag. It a condition that is marked by fatigue, insomnia, and irritability that is caused by changing time zones when traveling by air. When travelers pass from one time zone to another, they may suffer from disrupted circadian rhythms. This may cause the traveler’s circadian clock to be mixed up with a new external environment. People who experience jet lag may have difficulties in maintaining their regular sleep-awake pattern in their new location. This happens because external stimuli like sunlight and location programs and dictates a new pattern.

Although generally linked to sleep pattern of human beings, the circadian rhythm also has a direct influence on one’s blood pressure, and the body’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters. It works together with these internal factors to tell the body of several things like sleeping time and wake up time. These factors is warning that such disruptions in one’s circadian rhythms should never be taken for granted.

Because modern technology and medicine CRD can be treated based on the kind of disorder that is present. Treatments vary depending on the demands of lifestyles of certain individuals. Therapies are usually combined with sleep hygiene techniques to promote proper sleep from CRD. Chronotherapy and bright light therapy are two methods that are used to treat this disorder. Chronotherapy is a behavioral technique where one’s bedtime is gradually and systematically adjusted until a specific bedtime is achieved. Bright light therapy on the other hand is designed to reset an individual’s circadian rhythm to a desired pattern. When properly utilized, these therapies may produce essential results in eliminating CRD and improve one’s quality of sleep.