Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders - Diagnosis & Treatment
When to Seek Medical Care?
Medical care is necessary when poor sleep for more than 1 month is accompanied by following conditions such as excessive daytime sleepiness, decreased motivation, poor concentration, nonrefreshing sleep, forgetfulness and difficulty falling asleep.
A multiple sleep latency test allows for objective measurement of sleepiness.
This test is specified when the clinical history is suggestive of narcolepsy. A sleep log identifies the sleep-wake cycles in a person’s regular environment, and it allows subjective evaluation of alertness over a 2-week period. In keeping a sleep log, a person is asked to maintain a sleep diary describing the previous night’s sleep.
CT scan and MRI may be done to evaluate for neurodegenerative diseases. Actigraphy test is done, which is based on the premise that a person’s wrist motion decreases during sleep. This allows an overall measure of sleep-wake cycles over time
How is Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders Treated?
A doctor diagnoses a circadian rhythm sleep disorder by looking closely at the timing of a person's sleep. Good sleeping habits are essential to restoring desirable sleep schedules.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are treated based on the kind of disorder that is present. Therapy usually combines proper sleep hygiene techniques and external stimulus therapy such as bright light therapy or chronotherapy.
Bright light therapy, in which a person is exposed during the day to sunlight or bright light from special light sources, may reinforce the body's natural responses to light. Bright light therapy may be effective for advanced or delayed sleep phase syndrome.
Chronotherapy is a behavioral technique in which the bedtime is systematically adjusted. Bright-light therapy is designed to reset a person’s circadian rhythm to a desired pattern.
When combined, these therapies may produce significant results in people with circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Short-term treatment with a sleep aid may help reset the circadian rhythm.
Melatonin has also been used to establish regular sleep-wake cycles in people with unpredictable circadian rhythms. Melatonin taken an hour before a person's regularly scheduled sleep time may be effective for preventing jet lag, especially when traveling east across more than three time zones.