Instead of sleeping through the night for a period of 6 to 8 hours, people with this disorder sleep in several shorter sessions over the course of a 24-hour period.While they may not get all of their sleep all at once, these periodic sleep sessions generally add up to a healthy amount of sleep.Though irregular sleep-wake rhythm is an uncommon condition, it can have a significant impact on your daily functioning and quality of life.
The most common symptoms of irregular sleep-wake rhythm include the following:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night (insomnia)
- Trouble staying asleep after falling asleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Strong urge or need to nap during the day
- Short, fragmented periods of nighttime sleep
- Several sleep periods lasting 1 to 4 hours each 24-hour period
What Are the Treatment Options for Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm?
The goal of treatment for irregular sleep-wake rhythm is to correct and reset the internal clock with the hope of achieving one long period of sleep at night and one long period of wakefulness during the day.
Unfortunately, there are no simple methods of treatment. In many cases, the most effective treatment is a combination of lifestyle changes, light treatment, and other therapies such as educational and behavioral counseling.
Here are some of the lifestyle changes and therapies that might help with the treatment of irregular sleep-wake rhythm:
- Increased exposure to light during the day. You should be exposed to both natural sunlight and blue light during the day while limiting exposure to blue light at night.
- Supplementation with melatonin. Melatonin is a natural substance produced in the body which increases in the evening to make you tired and decreases in the morning to wake you up.
- Following a more structured daily pattern. Including scheduled exercise and social activities in your daily pattern can help correct your circadian rhythm.
- Improve your sleep hygiene at night. Keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet can help you fall asleep and stay asleep as can minimizing the noise in your sleep environment.
- Keeping to a schedule for sleep and meals. Going to bed and waking up at the same times each day along with regularly scheduled meals may help.
Sleep is essential but, for people with irregular sleep-wake rhythm, it doesn’t always come easily.Though you may get an adequate amount of sleep over the course of a 24-hour period, the fragmented nature of that sleep can significantly impact your quality of life.If you think you might have irregular sleep-wake rhythm, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.