Circadian rhythm disorders: causes, symptoms and effects

If you’re one of those people who has trouble sleeping when it’s time to play, you might want to know what circadian cycle disorders.

The importance of good sleep has long been recognized for our health. However, by the time we enter a state of sleep, we have not decided: these are the so-called circadian rhythms, which are the oscillations of the biological functions of our body that regulate the intervals in which we sleep and in which we are awake. Alterations in these oscillations can lead to circadian rhythm disturbances, which have a very negative impact on our quality of life, so it is worth knowing the mechanisms behind them.

But first, we need to understand the concept of homeostasis.

What is homeostasis?

The rhythm of sleep is due to a property called homeostasis, which is how organisms try to maintain the biochemical balance between all of its parts so that the whole works well. One way to easily understand what homeostasis is is to think about what happens when we run: from the start, the body extracts the energy necessary for the proper functioning of the muscles by “burning” the sugar available in the blood. ., But after a few minutes. it begins to run out, so, in order not to fall into imbalance, our body begins to use stored fat for fuel.

The same goes for the circadian rhythm, which also works on the basis of a logic of homeostasis balances. If we got a lot of sleep the night before, that day we won’t sleep until noon, but if we haven’t slept much, we will want to go to bed soon after dinner.

What are circadian rhythm disorders?

Of course, the schedules people spend on sleep are not created spontaneously regardless of the body’s environment; it adapts so that waking up tends to coincide with the hours when there is more light and sleep occurs during the night. Therefore, just keeping your eyes close to an artificial light source just steadily before going to bed delays the onset of sleep.

As the time we spend sleeping is homeostatically regulated, nothing happens if our schedules are occasionally affected by anomalies: during the following hours, this “shift” is regulated and returns to normal. But if the lag in our sleeping hours persists for a long time, then we will be talking about a circadian rhythm disorder.

Symptoms of circadian rhythm disturbances

Circadian rhythm disturbances appear when there is a gap between the times when one sleeps (or not) and the periods of onset of day and night, which also correspond to socially agreed times.

This way, a person with circadian rhythm disturbances can sleep well, but will do so when they are ‘not touching themselves’. The consequences of this usually lead to a lack of sleep in the early hours of the morning and, at the same time, the appearance of drowsiness during the day. The latter are the two basic symptoms of these disorders and at the same time shape the types of disorders in the circadian cycle.

On the one hand, there is the disorder in which the sleep schedule is advanced, the moment comes when the desire to sleep arises and one wakes up. Another type of circadian cycle disorder is one in which sleep is delayed so that you are unable to sleep until the wee hours of the morning and you lack sleep whether you work or work. A third type would be a chaotic mixture of the previous two.

however, keep in mind that the diagnosis should be made by a specialist who offers personalized treatment.

Possible causes of these sleep disorders

Among the possible causes that explain the appearance of circadian rhythm disorders, there are essentially two:

1. Biological factors

This is structural or biochemical alterations in parts of the brain involved in the regulation of sleep, such as the hypothalamus.

2. Factors related to the interaction with the environment

these causes they have to do with the environment and the people with whom the individual interacts. For example, starting to work at night in a warehouse can cause problems in this regard, or getting used to using your cell phone in bed and with the lights off.

Treatment of circadian rhythm disorders

The way to intervene in this spectrum of disorders is based on two actions: advancing or delaying the onset of sleep and advancing or delaying the time of waking up. This is why oral administration of melatonin is commonly used, a substance also produced by the human body to regulate the circadian rhythm and its presence at relatively high levels is linked to the onset of sleep and exposure to light, which serves to delay the onset of sleep.

Both tools should be used in a sustained manner under professional supervision, and one session is not enough, because the goal is to change a habit that is by definition persistent.

Leave a Comment