SLEEP DISORDERS

The circadian rhythm, also known as our body clock, is roughly a 24 hour cycle that is related to the daily rotation of the earth. This internal body clock regulates sleep and wakefulness. Our bodies depend on the rising and setting of the sun to get the signal of when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to fall asleep. The effect of light exposure on our circadian rhythms is critically dependent on its timing. Morning light moves the sleep/wake clock earlier, while evening light shifts the clock later.

Changes in your sleeping patterns or habits are known as sleep disorders. Excessive daytime sleepiness, increased movement during sleep, difficulty sleeping, irregular breathing and abnormal sleep behaviors are all signs of sleep disorders. If you suffer from a sleep disorder, it can eventually affect your health and quality of life.

Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Circadian rhythm disorders are disruptions in a person’s circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm disorders are treated based on the kind of disorder diagnosed. The goal of treatment is to fit a person's sleep pattern into a schedule that can allow them to meet the demands of a desired lifestyle.  Bright light therapy is designed to reset a person’s circadian rhythm to a desired pattern. 

Symptoms commonly found in persons with a circadian rhythm disorder related to the sleep-wake cycle can include the following:

  • Difficulty initiating sleep
  • Difficulty maintaining sleep
  • Nonrestorative sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Impaired performance, including a decrease in cognitive skills
  • Poor psychomotor coordination
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal distress

Using Light Therapy for Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Circadian rhythm disorders are treated based on the kind of disorder one is diagnosed with. The goal of treatment is to fit a person's sleep pattern into a schedule that can allow them to meet the demands of a desired lifestyle. Bright light therapy is designed to reset a person’s circadian rhythm to a desired pattern. Talk to your physician or a sleep specialist to determine when to use light therapy if you suffer from circadian rhythm disorders.

Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking too early and sleeping soundly. Many people have insomnia at some point in their lives, but those with long term (chronic) insomnia have interferences in their quality of life.

People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired upon waking
  • Not feeling rested after a night’s sleep
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Tension headaches
  • Daytime fatigue or sleepiness

Your risk of insomnia is greater if you are a woman, you are over the age of 60, you have a mental health disorder, you are under a lot of stress, you work night or changing shifts or if you travel long distances.

Using Light Therapy for Insomnia

If you fall asleep too early and then wake too early, you can use light therapy to push back your circadian rhythm. Keeping a set bedtime and arising time also promotes sound sleep and daytime alertness. Changing your sleep habits and addressing any underlying causes of insomnia can restore restful sleep for many people.

If you think you suffer from insomnia, talk to your physician. You will have to complete a questionnaire and possibly asked to keep a sleep diary. If your doctor thinks you have a sleep disorder, you might be referred to a sleep center for special testing.

 

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