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Circadian rhythm disorders

The body has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. It controls the timing of hormone production, body temperature, appetite and sleep in response to a stimulus such as light. If you have a circadian rhythm disorder, you often have trouble sleeping and waking at the times required for normal work, school or other activities because your internal clock is not functioning properly. Most people can receive quality sleep if allowed to sleep and wake on their body’s sleep schedule.

Circadian rhythm disorders can be caused by neurologic disease or by environmental or social circumstances. These sleep disorders can include:

  • Time zone change or jet lag syndrome
  • Shift work sleep disorders
  • Irregular sleep-wake pattern—sleeping at irregular times
  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome—falling asleep very late and having trouble waking up in the morning
  • Advanced sleep phase syndrome—trouble staying awake in the evening and staying asleep in the morning

There are several treatment options available for circadian rhythm disorders. Changing habits such as avoiding naps and caffeine may help improve sleep. Doctors may also recommend bright light therapy or medications that could include short-term sleep aids or a natural sleep aid called melatonin.

The sleep specialists at Gundersen can diagnose your circadian rhythm disorder and help decide what the best treatment option is for you.

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Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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