Circadian Rhythm disorder
Circadian Rhythm Disorder Nov 21, 2023

1. What is Circadian Rhythm Disorder?

“Circadian rhythm disorder” refers to the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. This cycle repeats roughly every 24 hours. It is derived from the Latin words “circa” (meaning “around”) and “diem” (meaning “day”). This biological phenomenon governs various physiological and behavioral processes in living organisms. This includes humans and animals alike. It’s the body’s internal clock, orchestrating a symphony of physical activities to align with the Earth’s rotation.

Did you know that the discovery of circadian rhythm sleep disorder has its roots in a curious experiment involving the sensitive mimosa plant and an observant French scientist? Picture this: in 1729, Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan observed that the mimosa plant continued its daily leaf movements even when kept in constant darkness. This observation led him to propose the existence of an internal biological rhythm governing the plant’s behavior.

Fast forward to the 20th century, when scientists like Colin Pittendrigh and Jurgen Aschoff expanded on this idea. They unveiled the fascinating world of circadian rhythms in plants and across a spectrum of living organisms, including humans.

The story doesn’t end there! In the brain’s hypothalamus, a tiny but mighty area called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) emerged as the conductor orchestrating these internal rhythms. It’s like a master clock, keeping the biological symphony in tune.

So, the next time you marvel at the regularity of day and night, remember that a captivating dance of biological rhythms is at play beneath the surface, shaping the beat of life.

2. Metaphoric Example of Circadian Rhythm Disorder: The Symphony of Life

Think of your body like a musical orchestra. In this orchestra, there’s a special conductor called the master clock. This conductor ensures that every instrument plays at the right time and in perfect harmony. The tools in our orchestra have different functions in our bodies.

Picture the violins in the orchestra as your sleep-wake cycle. They start playing when it’s time to sleep and stop when it’s time to wake up. Now, imagine the brass section as the hormones in your body. They are essential to your body’s work, like a trumpet sounding when it’s time for certain activities. Finally, think of the percussion instruments as your metabolic processes. They keep the beat, representing how your body processes food and energy.

All these instruments are in sync to create a beautiful symphony – a well-functioning biological orchestra. Each device has its part to play, and when they work together, your body functions like a musical masterpiece. It’s the rhythm of life; you feel healthy and balanced when everything is in tune.

3. Biological Clocks and Master Clocks: Unveiling the Chronological Symphony

Biological clocks are intrinsic time-keeping mechanisms present in almost all living organisms. In humans, the master clock resides in the brain’s hypothalamus, in an area known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN receives input from external cues light to synchronize the body’s internal rhythm with the external environment.

The master clock acts as a conductor. It coordinates a network of peripheral clocks in various tissues and organs throughout the body. These peripheral clocks regulate local processes, such as hormone secretion, temperature fluctuations, and metabolism. The master clock sets the overarching tempo. The peripheral clocks contribute to the harmonious functioning of the entire circadian system.

4. Relationship between Circadian Rhythm, Sleep, Physical Health, and Mental Health

The relationship among these elements offers insights into the holistic nature of human health and underscores the significance of maintaining a harmonious balance for overall vitality.

1. Circadian Rhythm and Sleep: Dance of Night and Day

The circadian rhythm plays a pivotal role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. As daylight wanes, the body’s melatonin production increases, signaling sleep onset. exposure to light in the morning suppresses melatonin, promoting wakefulness. Disruptions of this delicate dance can lead to sleep disorders, affecting the quantity and quality of sleep.

2. Physical Health: Timing Matters

Circadian rhythms govern many physiological processes. Including metabolism, cardiovascular function, and immune system activity. Misalignment of these internal rhythms with external cues. Such as irregular eating patterns or night-shift work may contribute to health issues. Research suggests that conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease may be linked to circadian misalignment.

3. Mental Health: The Mind’s Tempo

The circadian rhythm also influences mental health. Disruptions to the sleep-wake cycle have been associated with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. The intricate interplay between circadian rhythms and neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine underscores the importance of maintaining a healthy circadian balance for mental well-being.

5. The Interconnected Dynamics of Circadian Rhythm with Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) and Advanced sleep phase disorder (ASPD)

The connection between circadian rhythm and Delayed Sleep-Wake Disorder (DSPS) And Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder (ASPD) lies in disrupting the natural, 24-hour biological clock that governs the sleep-wake cycle and various physiological processes.

Circadian Rhythm and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS):

Delayed sleep-wake disorder involves difficulty falling asleep and waking up at desired times, leading to a delayed sleep pattern. For a detailed understanding of DSPS, refer to: Nighttime Rebels: Breaking Free from Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder

  • Shift in the Circadian Rhythm: Individuals with DSPS experience a delayed circadian rhythm compared to the typical day-night cycle. This means their internal biological clock prompts them to fall asleep and wake up later than the acceptable or desired times.
  • Impact on Sleep: The delayed circadian rhythm can lead to difficulty falling asleep at the desired bedtime and struggling to wake up at the intended time in the morning. This misalignment between the internal clock and external schedule characterizes the essence of delayed sleep-wake disorder.
  • Contributing Factors: Genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental influences can contribute to the delayed circadian rhythm seen in DSPS. Irregular sleep patterns, exposure to artificial light at night, and certain medical conditions may play a role in exacerbating this disorder.

Circadian Rhythm and Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder (ASPD):

An earlier-than-desired sleep onset and wake time characterize Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder. For a detailed understanding of ASPD, refer to: Clocking Out Early: A Deep Dive into Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

  • Shift in the Circadian Rhythm: Individuals with ASPD have an advanced circadian rhythm. This prompted them to fall asleep and wake up earlier than the typical societal schedule.
  • Early Sleep Onset: ASPD can result in a habitual tendency to become sleepy and start sleeping well before the desired bedtime. It makes it challenging for affected individuals to stay awake in the evening.
  • Causes and Influences: Genetic factors, environmental cues, and lifestyle choices can influence ASPD. Exposure to morning light and a consistent sleep schedule are among the factors that can impact the timing of the circadian rhythm in individuals with ASPD.

Essentially, delayed sleep-wake disorder causes a delay in the sleep-wake cycle. At the same time, advanced sleep-wake phase disorder shifts it earlier. Understanding the intricate relationship between circadian rhythm and sleep disorders like DSPS and ASPD is crucial for improving individuals’ well-being. Consultation with healthcare professionals and sleep specialists is recommended for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plans.

6. What Disrupts Circadian Rhythm: Unraveling the Dissonance

This section delves into the factors that intricately unravel the harmonious cadence of our internal clock, exploring the diverse elements that introduce dissonance and unsettle the delicate balance of our circadian rhythms.

1. Artificial Light: The Modern Intruder

Think about how our world is all lit up at night because of electric lights. These lights are everywhere – in our homes, streets, and even our electronic devices like phones and tablets. The problem is that blue lights from our gadgets can mess with our internal clock.

Our bodies have a unique clock that tells us when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep. This clock makes a sleepy hormone called melatonin when it gets dark. But when surrounded by artificial lights, especially the kind from our screens, it tricks our body into thinking it’s still daytime. This can make it hard for us to fall asleep when we want to if we use our devices often in the evening.

2. Shift Work: Playing Against the Natural Beat

Some people have jobs requiring them to work when most of us are asleep. Imagine working all night while everyone else is cozy in their beds. This is what we call night-shift work, and it can mess with our body’s natural rhythm.

Our bodies like routines, especially when it comes to sleep. But when you work at odd hours, like during the night, it confuses your body. It’s like trying to dance to a song, but the music is playing at a different speed. This mix-up can lead to problems with sleep, make us more likely to get sick, and even make it more complicated for us to think.

3. Jet Lag: Crossing Time Zones

Have you ever been on a plane for a long journey and felt super tired or confused when you arrived? That’s jet lag! When we travel to places with different time zones, our internal clock gets all mixed up.

Imagine you have a unique clock inside you that knows when it’s daytime and nighttime. Now, if you go to a place where it’s a different time – like if it’s morning for them but bedtime for you – your internal clock gets confused. This mix-up can make it challenging to fall asleep when needed, leave you tired, and make it tricky to figure out what’s happening around you. Your body needs time to catch up and get used to the new schedule.

7. How to Sync Sleep and Circadian Rhythm: Harmonizing Your Internal Symphony

1. Exposure to Natural Light: Daylight Harmony

Optimizing exposure to natural light during the day helps synchronize the circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Spend time outdoors, especially in the morning, to signal to your body that it’s time to be awake. , dim the lights in the evening to encourage melatonin production.

2. Consistent Sleep Schedule: The Rhythm of Repetition

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule reinforces the circadian rhythm. Go to bed and wake up each day, even on weekends, to help regulate your body’s internal clock.

3. Limiting Artificial Light: Dimming the Discord

Reduce exposure to artificial light, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. Consider using blue light filters on electronic devices and creating a dark, comfortable sleep environment.

4. Mindful Eating: Nourishing the Orchestra

Align your eating patterns with your circadian rhythm by practicing mindful eating. Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime and balance daily nutrients to support metabolic processes.

In conclusion, understanding and respecting the circadian rhythm sleep disorder is vital for health and well-being. Like a tuned symphony, the body’s internal clock orchestrates a complex interplay of biological processes. By harmonizing our lifestyle with the natural rhythm of day and night, we can optimize sleep, enhance physical health, and promote mental well-being. It’s a rhythmic dance that, when respected, allows us to live in tune with the innate cadence of life.

"In the silence of the night, my sleep disorder conducts a symphony of disrupted rest, a cacophony that echoes through the chambers of my weary mind."
About author

Karuna Kaul is psycho socio clinical psychologist, who works with all age group people. Her profession motivates her to serve people who are facing behavioral issues. She has over 8 years of experience and has successfully established credibility in the areas of counselling and wellness. Assessment and behavioral analysis and training and coaching. She has been an active advocate of mental health awareness. And all her endeavors in the field are primarily focused on educating more and more people about Mental Health concerns and promoting Holistic Wellbeing. She has done master in clinical psychology PG Diploma in counselling and guidance and certified in drug addiction counselling Also she has done neuro medicine psychology from London University, Kent College of United Kingdom. With an experience of six years, she had worked with various organization which provides mental health services.