Circadian Rhythms Disorders And Sleep Phase Syndrome

Circadian Rhythms Disorders And Sleep Phase Syndrome

Sleep forms part of​ human’s biological need to​ rest. as​ a​ person sleeps, the various physiological processes of​ a​ human body figuratively put into an​ apparent arrest and some parts of​ our system that were mostly exploited can be replenished for future use.

However, imagine a​ system so disrupted that our normal scheduling for sleeping and waking is​ totally altered. Some people tend to​ sleep early and wake up early in​ the morning and some cannot sleep early and as​ a​ consequence, wakes up late.

These and other sleep-related problems are manifestations of​ a​ malfunctioning biological circadian clock and characterize several forms of​ Circadian Rhythm Syndrome. Circadian activity is​ a​ unique by 24-hour period or​ cycles in​ which our body is​ physically patterned.

24-hour vs. 25-hour cycle

Earth rotates around the sun in​ a​ 24-hour cycle, so as​ our body functions in​ this 24-hour time schedule. All living organisms charismatically subscribe to​ this cyclic resting and activity patterns so that their body could function in​ sync with the environment in​ which they live.

Although humans externally operate under a​ 24-hour environment, research found that our body clocks evidently works significantly different than what we see in​ the environment.

It shows that the human body closely behaves as​ if​ it​ were under a​ 25-hour environment. Convincingly, humans’ reluctance to​ wake up at​ a​ required time and sleeping late at​ night probably explains this theory.

To compensate for this discrepancy, the body uses time “cues” to​ effectively counter-manage this asynchronous rhythmical. Setting an​ alarm helps us wake up at​ a​ designated time of​ the day and allows us to​ function as​ if​ it​ were under the 24-hour rhythmic schedule.

Dark vs. Light

Light and temperature provides the determining factor by which the body responds to​ the 24-hour activity period. The presence or​ absence of​ light mainly affects the part of​ the brain, which paces your bodily activities.

It was understood that the fundamental locus or​ location of​ our biological clock is​ the brain specifically in​ the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of​ the hypothalamus.

In complex animals like humans, hypothalamus forms part of​ the autonomous nervous system, which in​ part, controls the functions of​ organs that are not voluntarily controlled, hence involuntary. Involuntary, meaning, they are not governed by conscious will to​ act. These include breathing, heartbeat and intestinal digestion.

Eyes, Light and SCN

One interesting point to​ make is​ that the location of​ SCN is​ just above the optic chiasma (cross). Optic chiasma can is​ described as​ a​ location where optic nerve fibers meet and cross (chiasma-cross).

It is​ fitting to​ say that; the perception of​ light through the opening in​ the eyes triggers the wake/sleep patterns in​ humans since this is​ one way the organism receives such physical message.

As retina (a portion of​ the eye where initial image of​ an​ object is​ stored) traps light rays, an​ optic fiber relays the image to​ the brain via characteristic electrical pulses.

This unique sensory impulse is​ carried along the optic fibers to​ the occipital lobe (rear part) of​ the brain and is​ perceived as​ images. The proximity of​ the optic chiasma to​ the SCN perhaps provides the opportunity for the hypothalamus to​ “sense” the referred electrical impulses.

Forms of​ Circadian Rhythms Syndrome/Disorders

Circadian Rhythm defects can come many distinct forms depending on the amount and timing of​ waking up and sleeping. Others, as​ in​ the case of​ Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), result in​ the changes in​ the length of​ day and night.

People who tend to​ sleep at​ a​ later time of​ the day and wake up late as​ well are said to​ be exhibiting Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). These people tend to​ develop insomnia, an​ abnormal inability to​ take adequate amount of​ sleep due to​ not being able to​ sleep at​ the right time of​ the night.

Still, other people, especially the elderly, are more likely to​ sleep early around 7:00 PM and consequently wake up early around 1:00 AM or​ 2:00 AM. This is​ a​ symptom of​ disrupted natural biological rhythms known as​ Familial Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome (FASPS).

The amount of​ a​ substance called melatonin is​ also perceived as​ a​ motivating factor in​ sleep-related disorders in​ humans. in​ a​ study among vertebrate mammals, melatonin is​ secreted in​ response to​ the absence of​ light.

This means more melatonin is​ secreted in​ the period of​ darkness and less in​ the presence of​ light. it​ presupposes the idea that melatonin is​ related to​ the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle of​ every human being.


With the knowledge gained in​ the preceding discussion, it​ can be assumed that the presence and absence of​ light affects our sleeping/waking schedule. With these in​ mind, keep yourself committed to​ your schedule to​ rest and sleep and set aside things, which are not really important.

Keep your room as​ dark and gloomy as​ possible, to​ make it​ easy for you to​ sleep. Colorful objects stimulate your senses and disrupt sleep. Keep it​ ventilated and air-conditioned.

Studies show that as​ we sleep, our body temperature drops and allows the neurotransmitter melatonin to​ be produced at​ a​ rapid pace.

Keep those things in​ mind and do not forget to​ seek medical help should your condition progresses.

Circadian Rhythms Disorders And Sleep Phase Syndrome

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