Irregular Sleep-Wake Syndrome: The Complete Guide

Being irregular in this world can cost us a lot. Similarly, having an irregular sleeping pattern will cost our health a lot. One of the sleeping issues that most millennials go through is irregular sleep-wake syndrome. This syndrome indicates an irregular pattern during which one sleeps, multiple times a day. Many people, knowingly or unknowingly, go through this disease. So, what causes it and how to get out of it? 

What is an irregular sleep-wake syndrome? 

In simple words, one suffers from irregular sleep syndrome when one do not follow any real sleep schedule. By real sleep schedule, we mean a particular period when one’s body is dedicated to sleeping and nothing else. This schedule differs from person to person based on their age groups. 

For example, infants under 1 to 2 age groups should sleep for more than 12 hours. Whereas, adults falling under the age group of 30 to 40 should sleep for 7 to 8 hours. 

When an adult does not sleep for 7 hours straight, instead they complete their sleep schedule at different hours of the day. They are considered to have an irregular sleep-wake disorder. 

Circadian rhythms 

To understand more about the irregular sleep-wake schedule, we need to understand the relationship between circadian rhythms and normal sleep

Circadian rhythms are characterized by physical, mental, and behavioral rhythms that last for 24 hours. During that period, the rhythms are essential to the person and respond to dark and light. Our body has a 24-hour internal clock. This internal clock is responsible for controlling several processes that also include the sleep-wake cycle. 

The hormone produced by the brain that makes our body feel tired is called melatonin. The secretion of this hormone is at its best during the nighttime when it is dark. To maintain a normal sleep-wake cycle, the secretion of this hormone is important. 

Causes of the irregular sleep-wake syndrome

Irregular Sleep-Wake Syndrome

When the circadian rhythm is not present in our bodies, it causes irregular sleep-wake syndrome. It is considered to be its root cause as the circadian rhythm is responsible for the regulation of wakefulness and rest periods. 

The risk of developing irregular sleep-wake syndrome increases if a person is suffering from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

With increasing age, the occurrence of irregular sleep-wake syndrome raises. The neurological and psychiatric disorders contribute more to the formation of this syndrome as compared to age-related risk factors. 

Some external factors might contribute to the irregular sleep-wake syndrome. Such as, going through irregular working hours (switching between overnight shifts and day shifts) and visiting countries with different time-zones. These factors might seem irrelevant but might disrupt the sleep-wake rhythm. 

Does irregular sleep-wake syndrome require any medical help? 

Sometimes, various situations in life mess up with our sleep schedule. Then these irregular sleeping periods are not considered medical emergencies as they stay only for a short period. 

When our sleep cycle keeps changing in time and quantity, they are said to be associated with daytime sleepiness and difficulty in sleeping. The irregular sleep-wake syndrome occurs rarely as compared to irregular sleep scheduling. 

Although, if you are someone who has relatable risk factors and has not been diagnosed with disorder yet, you might want to consider seeing a doctor. They will clarify if you are going through irregular sleep-wake syndrome regularly or not. 

How does a doctor or a sleep specialist diagnose this syndrome? 

The doctor or the sleep specialist will first enquire you with some questions related to your sleeping patterns. They will also question you regarding the ongoing sleep activities such as sleeping excessively during day hours or issues with insomnia. 

The doctor also might consider using a sleep diary or an actigraph to help the diagnosis of the irregular sleep-wake syndrome. Maintaining a sleep diary will help to keep an eye on your sleeping periods. It consists of the time you started sleeping and the amount of time you spent sleeping. An actigraph is a device that comprises a watch and keeps a track of your sleep-wake patterns. 

Irregular Sleep-Wake Syndrome

These tools will be used for 7 days. It will record your sleeping patterns for those number of days. The asleep specialist will consider a minimum of three cycles of waking and sleeping. All this will be done within 24 hours before making the final diagnosis. 

Ways in which you can manage the irregular sleep-wake syndrome

This is no specific cure for irregular sleep-wake syndrome but to go through several therapies until you find the one which suits you. You can start by making some simple lifestyle changes and if they do not work as expected, you can go ahead with therapies. 

  1. Exposure to light

Controlling your exposure to light helps you deal with the irregular sleep-wake syndrome. Your body’s exposure to blue light and bright light should only take place during the daytime. Avoid televisions or mobile phones, as they emit blue light, during the nighttime. 

Following this will help your body to adapt to the surrounding darkness and start with the secretion of the sleep-producing hormones, melatonin. 

  1. Melatonin supplements

Taking melatonin supplements can also help in secreting hormones. Now, be careful with the dosage and consult a certified physician before consuming any. It is safe to consume the supplements each night but only for a short period. 

  1. Schedule your day

Adding necessary activities to your day will help you to structure your time properly and avoid being lethargic. Lethargy can make one sleep during non-sleeping hours. Add energy-consuming activities such as exercising, socially interacting, or even doing household works. This will help you to secrete melatonin without any supplements. 

  1. Make your environment sleep-friendly

This means to make necessary adjustments in your environment to induce good sleep in you. This involves sleeping in a room with no light exposure and with no sounds bothering. 

Lastly, one can only come out of irregular sleep-wake syndrome is following a regular sleeping pattern. Though, it might be hard, in the beginning, to shape your mind to get into a particular pattern of sleep. But it will be all worth it as good sleep is related to many health benefits. 

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