HomeHow To Recognize And Deal With Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder

How To Recognize And Deal With Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder

Sleep-wake rhythm disorder: Introduction

When our bodies have different cycles of sleep and wakefulness, we experience a condition known as sleep-wake rhythm disorder (SWRD). In a person with SWRD, the pattern of sleep and wakefulness is not regular. During the day, the individual may be sleepy, but at night, they will feel completely alert. This is a common complaint among people who are bedridden or nursing home residents, but it can also be caused by other conditions that affect the central nervous system.

A person with a sleep-wake rhythm disorder often has a wide range of symptoms, including trouble sleeping, excessive daytime sleepiness, and difficulty performing daily tasks. Some people experience chronic insomnia, while others experience a night-time feeling of exhaustion. If you are struggling with this disorder, consider talking with your doctor. 

Types of sleep-wake rhythm disorder

There are two major types of sleep-wake rhythm disorders: 

  1. Irregular 
  2. Non-24-hour type

The latter type of sleep-wake rhythm disorder is caused by the circadian rhythm of the body not being synchronized with the 24 hours of light and dark. This condition is most common in blind individuals, although it can occur in sighted people as well. It typically manifests itself with excessive daytime sleepiness and chronic insomnia. Patients with this condition can be diagnosed through a careful sleep diary and a blood test.

An irregular sleep-wake rhythm is characterized by an undefined sleep-wake cycle. In patients with this disorder, the sleep-wake cycle is erratic, which results in several naps per 24-hour period. A person with this condition may also experience unexplained excessive daytime sleepiness or insomnia. If these symptoms occur regularly, it is likely that the disorder is the source of the problem.

The symptoms of sleep-wake rhythm disorder

Sleep-wake rhythm disorder is a condition that causes an irregular sleep cycle. The sleep-wake cycle is a vital part of the human body and a healthy circadian rhythm is the basis for a healthy life. In patients with irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder, sleep and wake cycles are out of sync and the patient experiences problems sleeping or waking up at different times of the day. The cause of irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder is not completely understood.

The individual is unable to sleep at the same time every night, resulting in an advanced sleep-wake cycle and delayed nighttime sleep. The disorder is characterized by several signs, including excessive sleepiness, ongoing insomnia, and daytime sleepiness. It is more common in people with neurological conditions or those with traumatic brain injury.

An irregular sleep-wake rhythm is characterized by a disturbed sleep-wake cycle. It can lead to multiple naps within a 24-hour period. People with this condition may be restless during the day and have difficulty concentrating at work or socially.

The causes of sleep-wake rhythm disorder

There are several causes of irregular sleep-wake rhythm. Some of them are:

  • This condition is characterized by an undefined pattern of sleep and wakefulness throughout the day. People with this disorder may experience recurring periods of insomnia or excessive sleepiness. Patients with this condition often exhibit symptoms such as daytime sleepiness and irritability. The reason behind this condition isn’t fully identified. However, many factors can contribute to its development.
  • Individuals with this disorder often have erratic sleep and wake patterns. This is the result of a mismatch between the internal body clock and the environment. As a result, the person’s ability to function at work or in social situations may be impaired.
  • Other causes of irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder include brain damage, such as stroke or other injuries. 
  • A person’s schedule and other obligations like improper mattress foundationn can also lead to this disorder.

Sleep-wake rhythm disorder diagnosis

A sleep-wake rhythm disorder is characterized by a lack of stable, synchronized sleep patterns and lack of entrainment to the day-night cycle. People with SWRD may experience difficulty falling asleep and waking up in the morning. Most cases of SWRD are associated with neurodegenerative or neurodevelopmental disorders, though this condition has been observed in children with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism.

How is sleep-wake rhythm disorder treated?

Treatment varies from patient to patient but often involves an adjustment of sleep patterns. In some cases, a person may have a 24-hour cycle, but out-of-sync wake times. Regardless of the cause, there are many treatment options available for insomnia. Here are some of the most common options:

  • Depending on the type of sleep-wake rhythm disorder and its severity, a healthcare provider can recommend a personalized treatment plan that best suits the individual. These treatment plans often involve a combination of different approaches, including medication, behavioral therapy, and lifestyle changes. Changing your sleep habits can help you get the restful sleep you need. For example, avoid naps and do not perform high-intensity physical activities within an hour of bedtime. Also, sleeping in oversize beds can also help. 
  • The treatment for an irregular sleep-wake rhythm is highly individual, but all treatment options involve lifestyle changes to the body. If you have a regular sleep-wake cycle, you will be able to avoid daytime fatigue and excessive sleepiness. The best treatment for insomnia is to adjust your schedule, which is typically one to two hours earlier than your normal schedule. Most treated individuals choose to use dual-comfort mattresses for utmost comfort.


Learn about sleep-wake-rhythm disorders, and what your doctor can do for you. While the condition is rare, it should be evaluated by your physician. If your symptoms or your body’s rhythm is irregular, you may need to visit a sleep specialist to get diagnosed. By learning about the disorder, you can begin treatment and prevent complications. By following these steps, you will be able to sleep better and stay awake all night long.

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