Shift Work, Non-24 and Jet Lag: Understanding Common Circadian Rhythm Causes and Cures

Every person sleeps but not all sleep equally. Furthermore, many are on similar sleep-wake cycles. Most people go to bed somewhere around 10 or 11 at night and wake at 6 or 7 in the morning. However, a small percentage of people are not on that schedule; some are not really on any kind of schedule. These people are subjected to shift work, jet lag, and other factors that knock off a circadian rhythm. Here are common causes and cures.

Delayed Sleep-Wake

This is an aggravating condition that affects people just enough to potentially throw lives off course. People live normally except that they get to sleep about two hours later than normal, thus waking two hours later than normal in the morning. However, the condition may not influence the happiness of some, especially for those who make their own schedules or have some flexibility.

Advanced Sleep Wake

This is the opposite of the above condition. Those with the disorder fall asleep hours earlier than normal and get up a lot earlier than most. While the cycle is earlier than most people, sleep is restful. Those with an advanced wake cycle may not run into any issues, especially if their work and life schedules accommodate them. For example, a person who works an early shift, gets off early, goes to the gym, and then finishes the day with gym, chores, and evening downtime, may have no complaints.

Irregular Sleep Wake

Those with this pattern of sleep suffer from a lack of stability. They may stay up for a period exceeding 24 hours or nap periodically over the same amount of time. They sleep whenever they can, mostly due to pure exhaustion yet never really develop a clear cut schedule. This alarm clock app can help normalize a routine. Other factors such as too much exposure to sunlight or mental retardation could lead to developing this condition of irregular sleep.

Non 24-Hour Sleep Wake

As insinuated in the introduction, most have ‘normal’ sleep-wake cycles, and light is the reason. Morning light and other behaviors reset a person’s internal clock. However, those with non 24 sleep cycles don’t follow normal patterns.

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Actually, those with the condition have a tendency to sleep later and later each day, and sleep patterns get out of whack as the weeks pass. Some people have weaker ‘clocks,’ and should sleep in light filled rooms and do things that encourage a normal cycle.

Jet Lag

Jet lag is much less serious than those conditions mentioned above. It happens when traveling across multiple time zones in a short amount of time, thus necessitating a body adjustment that is impractical to deal with. Aside from the time zones, sitting in awkward positions, poor air quality, flying eastward and drinking alcohol while flying can contribute to jet lag.

Shift Work

Lastly, shift work or jobs that require rotating hours lead to issues with one’s circadian rhythm. For some (nurses, cops, firemen), the varied shifts won’t stop but a few habits can help compensate for the inconsistency. Try taking naps, meditating, rotating other life events and necessities around your shift, etc.




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I'm Crystal. I'm married to Dale, and mother to Johnny.Some might say that my life is perfect because I get to do all the cliché wife things like cooking, cleaning, and decorating - but there's more! I also have many hobbies including needlework (crochet), sewing, and reading. My son's education is important, so we homeschool him together.

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