The series of “quick overview” blog posts are short and easy to understand explanations of subjects written about on this blog and are published for reference, not intended necessarily as independent reading material. These are fact-focused and lack personal opinions and information. And are published to reduce the linking to third party sources, as at times there may be disagreement how trustworthy these sources are.
Understanding Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder
Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder (Non-24) is a rare circadian rhythm disorder that affects an estimated 70% (approximately 55 thousand) of blind individuals in the United States. While it can affect sighted individuals, it’s extremely rare and is believed to only be several hundreds worldwide. Non-24 is a disorder in which an individual’s body clock is not synchronized with the 24-hour day, which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at appropriate times.
Symptoms of Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder
The most common symptom of Non-24 is a disrupted sleep-wake cycle. Individuals with Non-24 may experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up at appropriate times. Other symptoms of Non-24 may include:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Mood changes
- Poor concentration and memory
- Difficulty with social and work-related activities due to fatigue or drowsiness
Causes of Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder
Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder is most commonly seen in individuals who are blind, as their circadian rhythm is not regulated by light exposure. However, it can also affect individuals who are sighted. The circadian rhythm is controlled by the body’s internal clock, which helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Non-24 occurs when an individual’s internal clock is not synchronized with the 24-hour day. Usually, in individuals with normal sight, exposure to light helps to reset the internal clock on a daily basis. However, in individuals who are blind or have low vision, the internal clock may not be properly synchronized with the external environment, leading to non-24.
Treatment Options for Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder
The treatment options for Non-24 may vary depending on the severity of the disorder and the individual’s specific symptoms. Some common treatment options for Non-24 may include:
- Light Therapy: Exposure to bright light in the morning and during the day can help to reset the internal clock and synchronize the sleep-wake cycle with the 24-hour day.
- Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the body and is involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin supplements may be recommended to help regulate the sleep-wake cycle in individuals with Non-24.
- Chronotherapy: This is a process in which an individual gradually adjusts their sleep schedule over time to synchronize with the 24-hour day.
Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder is a rare circadian rhythm disorder that can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. While there is no known cure for non-24, there are treatment options available that can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and improve symptoms. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have non-24, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional to discuss the best options for diagnosis and treatment.
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