The biological clock that keeps the body in rhythm; this biological clock has been observed for thousands of years. In the late 1950s, a Romanian biologist, Franz Halberg designated this biological rhythm as the Circadian Rhythm. The word Circadian is derived from the Latin words, ‘diem’ meaning day, ‘Circa’ meaning around. The word, circadian, refers to the twenty-four hour cycle in the physiological, biochemical, psychological and behavioral processes of the body and mind.
Many studies have been done of the biological routines in terms of the daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, annual and periodical spans of time. The biologist, Franz Halberg, is considered one of the founders of this branch of science called chronobiology. Most of the influence of the circadian rhythm comes from the internal organs; however, certain other factors also play a major role in maintaining the circadian rhythm. Sunlight is very important to this biological rhythm. It has long been known that people who are deprived of sunlight often have disturbances in a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us slip into sleep.
Causes of circadian rhythm sleep disorder
Some sleep disorders occur when the rhythm is influenced by external or internal disturbances. There can be bouts of sleepiness or periods of insomnia; sometimes people with circadian rhythm sleep disorder (CRSD) require medical intervention and treatment to be able to sleep properly. Factory employees and shift-workers who work night shift or swing shifts often suffer from circadian rhythm sleep disorder. This same phenomenon is common among people who travel across time zones. Time zones going from east to west are the most likely to cause circadian rhythm disturbances.
If any of these internal or external factors cause a disturbance in the body’s circadian rhythm, a number of disorders can develop and turn into disease manifestation. Not getting enough sleep can add to the stress in the body. Stress causes us to produce an overabundance of cortisol (stress hormone). It’s well known that stress can lead the mind and body into a myriad of diseases and conditions.
Any sleep disorder, including CRSD, can cause behavioral, occupational and sociological disturbances in anyone’s life. Treatment options for circadian rhythm sleep disorder may include medications, psychotherapy and behavioral counseling. However, the sleep disorders that are induced due to certain types of drug interactions do not fall under the classification of circadian rhythm sleep disorders, because they are not caused by the circadian rhythm disturbance.