The natural internal clock that controls our 24-hour cycle of sleep and waking, circadian rhythms are easily upset by changes in schedule, and they're greatly affected by light and darkness. Jet lag is the best known circadian rhythm disorder, but this sensitive inner clock can also be disrupted by changes in routine resulting in an erratic sleep schedule.
Specialists in Sleep Medicine were originally certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine, which still recognizes specialists. Those passing the Sleep Medicine Specialty Exam received the designation "diplomate of the ABSM." Sleep Medicine is now a recognized subspecialty within internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, otolaryngology, psychiatry and neurology in the United States. Certification in Sleep Medicine shows that the specialist:
As suggested by its name, PLMD is an involuntary movement disorder. (An older name, nocturnal myoclonus , is rarely used anymore.) People with this problem experience sudden, involuntary leg movements during the night, such as kicking or jerking. The difference between this and restless leg syndrome is that, unless the kicking wakes you up, you don't know you're doing it. You don't experience the tingling and discomfort that leads you to consciously move your legs, as with restless leg syndrome. At least 80 percent of people with restless leg syndrome have PLMD, but the reverse isn't true.
Histamine plays a role in wakefulness in the brain. An allergic reaction over produces histamine causing wakefulness and inhibiting sleep Sleep problems are common in people with allergic rhinitis. A study from the N.I.H. found that sleep is dramatically impaired by allergic symptoms and that the degree of impairment is related to the severity of those symptoms s Treatment of allergies has also been shown to help sleep apnea.
Chronic sleep disorders in childhood, which affect some 70% of children with developmental or psychological disorders, are under-reported and under-treated. Sleep-phase disruption is also common among adolescents, whose school schedules are often incompatible with their natural circadian rhythm. Effective treatment begins with careful diagnosis using sleep diaries and perhaps sleep studies. Modifications in sleep hygiene may resolve the problem, but medical treatment is often warranted.
Now consider noise. If a ticking clock disturbs you, buy one that doesn't tick, or use your phone. Turn clock radios and MP3 players to the wall and cover lighted screens. Lay in supplies of earplugs, eye masks, and anything else that helps screen out light as well as sound. Some people find a fan or white-noise machine is soothing and blocks out street noise. If you don't like wearing earplugs or an eye mask when you fall asleep, keep them on your bedside table in case you wake up later. Many people find they're more sensitive to light and sound in the middle of the night.
This clock is a small part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. It sits just above the nerves leaving the back of our eyes. Light and exercise "reset" the clock and can move it forward or backward. Abnormalities related to this clock are called circadian rhythm disorders ("circa" means "about," and "dies" means "day").
What to do: If you suspect you have a circadian rhythm disorder, take steps to get your body onto a regular sleep schedule. Choose a bedtime and wake-up time that work for you, and follow the same routine each day, even on weekends. This can be tough for those who have to get up early during the week but like to stay up later on weekends, but do your best to craft a compromise between your work week and weekend habits. The important thing is to avoid the trap of sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week, then suddenly shifting to late nights and late mornings on the weekends. This will inevitably leave you with insomnia on Sunday night, which in turn sets you up to start the week exhausted on Monday morning.