Perhaps you constantly feel out of sync with your sleep patterns. Or maybe you find you’re unable to fall asleep at night but are exhausted all day, every day. Either way, a lack of sleep can cause a major decrease in life satisfaction, so it’s important to address the issue.
Difficulty sleeping may be due to any number of common sleep disorders. However, there’s a possibility you may have non-24, a circadian rhythm disorder.
What Is Non-24?
Non-24 is defined as a circadian rhythm disorder. So, what is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder?
Essentially, your circadian rhythms are controlled by your body’s internal clock, which helps you figure out when to sleep and wake up. For most people, their body clock runs on a 24-hour day cycle. For a person with non-24, however, that natural cycle may actually be a bit longer or shorter than 24 hours.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, these extra minutes or hours can add up, eventually causing a noticeable change in the times when that person’s body expects to sleep or wake up. A person with non-24 may want to sleep during the day and struggle to sleep at night because of a problem with circadian rhythm.
Non-24 is often misidentified as a sleep disorder, but it’s actually more about a person’s circadian rhythm than sleep itself. Non-24 is due to an internal master clock that is “set” incorrectly as compared to the 24-hour night-day cycle.
What Are the Symptoms of Non-24?
If you have non-24, you’re likely to experience the following symptoms:
- You have a profoundly hard time sleeping through the night.
- You have a strong urge to sleep during the day.
- You wake up groggy or feeling as if you didn’t get enough rest.
- Your sleep patterns are different from most people you know.
- You feel like you’re in a never-ending battle between sleeplessness and exhaustion.
- This battle has been ongoing for months, if not years.
If you’re having these symptoms, you might be misdiagnosed as having a sleep disorder like insomnia. Make sure you tell your doctor exactly what’s going on.
Who Is Most Affected by Non-24?
Non-24 is very common in people who are legally blind, as they may have little to no light perception. In fact, estimates say that more than 70 percent of blind people struggle with non-24; however, other people also live with non-24.
Can Non-24 Be Treated?
Yes, there are several ways in which doctors treat non-24:
- Some patients benefit from phototherapy, or appropriately timed light exposure. This therapy can help reset your body’s clock.
- Others benefit from a drug called tasimelteon, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of non-24. Tasimelteon helps your brain control the timing of your sleep-wake system.
- Melatonin is also used in some cases. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, and it’s the body’s biochemical signal of darkness.
When Should You Talk to Your Doctor?
Your history and symptoms will be the best indicator of when you should speak with a care provider. For most people, non-24 is chronic and doesn’t occur suddenly. If you have a history of tremendous sleeplessness and exhaustion, are experiencing the above symptoms, or want to know more about circadian rhythm, talk to a doctor at UPMC.