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The minds and bodies of adults, children and practically all living organisms on the planet follow the 24-hour day-night cycle of the earth and sun. Called circadian rhythm (circadian means “around the day”), it affects when we sleep or rest and when we are awake or active.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders may occur when a child’s biological clock gets out of sync with standard time. The child may have difficulty falling asleep at his or her usual bedtime, have difficulty waking up in the morning or be sleepy at unusual times during the day.
Symptoms of circadian rhythm sleep disorders include:
The most common pediatric circadian disorder is known as delayed sleep-wake phase syndrome. With this syndrome, a child can function normally when he or she sleeps on a delayed schedule, such as 1 am to 10 am, but has trouble sleeping on a more typical schedule, such as 10 pm to 7 am. It can be more problematic during the school year.
Evaluation by a sleep specialist at Riley at IU Health can help determine the presence of a circadian disorder. Diagnostic methods include:
Treatment usually involves behavioral modification, sometimes in conjunction with timed bright light therapy or medicine. Treatment for circadian rhythm disorders includes:
For more information on circadian rhythm disorders, please visit the trusted resources below.
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