Studies have shown that a possible cause of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness may be due to a system located in the brain. A hypothalamus area in the brain houses a “body clock” known as circadian rhythms. All humans are born with a circadian rhythm that regulates the day/night cycle. A misaligned circadian rhythm results in complications of the night/sleep and day/awake system.
The Circadian Clock
Circadian rhythms regulate our mind, body and behavioral cues to work within a twenty-four hour day/night cycle. Other functions that circadian rhythms regulate include body temperature, release of hormones and mood disposition.
The body’s inner clock is affected by natural hormones and outside stimuli. The presence or absence of light starts the production of certain hormones to help maintain eating, sleeping and replenishing of cells.
Although all causes of circadian rhythm disorder are not known, scientist have found factors that correlate with the impairment. A chronic illness, surgery and trauma are known to alter the body’s inner clock. Lifestyle behaviors such as repeatedly staying up late, smoking and eating unhealthy foods can disturb natural rhythms.
The area of sleep science has improved itself over the years on how to best care for faulty circadian rhythms. Chronotherapy is a treatment option that sleep and wake times are shifted in an attempt to reset the body’s normal clock. In light therapy, a specialized type of light given at specific times are used to reset the sleep/awake schedule. Behavioral modifications and medications are frequently used.
Those with Excessive Daytime Sleepiness may want to consider treatments used for circadian rhythm problems. Patients should speak with their physician if lack of sleep becomes a long term problem.