Can irregular sleep wake rhythm still be corrected?

This question was asked in Irvine, California on 12/04/2012.
My niece suffers from depression. Her psychiatrist told her that she may also suffer from irregular sleep wake rhythm. She doesn't know where to go from here but she says that her complete inability to hold even a somewhat normal sleep cycle is affecting her more and more. Can this be corrected?

Doctors Answers (4)

Jeannine Louise Gingras, MD
Answered on: 12/6/2012

Absolutely. However, to properly address this issue will require keeping a sleep / wake log for at least a couple of weeks, identifying a sleep physician, ruling out other potential contributing problems or other sleep disorders. Circadian Rhythm Disorders are difficult nut very treatable, especially if the person with the disorder is motivated to change.

Joseph Lee, DDS, FICOI
Answered on: 12/6/2012

Although your niece would need a thorough assessment, one plausible reason why she doesn't have a proper sleep rhythm would be a sleep breathing disorder. If, for instance, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is suspected, a sleep study should be done. People with OSA have also been known to have depression. Proper sleep is needed for the body to function properly. If OSA is the cause, there is a possibility the depression can go away once that's treated.

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 1/18/2012

Irregular sleep wake pattern is usually seen in individuals with brain injury and is not treatable per se.  The injury causes a temporal disorganization of sleeping and wake behavior. People have 3 or more episodes of sleep in a 24 hour periods.  Depression is commonly associated with insomnia and treatment for this with behavioral and pharmacological means is usually successful.

Irregular sleep, a circadian rhythm disorder, can be treated with various modalities including, light therapy, melatonin, medications and behavioral sleep modifications.