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Irregular sleep-wake syndrome

Definition

Irregular sleep-wake syndrome is sleeping without any real schedule.

Alternative Names

Sleep-wake syndrome - irregular

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Some people have an irregular sleep-wake pattern because of a problem with brain function, the body's internal clock (circadian pacemaker), or other reasons.

This disorder is very rare. It usually occurs in a person who has a problem with brain function and who does not have a regular routine during the day. The amount of total sleep time is normal, but the body clock loses its normal circadian cycle.

People with changing work shifts and travelers who often change time zones may also have these symptoms. These people have a different condition, such as shift work sleep disorder or jet lag syndrome.

Signs and tests

People with irregular sleep-wake syndrome may have insomnia, excessive sleepiness, or both. Patients usually have at least three abnormal sleep episodes during a 24-hour period, but their total amount of sleep time is normal for their age.

If the diagnosis is not clear, your health care provider may prescribe a device called an "actigraph" for you to wear. This looks like a wristwatch, and can tell when you are sleeping or awake.

Calling your health care provider

Most people may occasionally have disturbances in their sleep. However, if this type of irregular sleep-wake pattern occurs regularly and without cause, consult your health care provider.

References

Zee PC, Vitello MV. Circadian rhythm sleep disorder: irregular sleep wake rhythm. Sleep Med Clin 4;2009:213-218.

Review Date: 6/15/2012
Reviewed By: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine UMDNJ-NJMS, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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