Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder is a disorder of the circadian rhythm that happens when the body's internal clock is not synced with earth's light and dark cycles of day and night. Affected individuals go to sleep later every night and wake up later the following day. Ultimately, the patient's schedule for sleep goes all the way around the clock. For example, an affected individual may go to sleep at nine and wake up at nine in the morning, but the next night they won't go to sleep until eleven at night. This means they wake up at eleven the next day. The delay is pushed back by a few hours each night until the individual is back to falling asleep and waking up at nine again. The circadian clock is a cluster of thousands of brain nerve cells that transmit signals throughout the body when it's time to sleep or wake up.
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Internal Body Clock Issue
The internal clock of the human body is called the circadian clock. Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder occurs when there is a problem with an individual's internal rhythms. When light moves from the eyes to the brain, the internal body clock activates. If the patient is not completely blind, they may have issues with the mechanism of how light moves from their eyes to their brain. The individual will not have problems with vision, but their brain is not receiving the start-up trigger that it needs to tell the body it is time to go to sleep or wake up. The circadian clock should be synchronized with the physical environment of the patient by numerous light related and non-light related stimuli. The circadian rhythms in the hypothalamus manage many biological processes including body temperature, hormone secretion, cell-cycle regulation, feeding, glucose homeostasis, and the sleep-wake cycle. When there is an alteration in the timing of these physiologic rhythms, it causes internal desynchronization. This coordination loss of rhythms can have adverse consequences on the affected individual's rest-activity cycles.
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