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Let's Talk Sleep Disorders and Your Mental Health

If you are the proud possessor of a 24-hour body clock and are happily in sync with your circadian rhythm, I heartily congratulate you on your good fortune; you are blessed and this is not for you.

Sleep disorders, of which there is a myriad, are the bane of many people’s existence. Myself included. So imagine my delight when I woke up this morning all groggy and bleary-eyed to discover evidence to support my theory that my sleep pattern isn’t so much a pattern at all, but a bona fide disorder.

Endearingly,  many healthy adults seem to have little trouble falling in step with the circadian rhythm and naturally follow the wake up feeling refreshed, become increasingly and annoyingly naturally sleepy throughout the day, and go to bed at an acceptably typical time as defined by light/dark cycles.

The master circadian clock is found in the hypothalamus and is composed of a delightful cluster of proteins. Otherwise known as yet another area of my brain that seemingly has no desire to function the way it’s supposed to.

According to studies, delayed sleep-wake disorder is when a person’s sleep-wake cycle is typically pushed back more than two hours beyond that which is considered a conventional sleep schedule. So if your loved ones are happy in the land of slumber while you lay there wondering why your sleepiness turns to dust every time your head hits a pillow guess what… Your master circadian clock is a tiny bit out of whack.

I don’t mind that I’m out of sync. In fact, it commonly gives me something to complain about and blame minor misdemeanors on, so I’m in no great rush to rectify what other people might see as a problem, and the fact that I can now put a fancy-ass name to it just makes it all the more satisfying.

I have to concede that sleep dysfunction can be frustrating at times. Admittedly the frustration is predominately borne from the fact that whilst I struggle to fit in and synchronize my schedule to imitate the masses, it would be a whole lot simpler for me if the masses were to concede a loss and synchronize with me.

By all accounts, the glitch in my master circadian clock could be reoriented by melatonin supplements taken at a specific time to induce a feeling of gradual sleepiness. And while that’s all well and good, I have to wonder if it really would make a person happier to have their quirks obliterated so they can fall into line with the non-insomniac status quo.

My rational mind knows of course that a decent sleep pattern has a positive knock-on effect on my mental health and physical well-being. However my irrational self also enjoys staying up late, way past the time everyone else has given in for the day to enjoy life in peace and quiet and almost certain of the fact that none but the very brave would dare to disturb me at such an unholy hour.

As much as I’m now almost totally at one with being nocturnal, it does sometimes begin to be a little bit of a niggly problem for other people.

There are ways of working around an unconventional sleep schedule. For instance, appointments are booked after lunch and hardly ever before if I can help it. The earliest I’m prepared to go is 10 a.m. and highly caffeinated. because any earlier than that and without the correct ratio of coffee in my system, you’re moving into dangerous territory, and nobody needs that.

You see the thing is, I have an intense dislike for actually falling asleep. But also, interestingly enough, an even more intense dislike of waking up once I’ve hit slumber town, and so waking up anyway other than naturally is as abhorrent for me as it is high risk and hazardous for the person doing the waking.

Sleep and mental health disorders seem to go hand in hand, so whatever sleep pattern you fall into, I hope you’re getting enough.

Getty image by Svetlana Khoruzhaia

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