Living & Managing

How will my life change with Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder?

Many people initially try to cope with Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder (Non-24) by forcing themselves to keep a normal sleep schedules like their 24-hour peers. Previous cases examining sleep-wake patterns of affected individuals show that their sleep tends to occur most during the night, reflecting their general attempt to live a 24-hour social day. As a result, Non-24 is often misdiagnosed as primary insomnia and prescribed inappropriate sleep medication. Treating the sleep issue only is addressing a symptom and it not treating the underlying disorder that is the misalignment of the master body clock.

Non-24 can also be misinterpreted as a psychological disorder. This is not the case, however; while it can cause psychological problems as a result of difficulty coping with the symptoms, it is professionally classified as a neurological sleep disorder. More often than not, there is a lack of understanding from family, friends, employers, and even some doctors because it is difficult for them to grasp the overwhelming desire to sleep at the 'wrong' time for some patients and that the symptoms are not resolved by other typical sleepiness countermeasures. For example, even though Non-24 patients may feel extremely fatigued due to the disorder, how they are unable to fall asleep earlier in the night is difficult to understand. Not surprisingly, Non-24 sufferers may feel undermined in their personal and professional relationships due to lack of acceptance and understanding from their peer groups.

Non-24 sufferers may also find themselves napping or feeling very sleepy during the daytime, leading to problems with performance in work or school. They may find it difficult to wake up on time when required and keep to a schedule, especially if they are already sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation may lead to difficulties with concentration and memory, increasing risk of errors and accidents.

What changes can I make to my lifestyle to help manage my disorder?

Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for Non-24. Phototherapy for the sighted and melatonin are currently used by many patients suffering from Non24. In 2014 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the medication tasimelteon (brand name Hetlioz) for the treatment of Non-24.