01/27/2012 11:27 am ET

5 Tips For Battling Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Circadian rhythm sleep disorder is a common sleep disorder that can affect anyone from teenagers to the elderly. We spoke to Roxanne Valentino, M.D., medical director of the St. Thomas Center for Sleep in Nashville, Tenn., for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have circadian rhythm sleep disorder, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Shellie Braeuner

"Circadian rhythm disorders present a wide range of problems," says Dr. Valentino. "In teens you will see the 'night owl' disorder," where the teen stays up later and wants to sleep in, thereby clashing with early rising for school. The elderly are often presented with the opposite problem, going to bed earlier in the evening and rising early in the morning.

Manage Time

"Look at why the person is staying awake or sleeping out of rhythm," she advises. Look at your teen's schedule. Does schoolwork, friends or gaming keep your teen stimulated and awake late into the night? Does boredom or daytime fatigue encourage the elderly patient to go to bed early?

Look At Environment

"Make sure the person has a comfortable sleep environment during the night," says Dr. Vanlentino, suggesting that patients limit light and sound.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

"Reserve the bed for sleep," she says. Do homework and bills at a desk. Watch TV and play games on a sofa. Teach the body that when you lie down in bed, it is time for sleep.

Seek Professional Help

According to Dr. Valentino, "If the disorder is causing daytime drowsiness or disrupting morning classes, see your doctor." A full checkup ensures that there is no underlying medical problem affecting the sleep cycle.


"There is medication available to help people reset their sleep cycles," she adds. However, these medications should be a last resort and used only under a doctor's supervision.

Roxanne Valentino, M.D., earned her medical degree from the Ohio State University. She completed her residency at the Cleveland Clinic followed by a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic specializing in sleep medicine and neurophysiology. Dr. Valentino is certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in clinical neurophysiology.

Have you ever had a sleep disorder?