Find out how to help a friend with circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorder with these 7 tips.

Sleep disorders are a set of conditions that can interfere with the timing and quality of someone’s sleep. Because sleep disorders impact people both directly and indirectly, knowing how to help someone with circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorder can be beneficial for everyone involved.

When someone has circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorder, they may sleep short periods of anywhere from one to four hours at a time. They will repeat these short sleep sessions several times throughout a 24-hour period.

What’s different with sleep-wake disorder as compared to other sleep disorders is that it doesn’t lead someone to be sleep-deprived. Typically people will get enough sleep. However their sleep isn’t concentrated into a long stretch of seven hours or more. Instead, it’s spread out over 24 hours. Even though the person is getting enough sleep, they may still feel excessively sleepy during the day, which can impair their routine and functionality.

If you have a loved one and especially a partner with a sleep disorder, it can be challenging to cope. You may want to help your loved one. You may also face sleep disturbances as a result of their disorder. The following are some tips to help a loved one with circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorder.

1. Encourage Your Loved One to Create a Journal of Sleep Habits

When someone has a sleep disorder, it can be a diagnosable medical condition. The more a health care provider knows about the situation, the better.

Starting a journal can be a good way to start uncovering the root causes of a sleep disorder like sleep-wake disorder. You can help your loved one or partner with this.

The journal can include the routine they participate in before bed, such as any food or drinks they may have. It can also include how long they sleep at a time, how difficult it is to wake up in the morning, and whether or not they experienced daytime sleepiness.

Other things to include in a sleep journal are:

  •  What time you went to bed and woke up
  • A ranking of sleep quality
  • How many times you awoke in the night
  • How long you were awake each time you woke up
  • Daily level of physical activity
  • Thoughts, feelings or changes in mood

2. Check-In On Your Loved One While They’re Sleeping

Sometimes sleep disorders are the result of a condition like obstructive sleep apnea. A person may not be sleeping for long periods because of sleep apnea, which can be dangerous because they stop breathing for brief intervals while asleep.

Check in on your loved one while they’re sleeping and see if you notice anything out of the ordinary that they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.

3. Be a Support System

Sometimes we don’t understand just how much a sleep disorder can affect a person. It can lead them to feel depressed, anxious or isolated. It may make the person feel as if they don’t want to socialize.

You can be a support system by listening and being there for them, especially when they’re feeling down or discouraged.

4. Establish a Routine With Your Loved One

If your loved one is your partner or lives with you, you can create a bedtime routine to do together. This can improve relaxation and promote normalized sleeping patterns.

For example, maybe you both listen to soothing music or perform breathing exercise. Practicing muscle relaxation can help, as can meditation.

If you do it with your loved one, they will feel more supported and encouraged to maintain these healthy bedtime routines.

5. Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment

It can take some time to find the best sleep environment for your loved one. Everyone has different preferences, so experiment with the level of light, whether or not white noise helps and the ideal temperature.

6. Help Your Loved One Find Ways to Reduce Stress

Stress can be a big contributor to all sleep disorders. You can be helpful and show support by encouraging your loved one to find ways to reduce their stress not only before bed but throughout the day.

Reading more or practicing yoga may be helpful. You might also encourage your loved one to talk to their employer if they’re dealing with work stress and find ways to manage those feelings better. Maybe you’ll identify ways you can reduce your loved one’s stress, such as taking on more of the household chores.

7. Encourage Them to Seek Treatment for Sleep-Wake Disorder

Sometimes sleep-wake disorder and other sleep disorders are caused by mental health disorders. For example, anxiety and depression can cause sleep-related symptoms. If this is the case, psychotherapy and medication may be helpful.

If the sleep disorder isn’t related to a mental health condition, there may be other options. For example, a doctor may recommend light therapy to adjust circadian rhythm, or supplementing with melatonin.

The Recovery Village provides treatment for co-occurring disorders, like sleep disorders, that occur with substance abuse. To find out more about co-occurring disorder drug and alcohol treatment programs, contact The Recovery Village today.

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Editor – Renee Deveney
As a contributor for Advanced Recovery Systems, Renee Deveney is passionate about helping people struggling with substance use disorder. With a family history of addiction, Renee is committed to opening up a proactive dialogue about substance use and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more

O’Connell, Krista. “Irregular Sleep-Wake Syndrome.” Healthline. August 31, 2016. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Roddick, Julie and Cherney, Kristeen. “Sleep Disorders.” Healthline. January 26, 2016. Accessed January 19, 2019.

Parekh, Ranna, M.D., M.P.H. “What Are Sleep Disorders?”American Psychiatric Association. July 2017. Accessed January 19, 2019.

Tuck. “Sleep-Wake Phase Disorders.” April 9, 2018. Accessed January 29, 2019.

Sleep Education. “Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm- Diagnosis & Treatment.” September 20, 2016. Accessed January 19, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.