Skip navigation

Irregular sleep-wake syndrome

Irregular sleep-wake syndrome is sleeping without any real schedule.

Causes

Some people have an irregular sleep-wake pattern because of a problem with brain function, the body's internal clock (circadian pacemaker), or other reasons.

This disorder is very rare. It usually occurs in a person who has a problem with brain function and who does not have a regular routine during the day. The amount of total sleep time is normal, but the body clock loses its normal circadian cycle.

People with changing work shifts and travelers who often change time zones may also have these symptoms. These people have a different condition, such as shift work sleep disorder or jet lag syndrome.

Exams and Tests

People with irregular sleep-wake syndrome may have insomnia, excessive sleepiness, or both. Patients usually have at least three abnormal sleep episodes during a 24-hour period, but their total amount of sleep time is normal for their age.

If the diagnosis is not clear, your health care provider may prescribe a device called an "actigraph" for you to wear. This looks like a wristwatch, and can tell when you are sleeping or awake.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Most people may occasionally have disturbances in their sleep. However, if this type of irregular sleep-wake pattern occurs regularly and without cause, consult your health care provider.

Alternative Names

Sleep-wake syndrome - irregular

References

Zee PC, Vitello MV. Circadian rhythm sleep disorder: irregular sleep wake rhythm. Sleep Med Clin 4;2009:213-218.

Update Date: 6/15/2012

Updated by: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine UMDNJ-NJMS, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

MedlinePlus Topics

Images

A.D.A.M Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.

A.D.A.M Logo