Irregular sleep-wake syndrome

Alternative names
Sleep-wake syndrome - irregular


Irregular sleep-wake syndrome involves variable and disorganized periods of sleeping and wakeful behavior. In some individuals (such as shift workers and travelers who change time zones frequently), this syndrome is caused by extrinsic factors.

However, some individuals may have an irregular sleep-wake pattern due to abnormal circadian pacemaker (internal clock), abnormal brain function, or for other reasons. These cases are considered to be intrinsic.

Signs and tests

Individuals with irregular sleep-wake syndrome may complain of either insomnia or excessive sleepiness. Usually an irregular pattern of at least three sleep episodes during a 24-hour period is reported.

Total sleep time is normal for age. No underlying medical or mental disorder accounts for these symptoms, and no other sleep disorder is generally present.

Most people may occassionally experience disturbances in their sleep. However, if this type of irregular sleep-wake pattern occurs regularly and spontaneously, you may consider consulting a physician.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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