Familial Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome

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People with Familial Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome invariably go to bed and rise early, typically three to four hours earlier than most people. The circadian rhythm &mdash the body’s tendency to have physiological processes recurring naturally in a twenty-four hour cycle &mdash of such people is shifted to an earlier time than for most of the population. The syndrome results in melatonin blood levels and the core temperature of the body to cycle at earlier times than others.

If there is anything that proves a genetic basis for circadian cycles and chronotypes, it is FASPS. It runs in families and is inherited from parents. Geneticists suggest that the inherent problem could be near the 2q gene, or in the hPer2 gene, controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. Mutations of the gene cause a serine-to-glycine mutation. Essentially, the body’s natural schedule becomes corrupted where the gene is missing a necessary component and altering typical circadian rhythm. “Mutations in the circadian clock hPer2 and CK1 delta genes have been identified and linked to familial ASPD” source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2679862/

Although not completely understood, FASPS is probably not caused solely by genetics. It is likely that other physiological and behavioral factors play a part. For whatever reason, the endogenous circadian period is shortened. If we use the 2-phase model of sleep regulation, we can speculate that the syndrome is a consequence of a misplacement in the interaction of circadian timing and sleep homeostatic regulation.

People with Familial Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome have a near normal sleep pattern of normal quality and span; however, the sleep onset occurs earlier than desired. Other symptoms occurring for more than three months at a time include the inability to stay away until “normal” bedtime or where the opposite is true, and sufferers have the inability to remain asleep until normal wake time. It’s not just preference for bedtime and wake-up time; people with FASPS also have body temperature and melatonin levels cycles shifted in line with their sleep times.

Moreover, the affected have less daytime or afternoon energy and alertness, may overdose on sleep medications or alcohol and suffer emotional and physical problems. Statistics show that those with Familial Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome are evenly distributed between men and women. Additionally, the condition might bring about digestive complications: diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pains, ulcers and constipation.

Usually, this syndrome is not treated, unless it becomes such a burden that the subject demands treatment. Treatment for Familial Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome involves chronotherapy, which take into account the body’s natural rhythms, along with bright light therapy. Bright light therapy attempts to cause the body’s clock to think it is daylight longer. Light tables and similar apparatuses are installed in the home to move the sleep phase backwards. Melatonin treatments work for some. Often, when treatment is not successful, those afflicted with Familial Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome must adapt their social and physical lifestyles to fit the disturbance.

Additional Resources:

General Advanced Sleep-Phase Syndrome

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