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ADHD and your circadian rhythm

Is your sleep-wake cycle delayed?
Is your sleep-wake cycle delayed?
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The natural ''cycle'' of darkness to daylight amazingly coordinates your body's biologic and ''circadian'' rhythms and your sleep-wake cycle.

UAB Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Rachel Fargason says, "What happens is light enters your eye and goes through a neurologic trek. It goes through your brain and tells you that it's daytime and when everything works as it should, the master clock synchronizes the body and says it's morning time then you wake up..

And as the cycle proceeds, eventually night falls.

Fargarson says, "The diminished light is picked up through the eye and a hormone called melatonin starts to kick in as light diminishes. And this makes a start to feel tired. And if everything goes as it should you go to bed about 10 or 11 o'clock.

But, the light-dark cycle doesn't always go as it should in some children and adults with ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to Fargason.

Her team's research revealed ADHD's strongly linked to... delayed ''circadian rhythms'' and delayed circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

Fargason says, "If you left them to their own devices they would probably go to bed about 4 o'clock in the morning and get up at noon. What happens to these children and adults is they try to go to bed at conventional times 10 and 11 o'clock; but, they can't fall asleep so they have a very delayed sleep.

19 year old, Emma Willis was not involved in Fargason's research; but, she and her mom remember Emma's sleep problems during high school.

Willis says, "I'd lay down, then three hours later fall asleep. My mind would be going then it would be hard to wake up in the morning and get to school on time. So I was always late to school. Thankfully, I was a cheerleader, my freshman and sophomore years so, I would have those two periods. I'd lay down sometimes cause in class throughout the day I was miserable. I couldn't focus. I was tired.

In published research, Fargason's team studied normal and delayed circadian rhythm due to ADHD in participants.

Fargason says over the long term, people who have delayed circadian rhythm, who are out-of-phase with the ''light-dark'' cycle and have shortened-sleep will face health problems.

Fargason says, "So, if you get up and talk to people, you go exercise better yet you exercise outside in the light you're going to wake your system up.The light signals your brain to shut down melatonin. And you don't feel sleepy anymore and you wake up."

If you don't have a strong circadian rhythm, Fargason suggests using a light therapy lamp for 30 minutes in the morning and taking very low doses of melatonin in the late afternoon and early evening to signal the brain that it's time to start kicking in melatonin.

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Fargason is one of several ADHD experts who will present new information at the 8th Annual Southeast Regional ADHD Conference on January 22-23 at Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, AL. Professionals, parents, people with ADHD are welcome to attend. To learn more about the conference, go to

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