One of the best ways to tell if your sleep issues are circadian rhythm-related is to look at how you’re sleeping on workdays versus your days off. According to Nishi Bhopal M.D., who’s board-certified in psychiatry, sleep medicine, and integrative holistic medicine, significant variability between the two can indicate a circadian rhythm problem.
“People with delayed circadian rhythms, or delayed sleep phase, tend to have trouble falling asleep when they have to get up early the next day, and then have trouble waking up on time,” she says, adding, “They often feel sleepy and tired during the day, but on weekends when they can go to bed later and sleep in, they tend to sleep well and feel more refreshed.”
People with advanced sleep phase, on the other hand, experience the opposite. These people “fall asleep early, sometimes as early as 6 to 8 p.m., and then wake up too early, sometimes around 3 to 4 a.m. they can’t get back to sleep,” Bhopal explains, noting that this tends to get more common with age.
Whether you’re dealing with a delayed or advanced sleep phase, if your daily schedule isn’t aligned with your circadian rhythm, you’re going to feel regularly fatigued.
Meanwhile, when we talk about sleep deprivation, Bhopal says, it comes down to simply not getting enough rest each night. Let’s say you need eight hours of sleep per night to feel totally rejuvenated, for example. Even if you get just one hour less than that, Bhopal tells mindbodygreen, that’s one hour of sleep deprivation. And when this happens frequently, she says, those hours add up.