Circadian rhythm sleep disorders: Lessons from the blind

Robert L. Sack, Alfred J. Lewy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


As totally blind people cannot perceive the light-dark cycle (the major synchroniser of the circadian pacemaker) their circadian rhythms often "free run" on a cycle slightly longer than 24h. When the free-running sleep propensity rhythm passes out of phase with the desired time for sleep, night-time insomnia and daytime sleepiness result. It has recently been shown that daily melatonin administration can entrain the circadian pacemaker, thereby correcting this burdensome circadian sleep disorder. The primary purpose of this review is to elevate awareness of circadian sleep disorders in totally blind people (especially free-running rhythms) and to provide some guidance for clinical management. An additional goal is to show how research on sleep and circadian rhythms in the totally blind can contribute insights into the scientific understanding of the human circadian system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-206
Number of pages18
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Blindness
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Insomnia
  • Melatonin
  • Sleep disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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