Sleep-wake schedule disorder disability: a lifelong untreatable pathology of the circadian time structure

Chronobiol Int. 2001 Nov;18(6):1019-27. doi: 10.1081/cbi-100107975.


Certain sleep-wake schedule disorders (SWSDs) cannot be successfully managed clinically using conventional methods of sleep therapy. We describe two cases of SWSD, the first following head trauma and the second originating during childhood, that had been misdiagnosed by physicians for many years. After conventional treatment for SWSD with light therapy and melatonin failed to bring about substantial improvement, it was determined that they were suffering from an incurable disability. Hence, we propose new medical terminology for such cases--SWSD disability. SWSD disability is an untreatable pathology of the circadian time structure. Patients suffering from SWSD disability should be encouraged to accept the fact that they suffer from a permanent disability, and that their quality of life can only be improved if they are willing to undergo rehabilitation. It is imperative that physicians recognize the medical condition of SWSD disability in their patients and bring it to the notice of the public institutions responsible for vocational and social rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronotherapy
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / physiology*


  • Melatonin