The Effect of Blindness on Biological Rhythms and the Consequences of Circadian Rhythm Disorder

Turk J Ophthalmol. 2023 Apr 20;53(2):111-119. doi: 10.4274/tjo.galenos.2022.59296.


Various physiological systems and behaviors such as the sleep-wake cycle, vigilance, body temperature, and the secretion of certain hormones are governed by a 24-hour cycle called the circadian system. While there are many external stimuli involved the regulation of circadian rhythm, the most powerful environmental stimulus is the daily light-dark cycle. Blind individuals with no light perception develop circadian desynchrony. This leads to non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder, which is associated with sleep-wake disorders, as well as mood disorders and loss of appetite and gastrointestinal disturbances due to disrupted circadian hormone regulation. As the diagnosis is often delayed because of under-recognition in clinical practice, patients must cope with varying degrees of social and academic dysfunction. Most blind individuals report that non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder affects them more than blindness. In the treatment of totally blind patients suffering from non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder, the first-line management is behavioral approaches. Drug therapy includes melatonin and the melatonin agonist tasimelteon. Diagnosing blind individuals' sleep disorders is also relevant to treatment because they can be improved with the use of melatonin and its analogues or by phototherapy if they have residual vision. Therefore, assessing sleep problems and planning treatment accordingly for individuals presenting with blindness is an important issue for ophthalmologists to keep in mind.

Keywords: Biological rhythms; blindness; circadian rhythm; light; melatonin.

MeSH terms

  • Blindness / diagnosis
  • Blindness / etiology
  • Humans
  • Melatonin* / therapeutic use
  • Periodicity
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm* / complications
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm* / diagnosis


  • Melatonin