What is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?

What is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?

Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is vital to your body’s ability to function properly throughout the day. Those with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) are frequently deprived of quality rest.

DSPS is a disorder in which a person’s normal sleep is delayed by two or more hours. For example, a person with DSPS may find themselves falling asleep several hours after their desired bedtime. They may lie down before 10 p.m., but still be awake well after midnight.

DSPS affects approximately 15% of teens and adults, according to the American Sleep Association. DSPS often begins in adolescence and continues into adulthood. Genetic and environmental factors may also lead to the development of this sleep disorder.

Symptoms of DSPS include:

  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Difficulty waking up at a desired hour
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Frequent napping to balance sleep deprivation
  • Depression and behavioral problems (especially in children and adolescents)

Another symptom is simply the lack of other sleep problems. Those with DSPS typically sleep through the night without trouble. When they can sleep freely on their delayed sleep and wake schedules, they will awake refreshed later in the day.

Most people with this disorder describe themselves as “night owls.” The problem occurs when that person lacks sleep because they must wake up early for school, work and other responsibilities.

Treating Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

Those who are unable to correct their sleeping pattern may need to seek the help of medical professionals who specialize in sleep disorders. There are two treatments that have been successful in treating DSPS.

  1. Bright light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a technique that gradually shifts sleeping patterns. The patient is exposed to bright lights in the morning, shortly after they wake up, and avoids bright outdoor light in the evening. When properly executed, the treatment has been shown to normalize the patient’s circadian rhythm.
  2. Chronotherapy corrects the patient’s circadian rhythm by delaying their bedtime by two hours every few days. It is used less frequently than bright light therapy because it can disrupt their normal schedule of activity.

If you think you or a loved one are suffering from Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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