Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD) is a medical condition that causes you to fall asleep two or more hours later than the average person, and results in you staying asleep for longer in the morning. According to the American Sleep Association, approximately ten percent of chronic insomnia cases are a result of Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.

As a person suffering from DSPD, you might have issues with losing sleep or getting up early, because you are not falling asleep until 1:00 am or later, even though you need to be up just a few hours later for work or school.

What Are the Causes?

The exact causes for this disorder are not known, but there are some indications that it starts during adolescence. Up to 15 percent of children and teens have what is known as being a “night owl,” which simply refers to staying up late, and sleeping in late. This may affect the internal clock, so by adulthood, the body is no longer able to go to sleep at a reasonable time.

Signs and Symptoms

The primary sign of this sleep disorder is not being able to fall sleep beginning at a reasonable time at night. People with DSPD may attempt to go to sleep around 9 or 10 pm, but toss and turn until after midnight, when they are finally able to fall asleep. Additional signs include:

  • Not being able to wake up at a normal time.
  • Waking up with excessive fatigue and having daytime sleepiness.
  • Having no other sleeping problems. People usually stay asleep once they fall asleep.
  • Links to behavioral problems.
  • Links to depression and anxiety disorders.

Diagnosing Sleep Phase Disorder

There are no initial tests to look for Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. When you visit a doctor, he or she will ask about your symptoms and sleeping patterns, and might ask you to keep a sleep diary of the times when you go to sleep, and when you wake up. Eventually, you might want to participate in a sleep study in a sleep lab, where you are monitored while trying to fall asleep, stay asleep, and as you wake up in the morning.

Treatment Options

There are a few treatment options available for the disorder, including the below.

Maintaining good sleeping habits.  The number one treatment for Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder is having good sleeping habits. This includes going to sleep and waking up around the same time every day, regardless of if it is a weekend or if you don’t have plans that day. You should also stop the habit of taking sleep aids as it can affect your sleep overall, and avoid caffeine starting several hours before your bedtime.

Bright light therapy. Bright light therapy uses a light box in your bedroom for waking up in the morning. It is turned on about 30 minutes before you are to wake up, which can be programmed or set by someone else, in order to help restart your body’s internal clock. On the other hand, reducing your exposure to bright lights in the evenings can help get your body ready for bed.

Exposure to morning sunlight. Overexposure to sunlight in the evening may cause a shift to a DSPD tendency. On the other hand, spending time outside in the morning sunrise, can help a person fall asleep earlier in the evening.

Get a good mattress.  If you don’t have a comfortable bed, you aren’t going to be able to fall asleep when you intend do. Having delayed sleep phase disorder combined with a bad mattress only makes matters worse. Invest in a high-quality mattress to improve your sleep.

Get plenty of exercise.  Part of the problem with people who have difficulty sleeping is not getting enough exercise regularly. By having regular exercise, your body is tired by the time you are ready for bed.

Talk to a doctor if you are concerned about having Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder to determine the best treatment option.

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