Do you find yourself falling asleep after midnight each and every night? Are you dozing off around the same exact time in the early morning hours? If you have answered yes to these questions, you may be dealing with the sleep disorder, delayed sleep phase syndrome.
Delayed sleep phase syndrome is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which causes setbacks in the timing of one’s sleep. DSPS also impacts the time of peak alertness and daily rhythms relative to the general population. Despite the normal need for sleep, a person’s 24-hour day is much delayed. Waking up for daily activities, such as school and work, can be very difficult for those who suffer from DSPS. When a person has to wake up early but cannot fall asleep at a “normal” time, their productivity, alertness, and mood is affected for the remainder of the day. When a person with DSPS does not have to wake up early in the morning, they will usually find that they sleep until the afternoon, have a peaceful sleep, wake up spontaneously and do not suffer from daytime sleepiness.
The sleep disorder usually develops sometime in childhood or early adolescence. It is commonly found in college students and young adults because of the schedules that they try to maintain. A frequent late-night schedule is enough to shift a person’s circadian rhythm to falling asleep at 4 am. For example, when a student is constantly staying up late to study, they’re body learns that they must be alert during the wee hours of the night. Although some may face DSPS during young adulthood, it can be a lifetime disorder for others.
Delayed sleep-phase syndrome is responsible for 7-10% of patient complaints of chronic insomnia. Unfortunately, many doctors may misdiagnose DSPS or treat it improperly. Therefore, it is important to recognize the following symptoms of delayed sleep phase syndrome:
- Having the ability to sleep through the morning and sometimes the afternoon.
- Chronic difficulty falling asleep at a desired hour to meet their daily schedule.
- Inability to fall asleep before 2 AM – 6 AM, but typically falls asleep at the same time every night with ease.
- Ability to sleep well and regularly on their own sleep schedule during weekends and vacations.
The symptoms mentioned above must be present for at least one month before a diagnosis of DSPS is made. There are many treatments that have helped people with DSPS to get their circadian rhythm back in line. Bright light therapy and melatonin have been found to aid DSPS, but it is always best to speak to your doctor before figuring out which would be best for you.
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