Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder


delayed sleep phase syndrome

Delayed sleep phase disorder, also called a syndrome, is one of the circadian rhythm problems in which the body’s sleeping and waking clock is delayed when compared to the time that he or she should be going to sleep at night. These people usually tend to sleep later in the night and wake later in the morning (or afternoon) than typical adults. These are individuals that many people refer to as “night owls”. The majority of people with this condition do not keep these hours voluntarily

What Does Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder Feel Like?

People who have delayed sleep phase disorder usually go to sleep quite late at night, frequently in the hours just before dawn, and wake up slightly before or after the noon hour. They have a notable inability to be able to go to sleep any earlier, such as at the bedtime observed by most adults. For this reason, many of these individuals are assumed to simply have insomnia. However, if they are permitted to simply follow their own sleeping cycle, they typically have no problem falling asleep, obtaining the rest they need, and waking naturally feeling refreshed.

The struggle is in overcoming the persistence of the body’s internal clock in order to fit in with a social or professional schedule, such as the hours demanded by school or employment. It is very difficult for these people to keep a normal schedule. Over time, delayed sleep phase disorder can cause struggles with thinking clearly, driving safely, and simply functioning well overall. In time, it can cause an individual to struggle to be happy and enjoy life, sometimes resulting in stress related health issues and depression.

When Does This Condition First Appear?

This condition can begin as early as young childhood. These children often struggle in school and have social struggles that can lead to self confidence issues, anxiety and stress disorders, and depression. Children who sleep normally can still develop this disorder in adolescence.

Though there is no single permanent cure for delayed sleep phase disorder, there are a number of suggested treatments to help to keep the condition under control. Some people can be successful, while others can experience no improvement whatsoever, depending on the treatment used.

What Can You Do About Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder?

It is recommended that individuals with this condition keep a very careful sleep routine. They should not eat or drink anything but water within a few hours of bedtime. The bedroom should be a dark, quiet, and soothing place without stimulation such as a television. The bed should be used only for sleep and sex. The individual should not perform any tasks that include the need for alertness or strenuous exercise shortly before bed. A period of relaxation should be observed before bedtime.

If struggling to wind down is a problem at bedtime, a meditation practice or yoga nidra can help to guide the mind toward a more restful state.  This can make it easier to be able to drift off because it helps to release the active state of the day and ease into relaxation.

Using a sleep aid with melatonin in a small amount might also help you to encourage your circadian rhythm to reset during hours that work with your life.  Taking it at precisely the same time every night as you complete your bedtime routine can support your efforts to establish a waking and sleeping cycle that works for you.

Morning Routine

What you do upon waking is just as important as what you do at bedtime when it comes to getting as much rest as you can despite delayed sleep phase disorder. Upon waking, use bright light – especially sunlight or at least a full spectrum bright artificial light. Stepping outside into the sunrise for a few minutes is a great way to jumpstart the waking portion of your circadian rhythm so that it will be better ready to wind down at an appropriate hour later in the day.

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