Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

People with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) can not sleep when desired, needed or expected. It might be they can only fall asleep by 4 am, for example, and need to sleep until 11 am to get 7 hours of sleep. People typically start to have DSP syndrome when they are young children or teens. Without treatment, the problem continues through life.
Keywords: DSPS, delayed sleep phase syndrome, sleep, sleep disorder, DSPS, DSP syndrome, delayed sleep phase syndrome treatment

What is delayed sleep phase syndrome
Diagnosis of this condition
Usual symptoms
Treatment of delayed sleep phase syndrome
Coping with the disease

DSP syndrome can be a real issue

Since children and teens need to get up early for school, delayed sleep phase syndrome can be a serious problem because they do not get the sleep they need for physical and mental health. Adults who have the problem may find they can find night shift jobs, but if that’s not possible, they have a serious problem, too.

Studies show that about 7 to 10 percent of the people who report they have insomnia actually have DSP syndrome. The proof of this is that if people with DSP are allowed to fall asleep according to their own timing, they can sleep well for 8 hours, which is not the case for people with insomnia. People with DSP syndrome have their internal body clock set to a different time than the most people.

Every living creature has an internal clock known in scientist lingo as the circadian rhythm. The natural processes that occur during 24 hours for a plant or animal are the circadian rhythm. Nocturnal animals like owls sleep all day and wake at night. Most people and diurnal animals have body clocks set for sleeping at night time when it is dark outside.

Coping with DSP syndrome

People with DSP syndrome just have their body clocks differently than most people. When you hear people say they are “night owls,” they may very well have delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). DSP syndrome runs in families and a particular gene associated with the condition has been identified in studies.

When night owls try to conform to expected sleep and waking schedules, they typically just get very little sleep. The effects on them have been compared to having jet lag every day. Anyone who has experienced jet lag knows how hard it can be to concentrate when suffering from it. Children and teens with this problem can have serious problems at school. Parents may think their children are not trying or are unintelligent, but the bad grades may be the result of sleeping problems.

Diagnosis of delayed sleep phase syndrome

By the time people with DSP get diagnosed, they have usually tried everything in the book. They’ve tried all the tips for good sleeping habits, hypnosis, dull reading, relaxation techniques, and nutritional supplements. Even when they take sedatives, they may not be able to get to sleep earlier.

Symptoms of DSP syndrome

Many doctors are not aware of delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) since it was only discovered in a 1981. Symptoms of DSP syndrome are often misdiagnosed as insomnia or as psychiatric problems. To diagnose DSP, doctors will rule out other conditions with certain tests. Sleep actigraphs, which are watch-sized monitors, may be used to assess your circadian rhythms over time. The doctor will also ask you to keep a sleep diary.

How to treat DSP?

Treatments may include light therapy with a full spectrum lamp during the morning and avoidance of light during the later part of the day and evening. The doctor may want you to take melatonin, a nutritional supplement that helps to reset the body clock. Sudies are ongoing as to whether the prescription drug Rozerem acts like a melatonin in resetting the body clock.

Chronotherapy treats DSP syndrome by manipulating bedtimes. One approach is to stay awake all day and night and then go to sleep 90 minutes earlier than usual for a week. This approach is repeated weekly until sleep is possible at the desired bedtime.

If you are a night owl but have to keep regular hours for work or school, you need to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment of PSDS. While there is no cure, there are a number of ways to manage delayed sleep phase syndrome so that you can get some sleep and function better.

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