Of all the conditions that affect the circadian cycle of sleep, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is the most common. In this condition, the most social/conventionally accepted sleeping time is extended by up to 2 hours. By extension people with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome tend to wake up at times that are not acceptable. Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD), more often known as delayed sleep phase syndrome and also as delayed sleep–wake phase disorder.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome: How it Occurs
Assuming that the most acceptable sleeping time in a community is 10 Pm and time to wake up is 7am, a person with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome will go to bed at 12 midnight. They will wake up at around 10 am. At 10 am every person has left the house and is engaging in the activities of the day.
In general, a person with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome gets enough sleep. The only problem is the time that they go to bed or wake up. The time to sleep or wake up is generally the same every day and night. In addition, these people tend to concentrate best at night and in the evening when everyone else is slowing down. DSPS makes it hard to fall asleep at a conventional bedtime. The delay in your internal clock tells your body to stay alert. Usually DSPS isn’t accompanied by other sleep problems like sleep apnea.
The cause of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is not known. The most affected age group is adolescent and the prevalence rate varies between 7 to 16 %. Most parents would confuse it with lack of interest in school and laziness. Parents should know that this condition is not deliberate. Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is quite rare in early childhood.
- Inability to sleep at the socially acceptable time. It is exaggerated by the need to do homework, watch TV or chat on the internet.
- Lateness due to the inability to wake up early.
- Since the persons with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome often have to wake up early, they will experience extreme daytime drowsiness.
- Rather than the extended sleeping and waking up hours, they often have no other sleep complaints.
- Since Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is not well understood by the people around, the patient may show symptoms of depression due to social pressure.
- Poor academic performance, characteristic lateness and poor concentration in class.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is easily treated by behavior change. Efforts must be made to maintain normal socially acceptable sleeping hours. Any drinks such as colas, coffee, tea, energy drinks that may exacerbate the problem should be avoided.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome can be treated by delaying or advancing the internal clock. The first step in using this treatment method is to note the time that you sleep and wake up. Thereafter reduce the time you go to bed by 30 minutes. The time to wake up is also reduced by a similar amount of time. Repeat this sequence for some time. This is done until the desire sleeping time is achieved.
As pointed out earlier, sleep is controlled by day and night. Person with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome can be exposed to a source of bright light in the morning so as to reset the clock. Boxes for bright light therapy are available commercially.
It is important that the patient avoid being locked up in the house or class for too long. The bedroom for Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome patients should be as dark as possible and the light should go off early enough. Melatonin supplements go a long way in restoring the normal circadian calendar.