Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

A Brief Overview of Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

Delayed sleep phase disorder affects the sleeping patterns of numerous children, adolescents, and youngsters around the world. This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatments for this illness.
SleepHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) is experienced when a person's internal biological clock is unable to synchronize with the external environment. Due to this de-synchronization, a person is unable to fall asleep easily. Majority of people who suffer from DSPD, do not fall asleep before two in the night, and hence, are unable to wake up early. Below are the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this illness.

Causes

People usually acquire this condition after their sleep-wake pattern gets disrupted due to reasons such as studying, working, or partying late into the night. Such people, even after they resume their normal schedule, are unable to sleep on time. DSPD normally develops during adolescence in most individuals, however, cases of this illness have been reported in children as well. This condition rarely affects people who are over thirty.

The medical reason behind DSPD is still not known, yet, incidents that cause brain injury or trauma, and disrupt the biological clock as well as the circadian rhythm of the body, can lead to DSPD.

Symptoms
  • Being unable to sleep at the desired time.
  • Feeling tired and sleepy during the day.
  • Depression due to daytime drowsiness.
  • Anxiety due to worrying.
Treatment Methods

Bright Light Therapy
This therapy involves exposing the patient to an artificial light in the morning, and avoiding any kind of light exposure in the evening. The patients are exposed to a light box that emits white light to the tune of 5,000 to 10,000 lux. The patient has to sit in front of this light box for about thirty minutes, or as per the time suggested by their doctor. The side effects of this therapy are hyperactivity, headaches, and certain eye problems if the appropriate ultra violet filters are not used.

Chronotherapy
In this procedure, the sleep wake cycle of a patient is manipulated, i.e., it is extended by three hours everyday to establish a twenty seven hour day. This is continued till the patient is able to sleep on time, and after that, a normal twenty four hour sleep pattern is resumed. The sleep schedule in this therapy will be something like this:
  • First Day - The patient sleeps from 2 a.m to 10 p.m.
  • Second Day - From 5 a.m to 1 p.m.
  • Third Day - From 8 a.m to 4 p.m.
  • Fourth Day - From 11 a.m to 7 p.m.
  • Fifth Day - From 2 p.m to 10 p.m.
  • Sixth Day - From 5 p.m to 1 a.m.
  • Seventh Day - From 8 p.m to 4 a.m.
  • Eighth Day - From 11 p.m to 7 a.m.
Chronotherapy can interfere with the other medications that a person might be taking. So, before starting this therapy, patients should consult their physician and discuss all the precautions that have to be taken, in order to avoid complications with this treatment.

Besides these treatments, sleep inducers such as Melatonin may also be suggested to some patients, however, due to their adverse side effects, they are not very widely used.

Research has shown that people are able to overcome this disorder on their own and without any treatment, provided they avoid caffeine and alcohol from their diet, exercise regularly during the day, take a hot bath two hours prior to sleep, drink a warm glass of milk just before going to bed, and make sure that their room and bed is clean, quiet, and comfortable. Further, people suffering from this condition can engage in various activities to reduce stress, such as yoga, breathing exercising, and meditation.