Delayed sleep phase syndrome

other sleep disorders

If you have trouble falling asleep at night or wake up feeling exhausted even though you’ve had a full night’s sleep, you may be suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome. This condition is relatively common but can be difficult to deal with. In this blog post, we will discuss what delayed sleep phase syndrome is, and how you can manage it!

What is delayed sleep phase disorder?

Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) is one of the most common circadian rhythm sleeping disorders, affecting approximately 5% to 10% of children. It’s the polar opposite of advanced sleep phase syndrome, in which people go to bed and wake up earlier than usual. People with delayed sleep phase typically go to bed around 1 a.m. and get up later in the morning, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Those who are socially active or have been labeled night owls who feel more alert or sharper during the evenings are frequently afflicted with or getting this problem.

A person’s ability to fall asleep and the amount of time it takes them to do so are not affected by sleep phase delay. People who have delayed sleep phase, on average, sleep equally well and for as long as people with normal sleeping schedules. If the delayed sleep phase is not disrupting daily activities or actually aiding the routine, it may be suggested to maintain it, as circadian rhythm disorder might not be harmful.

Who is most likely to be affected by delayed sleep phase syndrome?

Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder is more common in young males and middle-aged women. Overall, there is no significant difference in DSPD between genders. Adolescents and teenagers are also prone to the condition. The circadian rhythm changes during adolescence, resulting in delayed sleep-wake phases. Teens develop melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep, an hour later than adults. As a consequence, DSPD affects anywhere from 7% to 16% of adolescents. According to one study, 90% of people with DSPD experience symptoms as children or adolescents.

See also  Insomnia

Depression is a typical occurrence in those who have DSPD. Up to 64% of people with DSPD suffer from depression as well. A connection between delayed sleep phase syndrome and ADHD has been discovered in recent studies. As many as 75% of children diagnosed with ADHD develop circadian rhythm delays later in life.

Diagnosis of delayed sleep phase syndrome

 sleep timing
  • Inability to fall asleep at the desired time. Insomnia is a typical symptom. It’s caused by external forces (such as homework, internet, or cell phone use) in addition to internal ones (such as depression).
  • Inability to wake up at the desired time and excessive daytime sleepiness. This is the most typical problem since it is the most obvious. Because of their inability to fall asleep and yet have to wake up on time for school or work, children and adolescents with DSWPD are prone to excessive daytime sleepiness as a result of insufficient sleep, at least on weekdays.
  • If their usual sleep/wake routine is maintained, they will not have difficulty sleeping. Children and adolescents with DSWPD who are not complicated by other sleep problems generally fall asleep quickly, experience few or no awakenings after they nod off, and sleep through the night without issue. They simply have a problem with their internal clock or sleep-wake cycle. When children and adolescents with DSWPD are at school, they frequently catch up on missed sleep during vacations or holidays when there is no pressure to wake up at a specific time. Sleep maintenance is not an issue.
  • Behavior difficulties and depression are two terms that describe the same condition. Children and adolescents with DSWPD are prone to sadness, anxiety, and other psychiatric issues related to daytime drowsiness and absenteeism. Missed school days or tardiness, inattention, and caffeine dependency can all result from daytime drowsiness. Dependency on stimulants, sedatives, or alcohol may also be observed.

What is the treatment for delayed sleep phase syndrome?

sleep deprivation
  • Shifting the bedtime schedule. The treatment for DSWPD may be either advancing or delaying the internal clock.
  1. Advancing the internal clock. This technique simply shifts the bedtime one hour earlier each night until the desired end time is reached. Setting the bedtime at midnight on one occasion, for example, shifting it to 11:45 p.m. on the following night, and so on.
  2. Delaying the internal clock. The first method is to gradually shift the bedtime by one or more hours on each successive night until the desired bedtime has been reached. This may be best attempted during a long school break or vacation period when you are not required to socialize. The idea behind this technique is that it is simpler for the body to adjust to a later bedtime than an earlier one, according to certain research.
  • Bright light therapy. Some doctors recommend light therapy, which necessitates the use of a specific lightbox. The body’s internal clock is reset by exposing your child to bright light for approximately 45 minutes in the morning. Reduced evening exposure to strong light also aids sleep. Lightboxes that are commercially available can be referred to by your sleep doctor.
  • Good sleep habitsSleep habits and a consistent sleep schedule are crucial for children and adolescents with DSWPD to develop and maintain. Children and teenagers should establish good sleep habits that include going to bed at the same time every night, including on weekends and holidays; avoiding stimulants (coffees, teas, colas, non-cola pops, energy drinks, chocolates, and some medicines). After the lights are out and you’re in bed, there’s a lot to think about. It’s important not to eat or drink anything else that might disrupt sleep before lying down. The atmosphere must be cool, quiet, and comfortable; avoid stimulating activities (such as alcohol, sleeping pills, or cigarettes) prior to going to bed; and stay away from exciting things (including computer games).
  • Staying motivated to stick with the schedule. It’s especially vital not to lose sight of your objectives during vacations and weekends. Sticking to tight bed and wake times maintains the body’s internal clock in check, but it does not “fix” a delayed sleep-wake phase. To reset the internal clock, your kid or adolescent must stay motivated and go to bed at the planned time on a nightly basis after several months of following the plan. Only on special events may there be some freedom provided after many months when adhering to the schedule.
  • Medications. Another option is melatonin or other natural sleep-inducing medications, which some specialists may prescribe.
See also  Sleep disorder treatments

How does bright light therapy work?

sleep disorder

Light therapy is also a common therapy that has produced some positive outcomes for people with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) and Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD). It entails exposing individuals to strong light shortly after waking up in the morning and avoiding bright outdoor illumination during the evening hours. This has been found to adjust the circadian rhythms of individuals to more normal patterns.

Outlook with the treatment of delayed sleep phase syndrome

sleep cycle

If you believe you have delayed sleep-wake phase syndrome, see your doctor. They can diagnose the condition and provide recommendations for treatment. You may manage the consequences of DSPD and even modify your sleeping and waking times with continuous attention to sleep hygiene and utilization of other therapies.


What causes delayed sleep phase syndrome?

The cause of delayed sleep phase syndrome is unknown. Some experts believe that it may be caused by a problem with the body’s internal clock, while others think that environmental or lifestyle factors may play a role.

What are some symptoms of delayed sleep phase syndrome?

Symptoms of delayed sleep phase syndrome can include difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and problems with focus and concentration. In children and adolescents, DSPS may also lead to problems in school performance and social adjustment.

Can delayed sleep phase syndrome be cured?

How effective is bright light therapy for delayed sleep phase syndrome?

Bright light therapy has been found to be moderately effective in treating Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) and Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD). Some people find that they can adjust their sleeping and waking times substantially by following a regular light therapy schedule.

Are there any risks associated with bright light therapy?

There are few risks associated with bright light therapy. However, some people may experience headaches, eye strain, or nausea when exposed to strong light shortly after waking up. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.


Delayed sleep phase syndrome is a condition that can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep at night, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness and problems with focus and concentration. There is no cure for DSPS or DSPD, but many people find that they can manage the condition by following a healthy sleep routine, using bright light therapy or medications, and by staying motivated to stick with their treatment plan. If you believe you have delayed sleep-wake phase syndrome, see your doctor for diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.

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