Delayed phase disorder is the most common type of circadian rhythm disorders. People with DPSD do not have a regular sleeping pattern. This article highlights its symptoms, causes and treatment options available.
What is delayed sleep phase syndrome?
This is a disorder in which one sleep is delayed by 2 or more hours beyond the socially acceptable bedtime. The delay in going to bed leads to difficulties waking up at the desired time. Persons with DSPS work better at night because that is the time they are more alert and awake.
What is circadian rhythm and what is normal?
A circadian rhythm is an internal clock that regulates and resets sleeping patterns. A circadian rhythm disorder occurs when the body’s internal clock fails to reset. People with DSPD do not fall asleep at different times of the night, even though they may feel tired enough to sleep. The body just reclines going to bed at a usual time thus making it difficult for one to sleep.
- Just the same way the body will wake up at the same time regardless of the amount of sleep you have had.
People with DSPS often experience interferences with their daytime schedules; this negatively affects their workplace output or even school performance.
Who suffers from DSPD?
Research has shown that DSPD affects approximately 15 percent of adults and teenagers. Majority of the cases begin during adolescence. However, some people may develop this condition early in their adulthood.
Research has also shown that DSPD may be genetically inherited. For instance, those people with family history of DSPD are three times likely to develop this condition in their lifetime.
Additionally, lack of the morning sunshine exposure or exposure to extremely bright light are likely is likely to shift circadian rhythms towards delayed sleep phase.
Symptoms of delayed phase sleep disorder
Delayed sleep phase disorder might be confused with other sleep disorders. Here are its distinctive signs and symptoms:
- Inability to fall asleep during the scheduled time.
- Lack of other sleep disorders
- Depression and anxiety
- Inability to wake up early in the morning at the desired time
- People with DSPD sleep more in the morning and afternoon as compared to night.
- Individuals with DSPD sleep almost the same time each night.
- DSPD patients sleep regularly then they follow their schedules
What are the causes of DSPD?
Unfortunately the cause of this disorder is not known. Even though there are approximately 14 % of teenagers with the DSPD. Experts claims state that DSPD could be an exaggerated reaction to the normal shift in the internal clocks. Although it is not a deliberate behaviour, some tendencies may make it worse.
How is DSPD diagnosed?
Delayed sleep phase disorder is diagnosed by the following:
An actigraph, you wear a small device that tracks your sleep-wake behaviours at home
2. Sleep diary
A sleep diary helps your doctor look at your sleeping and waking up patterns. This way they can rule out other sleep disorders before they can diagnose you with DSPD.
This procedure can be used to rule out other sleeping conditions such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea. A polysomnogram monitors your brain activity, heart rate-oxygen levels and breathing as you sleep.
Is DSPD treatable?
Delayed sleep phase syndrome may get better on its own. However, sleep experts recommend one or two of the following techniques to help deal with DSPD:
1. Light therapy
Exposure to early morning sunlight will help you acquire and maintain a more regular sleeping pattern. Light therapy can consist of natural sunlight or a sun box which you will, of course, need the help of a specialist to acquire.
Also known as darkness therapy, scototherapy is another treatment option. There are claims that individuals who suffer from DSPD are sensitive to evening light. Bright light in the evening delays sleep. It is therefore advisable that bright light from the television and computer be turned down hours before sleep.
3. Melatonin dosage
Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. The hormone is released as a result of darkness to provide a good environment for sleep by lowering the body temperature. Melatonin can be used in low doses 6 hours before bed o help induce sleep much earlier. It is however not recommended that you take melatonin medication without prior advice from your doctor.
Melatonin in small doses is effective in regulating circadian rhythm. Avoid coffee and alcohol when using melatonin. The caffeine contained in coffee and alcohol stimulates your nervous system hence resulting in lack of sleep.
Modafil is a drug used in the treatment of shift work disorder which has the same characteristics and symptoms as DSPD. Modafil is prescribed in DSPD to help improve sleep-deprived patients’ ability to perform their duties diligently during the desired hours. This drug is long-acting; therefore taking it in the late afternoons may lead to sleeplessness at night.
Chronotherapy is the art of delaying sleep up to 4 hours every 3-4 nights in a week until sleep can occur naturally at the same time. Chronotherapy resets the circadian clock by manipulating bedtimes. This kind of therapy may need one to have support from family members to avoid sleep occurring from the unintended time. Additionally, closer monitoring by a specialist is vital during this therapy.
6. Improving sleep habits
A good sleep involves maintaining an excellent sleep routine and avoiding stimulants hours just before you retire to bed. You also need to use your bedroom for sleeping only. Additionally, avoiding extraneous exercises before bed can help you sleep better.
- Using a computer or watching television during bedtime only worsens the condition.
When to seek for help
Contact your doctor immediately you are unable to control your urge to sleep in the mornings, during driving or at work. When your sleep is affecting the quality of life, you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
SOURCES AND REFERENCES
- Delayed sleep disorder (May 2015)
- Insomnia vs Delayed sleep phase disorder (June 2015)