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Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) Treatment

Are you a night owl?  Do you do your best work at night, struggle to fall asleep before midnight, and sleep until noon or later on the weekends? You, like millions of other Americans, may have delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS.) 

Having this syndrome means that your circadian phase, or the relationship of your body’s sleep wake cycle to the 24 hour day, is delayed relative to those of others. You naturally go to bed later and awaken later, which makes it extremely difficult to work “normal” hours such as 9 to 5. This delay only becomes a “syndrome” when you need to go to school or work early and cannot acclimate to an early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedule. Find out more about how DSPS is managed below. 

We are committed to providing a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan for patients experiencing sleep disorders. Schedule an appointment with our sleep specialists today! 

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FAQs on Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome:

​What Is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)?

DSPS (also known as Delayed Sleep Wake Phase Disorder) is a circadian rhythm disorder in which a person's sleep is delayed by two hours or more beyond what is considered a socially acceptable bedtime. Many people with this condition are misdiagnosed with insomnia. When allowed to sleep according to their natural rhythms, people with DSPS typically have no trouble falling and staying asleep at all. 

What Are The Symptoms of DSPS?

Symptoms of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome include:

  • Extreme difficulty or inability to fall asleep at desired time
  • Extreme difficulty or inability to wake up at desired time
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Mental fog, nausea, or dizziness upon waking early
  • Chronically late to work/school
  • Poor work/school performance
  • No sleep problems when allowed to follow desired sleep schedule (e.g. on weekends or during vacation)
  • Depression
  • Behavioral problems (in children and adolescents)
  • Dependency on caffeine, sedatives, or alcohol

How Is DSPS Treated?

Sleep physicians treat phase delayed patients by manipulating three factors: light, melatonin, and wake time.

  • Light therapy - This allows the body to distinguish between daytime and nighttime. Exposing yourself to morning light shifts your bedtime earlier. Consider a light box for the morning and, during the evening, over-the-shoulder dim lights as opposed to overhead lights.
  • Melatonin - A small dose of melatonin (.5 mg or less) taken several hours before you want to fall asleep helps to advance bedtime.
  • Sticking to a consistent wake time - Many DSPS patients awaken early during the week and sleep late on weekends, which undermine the benefits of changes in light and melatonin. Try to wake up at the same time every day, including the weekends, to set your internal clock earlier.