All You Need to Know about Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome!

Delayed sleep phase syndrome is quite common. If you’re one of those who are suffering then this article will help you in reducing the symptoms.

Everyone has issues falling asleep at night usually at least once in his or her lifetime. However, some individuals are night owls and it is challenging for them to fall asleep at night and wake up early in the morning for school or work. DSPS is also termed as delayed sleep phase disorder and is described as a condition during which the individual is unable to fall asleep within two hours.

Delayed sleep phase disorder

Individuals experiencing DSPD do not have trouble sleeping at night once they fall asleep. However, staying up late at night usually results in a bad quality of sleep. It is because of this reason these people might experience daytime sleepiness. It also results in problems in productivity and focusing on your work. DSPD results in depression and psychiatric issues in the long-term. This condition results in behavioral problems along with poor performance issues, especially in teens and children.

What is DSPS?

It is a condition in which individual experiences a delayed ability to fall asleep, usually taking about 2-3 hours more than the standard acceptable bedtime. It is a disorder during which the person experiences the altered/ disturbed circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.

The DSPS results in waking issues. For example, a condition during which the adolescent or a child has a waking time of 6:00 am, however, if they suffer from DSPD then it would be impossible for them to wake up early in the morning because they take a long time to fall asleep.

Individuals suffering from DSPD are called night owls, and these people claim of functioning better during the evening and night hours. If individuals suffering from DSPD maintain the sleep chart, they experience a short duration of sleep during weekdays and lengthy sleeping hours on weekends.

DSPS is a common type of sleep disorder often misdiagnosed as insomnia. It is more commonly found in teenagers. According to Shelby Harris, Psy.D., you can diagnose insomnia or DSPS, especially on your vacations. You can only track your sleep while you are enjoying the week off. Maintain a consistent schedule of waking up in the morning and going to bed at night.

DSPD night owls

What are the causes of DSPD?

It is still unknown and doctors usually diagnose this condition by asking the patient to maintain a sleep log and describe the symptoms accordingly. Some doctors conduct a sleep study to make sure you are not suffering from any sleep disorders. Doctors usually recommend tips and tricks to treat the symptoms of DSPS.

Tips and tricks to treat the symptoms

DSPD might occur due to some genetic alterations, environmental factors, lack or too much exposure of bright sunlight can also result in aggravation of symptoms. People who have a family history of DSPD usually have a 40% chance to have DSPD in the next generation.

The exact amount of people suffering from DSPD is unknown when considering the general population. However, it is more common in adults and teenagers, resulting in DSPD among 7-16% of people. About 10% of individuals suffering from DSPD also suffer from chronic insomnia.

Signs & Symptoms Linked with DSPS

  • Patient experiences insomnia, an inability to fall asleep regularly. Insomnia aggravates because of the social pressure on teenagers due to which they stay awake late at night.
  • The diagnostic criteria associated with DSPD involves sleep disturbance which typically results in clinically significant impairment or distress in the individual’s occupational or social functioning or other important fields of life.
  • The patient has a habit of sleeping during the day for a long period. This is the most common complaint experienced by patients suffering from DSPD. The patient experience delay in falling asleep at night and it is challenging to wake up early in the morning for work or schools resulting in aggravated drowsiness during the daytime.
  • No sleeping disorders are faced in people suffering from the syndrome. If the individuals experience sleeping disorders linked with DSPD then the individual does not have the sleeping issues. Adolescent and children suffer from a shift in an internal clock, pushing the sleeping time about 2-3 hours later.
  • Depression and psychiatric disorders are experienced by children as well as adolescents along with behavioral problems if suffering from DSPD. Daytime drowsiness results in lower performance level in academics and work because of the inattention and tiredness. You may also feel addicted to caffeine, alcohol, and sedatives.

You may want to learn more about Insomnia: The Explanation, Causes and Treatments.

Diagnostic Tests and Criteria for DSPS

  • It is solely based on the signs and symptoms, sleeping log or chart. Utilize a non-invasive watch which you can wear on your wrist and track the rhythms regarding the rest-activity also known as “AUTOGRAPH”. It is also referred to as sleeping chart or Autographic monitoring.
  • Overnight sleeping schedule or Polysomnogram is recommended to identify possible sleep disorders if you have a medical history.
  • Melatonin tests, as well as the core temperature rhythms, are the sophisticated diagnostic tests which are specially used for research.

Tips To Control The Symptoms Of DSPS

1. Use Sunlight Accordingly

The right amount of light allows your body clock to sleep perfectly at night and wake up fresh in the morning. Consider using “BRIGHT LIGHT THERAPY” for around half an hour when you wake up in the morning. After which try to keep the lights of your house dim throughout the day as well as at night while preparing yourself for sleep. Light therapy comprises of BRIGHT SUNLIGHT or a light and a sun box.

Treatment of delayed sleep phase

2. Make Some Gradual Changes

Make some gradual adjustments in your lifestyle and try to shift your internal body clock or circadian rhythm to make sure you sleep well. Try to shift your sleeping time 15 minutes earlier every night till the time you achieve the perfect sleeping schedule.

3. Make it a Practice to Sleep Well at Night:

Practice some healthy diet patterns and sleeping styles to help yourself with the symptoms occurring with DSPD. Avoid alcohol and caffeine while you are going to bed and switch off any electronic screens at least 30 minutes before falling asleep. Create a room which is quiet, calm and dark for practicing a good night sleep.

Avoid performing the exercise, drinking alcohol, watching TV or consuming tobacco before going to bed. Stop the consumption of caffeinated drinks 6-7 hours before your bedtime. Switch off the TV at least 3-4 hours before going to bed. According to Harris, you should not perform any stimulating activities before sleeping. The desired sleep cycle also depends on the hygiene although it does not cure this disorder.

4. Keep Maintaining Your Good Sleeping Habits

Although it’s tempting to stay out late at night on weekends with friends and family, it’s highly important to stick to the regular sleep pattern at night and wake up early in the morning to achieve success while struggling with DSPD.


This procedure involves two methods such as Delay or Advance internal clock of the body.

  • Advance The Internal Clock:

Try moving your bedtime 15 minutes earlier each day till the time you achieve the target time. For example, try sleeping at midnight for the first day, then 11:45, 11:30 and so on each successive day. Facilitate your waking time accordingly on each day and allow the changes to occur in an organized way. You can get the best results with this method by working under the supervision of your sleep specialist.

  • Chronotherapy Or Delaying The Internal Clock:

Move forward your bedtime sequentially from 1-3 hours on each night and achieve your desired bedtime schedule. For this method, stay away from social activities and approach this technique during the summer break or vacation period. Chronotherapy eases your body and allows you to adjust according to the desired bedtime. You also need a sleep specialist for performing this method.

Consult Your Doctor About Taking Melatonin or Sleep-Inducing Drugs

Talk to your sleep specialist regarding the consumption of melatonin to sleep well at night and regulate your sleeping patterns. It might help you get a good night’s sleep. According to Harris, you can use melatonin to gradually improve your bedtime. Consume melatonin in small doses, around 0.5-1 milligram i.e. 5-6 hours before going to bed. Consult a sleep specialist before taking melatonin for DSPD as some drugs interact with medications as well as other pre-existing medical disorders.

A study was conducted in 2010, which concluded that you can use melatonin for advancing the sleep patterns as well as the melatonin rhythms of the body to cure the DSPD or DSPS. It is advised to use the drugs named Provigil and modafinil for such patients. During the 1990s, vitamin B12 was advised for curing the symptoms associated with DSPS.

Find out more about Creative Ways to Fall Asleep Faster in our complete review.

Final Verdict

Control your sleep schedule of going to bed and waking up in the morning. Get help from your friends, family members, and sleep specialists, but on the top of that, stay motivated throughout the entire process. The best way is to maintain a healthy lifestyle to cure DSPS.

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