What is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?

Delayed sleep phase syndrome, or DSPS, is a disorder in which a person’s circadian rhythm is delayed by two hours or more beyond what is typically considered ‘normal’. Our circadian rhythm refers to biological processes that cycle and repeat roughly every 24 hours, including our sleep-wake cycle, hormones, and body temperature. When it comes to the sleep-wake cycle, people with DSPS have a natural tendency to go to bed late at night—for instance, between 1 and 4 am—and wake up in the late morning or early afternoon.

Understandably, the delayed sleep schedule for people with DSPS can conflict with daily routines and responsibilities, such as getting up for work on time. Going to bed earlier in order to get more sleep is not a good solution, as these individuals have great difficulty falling asleep before their body’s natural tendency. This means that people with DSPS are often sleep deprived and may compensate by napping during the day or sleeping excessively on weekends. 

If you are showing signs of DSPS, it is important to speak with your family physician to discuss treatment options and resources in your community. Treatment for DSPS may involve light therapy, chronotherapy, pharmacological therapy, or a combination of methods. 

If you are also experiencing insomnia, keep in mind that DSPS may be the cause of your insomnia or may be worsening those symptoms. If you continue to experience insomnia after your DSPS is well-managed, we welcome you to reconnect with HALEO to learn about our insomnia program and whether it is an appropriate next step for you.

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