Living With Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder: A Comprehensive Guide

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What is Delayed Sleep-wake Phase Disorder?

Delayed Sleep-wake Phase Disorder (DSWPD) usually affects circadian rhythms and results in a delayed sleep-wake phase. While many patients with the disorder exhibit depression or behavioral problems, studies have shown that only about 1% of patients with the disorder have depression. In addition, a delay in the onset of sleep can cause significant tardiness or inattention. This condition is also related to sedative and caffeine dependence.

While this disorder is relatively common in young adults and adolescents, it can affect anyone. It is estimated that 7 to 16 percent of children have delayed sleep-wake phase disorder.

Reason for Delayed Sleep Wake-Phase Disorder (DSP)

Although the exact cause of delayed sleep-wake phase disorder is unknown, some experts believe it occurs when people have extended circadian periods. This means they do not have the same biological drive to fall asleep as the average person. Thus, they struggle to advance through the day and miss a critical window of alertness during the later part of the day. Other theories relate to irregularities in the body’s circadian clock and sensitivity to light at night. Everyone needs quality sleep to function properly.

Symptoms of Delayed Sleep Wake-Phase Disorder (DSP)

  • Symptoms of delayed sleep-wake phase disorder include daytime sleepiness and impaired performance at work.
  • Trouble falling to sleep in time
  • Unable to wake up in the morning
  • Unstable sleep pattern

Besides, all these symptoms might relate to other sleep issues as

  • Another sleep disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeplessness related to substance abuse
  • Other Medical condition
  • Mental Health Disorder

Diagnosing Delayed Sleep Wake-Phase Disorder (DSP)

There are various ways to identify if you are stuck with Delayed Sleep Phase (DSP). One of the most common ways to determine the Delayed Sleep Phase (DSP) is maintaining a sleep diary. Sleep doctors very commonly suggest it.

A sleep diary usually identifies your sleep pattern where you record your sleep and wake time, the duration of your sleep, and short sleep duration during the weekend. If DSP is identified with your sleep pattern, it will regularly show difficulty falling asleep. Suppose the problem persists for a more extended period. In that case, the sleep doctor will determine if a sleep study called polysomnography is needed, recording brain waves, hearts, and breathing while you are asleep. Though this process is rarely used, doctors use this method only when you have severe DSP symptoms, and the doctor wants to do a final test to confirm the issue.

Are there serious risks involved with Delayed Sleep-wake phase disorder( DSP)

DSP is usually not common among the population, but there are pieces of evidence that about 7% to 17% of young adults might be diagnosed with the disease. It is common among 10% of the population involved with insomnia.

Digging deeper, it has been revealed that 40% of the disorders can be traced to genetic components and a few environmental factors that might also be responsible for DSP. More exposure to bright light and non or less exposure to sunlight might also be at risk of increasing the symptoms of DSP. People should follow their sleeping requirements to get a good night’s sleep.

How to treat Delayed Sleep-wake phase disorder (DSP)

quality sleep

  • Identify the trigger

One of the very most important steps in treating delayed sleep-wake phase disorder is identifying the trigger for the disease. The first step in identifying the trigger is a thorough history of your sleep patterns. If you are a night owl, you must set a consistent wake-up time. A healthcare provider can then decide on the appropriate treatment for you. The symptoms may not be easily identified in some cases unless a medical professional can replicate them.

  • Melatonin

Melatonin is a chemical secreted by our body that helps us maintain the typical” sleep cycle” or “normal circadian level of the body.”Sometimes our body has a hormone deficiency, easily supplemented with melatonin supplements. Smaller melatonin doses can quickly treat young teens with DSP, while adults can have total quantities to maintain melatonin levels.

Before confirming the melatonin doses, it must be verified with a sleep doctor to be effective and safe. A person should have extra comfort while sleeping.

  • Bright Light Therapy

Though it is not a proven technique, bright light therapy can treat DSP. It theorizes that exposure to bright light after waking up might change your sleep cycle or internal circadian rhythms, which might help you with your treatment of DSP.

  • Improving social behavior

Some patients with this disorder may also endorse the social consequences of delayed sleep phase disorder. They may need to be involved in social activities and interact with people. They may also experience excessive sleep inertia, leading to significant conflict and memory impairment. Fortunately, a few simple tips can improve your sleep.


Although genetically determined, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder can be treated effectively. Individuals with the delayed sleep-wake-phase disease have difficulty adjusting to conventional and socially accepted bedtimes. It is usually essential to have a consistent wake-up time to function correctly.

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