Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome | DSPS | Phase Lag Syndrome

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome – Definition

Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), which is also known as phase lag syndrome, is a disorder in which the patient's internal body clock is not in sync with the morning-rise evening-sleep pattern of the majority of adults.

They often describe sleeping pills in normal doses as having little or no effect in helping them fall asleep. Sometimes the pills only worsen the daytime symptoms of difficulty awakening and sleepiness.

People with delayed sleep phase syndrome have a “night owl” pattern, often tend to fall asleep at very late nights or in the early mornings.

If a sleep-wake log is kept, it usually shows a pattern of bedtime later than 2 a.m., hardly any or no awakenings once they fall asleep, shorter sleep periods during the work/school week and lengthy (9-12 hour) sleeps with late morning to mid-afternoon wake up times on the weekend.

This is not troublesome for some, but for others it causes strain and irritation. Delayed sleep phase syndrome causes sleep-onset insomnia, so they cannot sleep until early morning.

Causes Of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

The exact causes of delayed sleep phase syndrome are unknown, but the disorder is related to circadian rhythms, which regulate the internal biological clock and influence functions such as sleep-wake patterns.

People who have experienced head trauma or serious illnesses may experience delayed sleep phase syndrome. In these cases, the body's natural healing procedure might disturb normal circadian rhythm and leave the biological clock unable to reset itself.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome Symptoms

Because of the biological clocks of the persons with delayed sleep phase syndrome are out of phase with the sleeping and waking times they have difficulty in falling asleep and difficulty in waking.

Usually, people who have delayed sleep phase syndrome can fall asleep when the body gives a signal that it is time. Sleepiness does not usually occur before this delayed period.

Symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and altered eating habits might develop, if a person tries to force the body into a particular phase.

In about half of the adult delayed sleep phase syndrome patients, depression or other psychiatric problems are present, which is about the same for people that suffer from other forms of insomnia.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome Treatment

Delayed sleep phase syndrome treatment is aimed at rephrasing the patient's circadian rhythm and sleep pattern. To fit a person’s sleep pattern into a schedule that can allow the person to meet the demands of a desired lifestyle is the goal of the delayed sleep phase syndrome treatment.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome treatment include light therapy with a full spectrum lamp set on a timer, and chronotherapy. Light therapy has been used as an adjunct to behavior modification to assist in resetting the circadian pattern.

Light therapy would typically be used 20 minutes or more between 7:30 am and 9:30 am in the morning. Delayed sleep phase syndrome treatment with melatonin taken 30 minutes to an hour, before bedtime may be helpful, but it has limited effect on a pattern i.e. healthy, although out-of-sync.

Melatonin, when taken in too high dosed may have the unintentional effect of disturbing the sleep or even causing nightmares, and uncontrollable yawning the next day.


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