Delayed Sleep Phase

What is Delayed Sleep Phase?

Delayed sleep phase disorder is a condition in which one’s pattern of sleeping is delayed for more than two hours from a normal pattern of sleep. It causes people to go to sleep later than what is considered normal and then wake up later.

What are the Symptoms of Delayed Sleep Phase?

People with a delayed sleep phase have difficulty falling asleep before the early hours of the morning (sometime between midnight and 3 AM usually) and then have a hard time waking up in the morning. They generally do not get tired before this period.

Some may suffer from anxiety and insomnia if they attempt to go to sleep at a normal time and are unable to. They may have altered their eating habits and they may experience fatigue during the day.

People with delayed sleep phase disorder may also have a hard time performing on the job. Caffeine addiction, alcohol addiction and overuse of sleeping pills or sedatives are also common. These things can make the sleep disorder more complicated.

Delayed Sleep Phase Causes

If a delayed sleep phase is not the result of another sleep disorder, it may be caused by individual habits, heredity, or even puberty.

After puberty, adolescents often experience delayed sleep because of an exaggerated reaction to normal changes in their internal clocks. Parents of adolescents are likely to hear complaints about insomnia when their child actually suffers from Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. Worries about social pressures or completing homework can keep a teen up later than normal, contributing to the problem. Many teens use cell phones, tablets or computers in the evening to socialize with their friends. The light source from electronic devices contributes to the difficulty of falling asleep.

Delayed sleep leads to chronic insomnia in 10 percent of all insomnia cases. People with a family history of delayed sleep are three times more likely to develop the disorder.

How is a Delayed Sleep Phase Treated?

There are two techniques that are used to treat sleep disorder phase: Sleep hygiene and Light Therapy. Sleep hygiene is designed to help people set a more normal schedule. It involves a set of guidelines, that if followed, can beĀ  helpful.

Sleep hygiene includes

  • Using the bedroom for sleeping only – no television or phone use
  • Eliminating or minimizing (especially in the last 6-8 hours before going to bed) caffeine and alcohol
  • Keeping bedroom dark
  • No exercise within 3 hours of going to bed
  • No naps late in the day
  • Going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time every single day

Light Therapy

This involves exposing yourself to natural light as early in the day as possible or sitting under a bright light (like a sun lamp). Exactly what time you decide to use this light therapy will depend on your lifestyle. For some people that could be 6 AM while for others it could be 10 AM.

Delayed Sleep Phase Prevention

You can try a variety of methods to prevent or treat Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. Scheduling sleep works for many patients. With this technique, you gradually scale back bedtime and the waking time until you reach the appropriate wake-sleep cycle. If an effective schedule is in place, do not divert from the habit even once, as it may disrupt the desired sleep schedule.

Bright light therapy in the morning and avoidance of bright lights in the evening may adjust circadian rhythms to more normal levels. To avoid evening lights, shut down computers, televisions, or hand-held devices several hours before bedtime. In addition to light levels, electronic devices and television can be too stimulating to allow your body to relax.

Replace the stimulating activities with relaxing music. Music with a rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute is most effective. Classical, jazz, or folk songs are likely to have this tempo.

To help readjust the sleep-wake cycle, your doctor may advise you to take melatonin, the naturally occurring hormone that is supposed to kick in at your normal bedtime.

Avoid certain foods and drinks, including:

  • Caffeine and medications that contain caffeine or other stimulants
  • Energy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Sleeping pills
  • Nicotine

Relaxation exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and Yoga may also lull you to sleep.

The following Yoga poses contribute to relaxation:

  • Legs Up the Wall: Lie on your back with your legs against a wall (L-shape). Relax into the position and focus on your breathing for at least 30 seconds.
  • Lying Butterfly: While lying on your back, press the bottoms of your feet against each other. Allow your knees to fall to the sides. A pillow under your knees may help.
  • Corpse Pose: Lie on the ground with arms and legs straight. Keep your palms up. Breathe slowly and focus on your inhales and exhales.