Delayed sleep phase? WTF?

So… what exactly is delayed sleep phase syndrome?

First things first: do you know about circadian rhythms? They help regulate daily patterns, like sleep (circadian meaning “about a day”). Most people run on an average of 24-hour days, waking and working during the daylight hours and sleeping at night.

Lots of people have no trouble have no trouble falling asleep at 11pm and waking up at 7am. They may not like it (my father always said “no one likes waking up in the morning!”) but they can do it. Their body tells them to get sleepy at night and wake up in the morning, about 6-8 hours later.

With DSPS the sleep cycle is delayed (the obvious part!) so that people with the disorder fall asleep much later and thus wake up much later, while still having “normal” sleep patterns.

In the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine explains:

Delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS) is marked by: (1) sleep-onset and wake times that are intractably later than desired, (2) actual sleep-onset times at nearly the same daily clock hour, (3) little or no reported difficulty in maintaining sleep once sleep has begun, (4) extreme difficulty awakening at the desired time in the morning, and (5) a relatively severe to absolute inability to advance the sleep phase to earlier hours by enforcing conventional sleep and wake times.

Someone with DSPS can usually get a decent amount of sleep… just later than everyone else. Dealing with DSPS could be likened to someone with a regular sleep cycle constantly trying to wake up at 3am to go to work.

Every. Single. Morning.

Eventually said “normal” person would get quite moody and sleep-deprived, right?

There’s a great line about dealing with DSPS in the Wikipedia article: “Attempting to force oneself through 9–5 life with DSPS has been compared to constantly living with 6 hours of jet lag.”

So true, Wikipedia author. So true.


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