Insomnia and other sleep disorders are becoming more and more common. As life gets busier, it can become tough to keep a relatively normal sleep schedule. Many people can’t fall asleep until very late at night and may have trouble waking up until sometime around midday.
As it turns out, this pattern of staying up all night and sleeping in the next day may be an actual sleep disorder.
It’s called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, or DSPD, and it might be the reason why you can’t fall asleep when you want to, and why your mornings are such a serious challenge.
Read on to find out how to figure out if you’re experiencing something like DSPD, and how you can go about realigning yourself if you are.
How to Tell if You Have Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
Perhaps the most important thing to note about DSPD is that it is quite different from insomnia, which is another common sleep disorder. Individuals suffering from insomnia have trouble falling asleep, and experience difficulty getting a good night’s rest once they do.
DSPD is different. For people suffering from DSPD, trouble staying asleep isn’t usually the problem. Instead, their inability to fall asleep at a normal hour leads to a delayed wake-up time.
When this happens, getting up for work on time in the morning can seem like a much larger chore than it should be.
Many of us stay up late and sleep in on the weekends, but getting up early for work or school on Monday is then extremely difficult.
Your body operates according to an internal clock that’s referred to as your circadian rhythms. These natural rhythms do things like regulate your sleep schedule and tell you when to get hungry.
If you’re experiencing DSPD, your circadian rhythms are delayed. Instead of falling asleep and waking up when you’re “supposed” to, your natural sleep cycle doesn’t kick in until much, much later.
“DSPD is essentially the result of a delayed circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a biologically-driven alarm clock that runs our body. These rhythms tell us when to fall asleep, when to wake up, when to get hungry, and when to have certain hormones secreted in our body. In DSPD, the circadian rhythm drifts later, leading to delayed sleep and wake times.”
Of course, if your lifestyle isn’t disrupted by this, then you might not need to look into treatment at all.
But if you consistently have problems with normal activities like getting up and going to work, seeking professional assistance might be a good idea.
How You Can Treat Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
It’s important to note that DSPD should be diagnosed and treated according to the advice of a medical professional. If you think you have DSPD, you can certainly try out some of these easy solutions, but always make sure to consult with your doctor or a sleep specialist beforehand.
A sleep specialist can not only tell you exactly what type of sleep issue is bothering you, but they can recommend a specific treatment that will be best-suited to you and your specific needs. Everyone is different, so it’s smart to get a personalized recommendation.
Chronotherapy is one solution for DSPD. It involves basically performing a “hard restart” on your sleep cycle. To accomplish this, you would go to bed (and therefore wake up) about two to three hours later every day, until you’ve successfully brought your sleep cycle back around to a normal time.
This can require you to sleep throughout most of the day and stay awake all night at certain points, so you might need a friend to help you stay on schedule.
Another solution to DSPD is known as morning bright light therapy, and consists of pretty much exactly what it sounds like. This treatment involves the use of bright light (natural or otherwise) in the morning to help you wake up. Make sure you talk to a specialist, however, as this treatment must be implemented at the proper time of day.
A third option is melatonin, which you can obtain over the counter at a drug store or health food store. It’s a natural supplement that your body makes on its own already. Adding melatonin to your daily diet can help you sleep better at night, but it can also interfere with your daytime alertness.
Again, make sure you consult your doctor or sleep specialist before beginning any kind of medical treatment or drug regiment.
How Do You Fall Asleep and Stay Awake on Schedule?
Do you struggle to snooze at the right hour? Are you often late for work or school because it’s hard to get out of bed? How do you keep your sleep schedule on track? Let us know in the comments.