Demystifying Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

Struggling with delayed sleep cycles? Read more to learn the truth behind Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPS) and how it affects your life.


Have you ever struggled with getting to bed on time, only to wake up in the morning and feel rushed? You may have delayed sleep phase disorder. Delayed sleep phase disorder, also known as DSPS, is a common sleep disorder that is characterized by the individual being delayed by more than two hours beyond their usual bedtime, leading to them having trouble waking up in the morning to complete their daily routine.
In this article, we’ll uncover delayed sleep phase disorder, its common causes and risk factors, how it impacts your life, and how you can cope with and treat this prevalent condition. After reading this, you’ll have a good idea of whether or not you have this condition, as well as how you can improve your sleep to get yourself back in line with an ideal circadian rhythm.

What is Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder?

Researchers have defined delayed sleep phase disorder as one of the most common circadian rhythm disorders, especially among teens and young people. About 1% to 16% of teens may have this disorder, and it is also related to other issues that youth struggle with, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and even autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Source: PubMed). There are even associations between mental health challenges, like anxiety and depression, and delayed sleep phase disorder.
Studies have shown that this condition can impact people’s health in harmful ways. From the overall health of the person to their cognition to their behavior, it can be damaging to their longevity and their energy levels. The most common signs that someone may struggle with this are difficulty getting up for school, poor grades, and challenges with employment (Source: PubMed). However, there is a more comprehensive list of what you may experience if you have DSPS.

The Symptoms of Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

As you may have guessed, the symptoms of delayed sleep phase disorder are quite obvious. You likely experience irregular sleep schedules, often going to bed after midnight or one in the morning instead of even earlier. You may also find yourself waking up later or experiencing sleep inertia upon waking because you didn’t get enough sleep. Throughout the day, if you have DSPS, you may also feel tired and have less energy, all signs that you may have this disorder.
Ultimately, the surest sign that you may have DSPS is that you have unstable circadian rhythms and cannot keep a regular sleep schedule. You may even be more sensitive to lights because of experiencing this condition. The effects of this disorder are also what alert many to the fact that they may have this condition. However, so many people forget about the risk factors and the causes of DSPS and why it continues to affect people's lives.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors?

There are several causes and risk factors for those who have been diagnosed with DSPS or may receive a diagnosis. The leading cause of DSPS is the delayed sleep schedule, which can be caused by any number of factors: lots of homework, late afternoon caffeine intake, and even social calendars that demand more from individuals in the evenings. However, some common risk factors can make this sleep disorder even more likely for you.
One study published in PubMed showed that those who had ADHD, learning difficulties, or mood disorders like anxiety and depression were also those who suffered from DSPS. This does not mean that having depression will indicate that you have DSPS, but rather that you may be more likely to be diagnosed with DSPS. 

How Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder Impacts Your Life

As briefly mentioned, DSPS can affect your life in so many ways. While you may not struggle with getting enough sleep, you may find other challenges aside from potentially being tired throughout the day. Some people struggle with academic and work commitments, experiencing either poor grades or employment difficulties. Others may also find themselves having difficulty waking up at the right time and may feel tired because of having to get up earlier.
In short, DSPS affects your life by adding unnecessary barriers to your productivity. You may even see some issues with your social life as well with DSPS. It looks different for everyone, but fortunately, there are some ways to overcome DSPS to get your schedule—and your daily commitments—back on the right track.

Treatment Options for Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

If you have been diagnosed with DSPS, there are several options for your treatment and to lessen the issues associated with this condition. Whether you want to go the holistic route and improve your sleep routine or utilize melatonin, you have several choices:

  • Acupuncture for DSPS: One study in China showed that patients with DSPS improved their overall sleep and functionality by receiving acupuncture sessions up to three times weekly for eight weeks (Source: PubMed).
  • Light Therapy: The more we expose ourselves to light, the better regulated our circadian rhythms become. With light therapy and daytime light exposure, you can get your sleep schedule gradually on the right track.
  • Melatonin Supplements: For a short duration, you might benefit from trying melatonin supplements. This substance can help activate the parts of your brain required for sleep, so you sleep soundly and within a consistent schedule.

Written by

Marie Soukup

Marie Soukup is a seasoned copywriter, editor, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach with a certificate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). With years of experience working with brands across diverse industries, Marie is passionate about holistic health and crafting compelling content.

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