What is delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)? Ultimate Guide Update 10/2022

DSWPD may be brought on by a normal shift in the body’s internal clock that occurs during adolescence. One of the therapy choices is to go to bed sooner or later each night until the desired bedtime is reached.

What is delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)?

People who suffer from DSWPD have sleep that is delayed by two or more hours beyond the socially acceptable or conventional bedtime, a condition known as delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD). Inability to wake up on time is caused by this delay in falling asleep. Teenagers with DSWPD are more likely to fall asleep after midnight and have trouble getting up in time for school than those without the disorder.

Adolescents with DSWPD often refer to themselves as “night owls,” claiming that this is the time of day when they are most attentive and productive. Sleep records would reveal short intervals of rest throughout the week (with few or no awakenings) and long periods of rest during the weekend (late morning to mid-afternoon wake-up timings) in the event that they were to keep one.
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DSPS vs. night owl

Having DSPS is not the same as having a late night habit.

If you’re a night owl, you may choose to stay up late in order to complete your schoolwork or meet up with friends. You’ll also have to get up earlier than normal..

Sleeping patterns might be changed when it’s time to go back to your normal routine.

Because of DSPS, you avoid staying up late. Instead, even when you’re exhausted, your internal clock keeps you from falling asleep. Adjusting your circadian rhythm, which governs when you sleep and wake up, can be a challenge.

What causes delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)?

It’s yet unclear what causes this condition. DSWPD, on the other hand, affects 7 to 16 percent of teenagers. As a result, it is a widespread problem. DSWPD may be an overreaction to the usual shift in the internal clock that occurs in many teenagers during puberty, according to scientists. Remember, this isn’t anything you’re doing intentionally. It is rare for DSWPD to begin in early adulthood, but it can develop in adolescent or youth in some cases.

What are the signs and symptoms of delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)?

DSWPD symptoms include:

  • I can’t get to sleep when I want to Insomnia is the most common symptom. Teenagers may feel pressured to stay up late due to social norms that encourage them to do so (homework, internet or cell phone use).
    An inability to get out of bed in the morning and a constant feeling of fatigue throughout the day. Most people complain about this since it is more obvious than nocturnal sleeplessness. The lack of sleep, especially throughout the week, causes daytime sleepiness in children and adolescents with DSWPD because of the difficulty falling asleep and the necessity of getting up on time for school or job.
  • If allowed to keep their preferred sleep/wake pattern, most people have no issues falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • If there are no other sleep problems present, children and adolescents with DSWPD are able to sleep through the night with little or no interruptions. Because their internal clock or sleep-wake cycle has shifted, they are unable to function properly. During holidays or school breaks, children and adolescents with DSWPD generally sleep well because they aren’t under any kind of time constraint. It’s not difficult to keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Depression and other behavioral issues. Children and adolescents with DSWPD may suffer from depression and other psychological issues, such as behavioral issues, as a result of daytime drowsiness and absence from school. The effects of daytime drowsiness on academic performance can include missed days of school, tardiness, and lack of focus. There may also be evidence of a dependence on caffeine, sedatives, or alcohol.

Risk Groups for Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Syndrome

It is more common among young males and middle-aged women to suffer from delayed sleep-wake phase syndrome. No substantial gender differences in DSPD have been found. In addition to adults, adolescents and teenagers are affected in large numbers by this condition. During adolescence, the circadian rhythm shifts, delaying the sleep-wake cycle. It takes kids longer to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone, as compared to adults. As a result, between 7% and 16% of teenagers are affected by DSPD. 90% of persons with DSPD begin experiencing symptoms in childhood or adolescence, according to a research.

People with DSPD are more likely to suffer from depression. Up to 64% of those who suffer from DSPD are also depressed. ADHD may also be linked to delayed sleep phase syndrome, according to new research. As many as 75% of adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as children have a circadian rhythm disorder, too.

Diagnosis of Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Syndrome

When trying to figure out if you have delayed sleep-wake phase syndrome, keeping a sleep journal is a great tool. It’s important to keep track of when you go to bed and wake up in a sleep journal. Your doctor can use this journal to acquire a complete picture of your sleep patterns.
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Actigraphy may also be recommended by your doctor. As if you were wearing a watch, the actigraph monitors your sleep patterns by analyzing your movement and light levels.

Diagnosing DSPD can also be accomplished with the use of a polysomnographic sleep study. It’s possible that you’ll have to repeat the sleep study. Both the “weekday” and “weekend” versions of your sleep patterns are compared in a single experiment. These examinations, however, may be prohibitively expensive.

How is delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD) treated?

DSWPD treatment consists of the following procedures:

  • Consistently getting enough shuteye. A consistent sleep schedule and excellent sleep habits are essential for children and adolescents with DSWPD. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (including weekends and vacations), avoiding caffeinated products like coffees, teas, sodas (except for some noncola soda pops, energy drinks, and chocolates), and avoiding other stimulants and products that can disrupt sleep (alcohol, sleeping pills and nicotine) are all good habits to adopt to ensure a good night’s rest (computer games, smart phone, television use).
  • Changing the hour at which you go to bed. In order to treat DSWPD, one can either advance or delay the internal clock.
    • The internal clock is being sped up. There is no need to go to bed earlier each night in order to reach your target bedtime using this strategy. On one night it might be midnight, on the next night it might be 11:45, and so on, till the next night it might be midnight, and so on and so forth.
    • To make one’s body’s internal time slower. The bedtime is pushed out 1 to 3 hours or more each night using this technique until the ideal bedtime is achieved. For this to work, you’ll need a few days off from socializing, so try it during a long break from school or a vacation. Because the body is more accustomed to a later bedtime than an earlier one, this method is thought to be more effective.
  • Motivation to keep to the plan. Holidays and weekends are especially critical times to keep your goals in mind. However, adhering to regular bed and waking times does not “fix” the propensity toward a delayed sleep-wake phase, but it does keep the body’s internal clock under control. If you want your child or adolescent to be able to reset their internal clock, you must keep them motivated to go to bed on time every night. After a few months of adhering to the program, exceptional occasions can be granted some wiggle room.
  • Radiant light therapy. Patients may need a specific light box for bright light therapy, which is recommended by some doctors. The body’s internal clock can be reset by exposing your youngster to bright light for around half an hour in the morning. Reducing the amount of light in your home at night is also beneficial. Commercially available lightboxes can be recommended by your sleep doctor.
  • Medications. Some doctors may also experiment with sleep-inducing substances like melatonin or similar natural substances.

Will a teen grow out of it?

For the most part, teenagers with DSPS don’t outgrow it.

DSPS can persist into maturity, so it must be treated on a regular basis.

Your body’s internal clock will be reset during the first treatment. However, if you want to keep the change going, you’ll need to keep going.
Woman with insomnia or nightmare lying in bed at night background. Sleepless person awake with tired sadness face cartoon illustration Stock Vector | Adobe Stock

Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your DSPS.

The bottom line

In DSPS, the body clock is disrupted, resulting in a lack of slumber. You can’t get to sleep until two or more hours after your “regular” bedtime because your sleep cycle is sluggish.

Having DSPS is not the same as being a night owl. Because of DSPS, you can’t stay up late of your own accord. Even when you’re exhausted, you still can’t sleep.

Get your sleep under control with the assistance of your doctor. Your body’s circadian rhythm can be altered by bright light therapy, melatonin, and healthy sleep habits. Adjusting your sleep and waking periods may also be necessary.

Teenagers are the most likely to develop DSPS, but it can occur at any age. If you or your child is experiencing trouble sleeping, make an appointment with your doctor.

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