Have you ever heard of Delayed sleep-phase syndrome or DSPS? DSPS is a chronic disorder in which a person’s sleep is delayed by 2 or more hours beyond the typical bedtime; thus, causing difficulty in waking up in the morning.
Who experiences DSPS?
This sleep disorder is more common among adolescents and college students due to the study schedule they follow. According to studies, about 0.15 % of adults, 3 in 2,000, have DSPS. It’s most likely to affect people who work in the evening or the night shift.
What are the symptoms of DSPS?
For three months now, my husband and I have been constant “night owls” staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning and getting up a few minutes before lunchtime or at 2 or 3 in the afternoon… sometimes even later. Even when we crawl to bed earlier and count a thousand sheep, we just can’t fall asleep. As a result, we struggle to wake up in the morning, ignoring the helpless calls of our cellphone alarms.
- Feeling of alertness in the evening and at night
- Nearly the same sleep onset times everyday (usually between 2 AM and 6 AM)
- Drowsiness or strong urge to take naps during the day, especially in the morning (sometimes even in school or at work)
- Tiredness, irritability, lack of concentration during the day (if the hours of sleep required are not met)
- Extremely long hours of sleep on weekends
- Few or no awakenings once asleep
- Presence of this sleep pattern for at least three months
- Behavioral changes among children and adolescents
The truth is I don’t mind our sleep pattern. The way I see it, we still function as “normal human beings” even if we lack a normal sleep cycle. I make sure we take lunch no matter how delayed I finish cooking; I have enough time to take a shower, prepare and go to work in the afternoon, and I always arrive in the hagwon (academy) before my first class, which starts at 2:40; he also works and manages to run errands for me and his parents when necessary; in fact, he still has time to go to the PC방 (internet café) or play billiards with his friends while waiting for me to go home; at night, since we don’t go to bed right away, we can do many other things like watch a movie we’ve downloaded from Jangfile, see a rerun of our favorite TV shows; I could read a book and he could use the computer. It isn’t so bad, is it? But then, he thinks it is. He noticed that we don’t get to enjoy sweet mornings like we used to because most of the time, we wake up in the afternoon. He tells me that we are becoming idle and that our sleep timing is not healthy. He wants us to sleep and wake up like “normal people” do; be able to say to each other, “Good night”, not when the sun is about to rise, and “Good morning”, not when the sky turns dusky in a few hours. Perhaps he misses eating breakfast. When we were newly married, I used to wake up early to fix breakfast for us, but now we skip the most important meal of the day. He says that we can “accomplish more” during the day if we get out of bed in the morning, instead of trying to finish all our chores at night when we’re supposed to be resting.
How does DSPS affect a patient?
Although it is a common disorder and can easily be corrected, DSPS has adverse effects on a person’s lifestyle such as:
- anxiety and stress
- irregular eating habits
- insomnia (if not treated at the initial stage)
- mood disorder and depression
Patients with DSPS may find it hard to keep a job that requires them to perform early in the morning. It may cause tardiness or absenteeism. Studies of high school students have shown poor performance and rapidly changing behavior.
How is DSPS cured?
- Maintain good sleep habits and a fairly normal sleep schedule.
- Avoid caffeinated food and drinks, as well as cigarette and alcohol and other stimulants a few hours before bedtime. (Some people think that sleeping pills help them fall asleep, but it actually disrupts sleep.)
- Refrain from stimulating activities such as playing computer games and watching TV before going to bed.
- Your bedroom should be cool, quiet and comfortable.
- Advance or delay the internal clock: The former means moving the bedtime a bit earlier on each successive night until you get used to the bedtime you desire. For instance, you sleep at 11 PM tonight, 10:30 tomorrow, 10 PM the next day, etc. The latter is when you move the bedtime sequentially 1 to 3 or more hours later on successive nights until the desired bedtime is reached. This is best done during a long school break or vacation from work.
- Other treatments such as Bright light therapy and Melatonin or other natural sleep-inducing drugs are recommended by some physicians. It’s best to consult one if the methods you have tried on your own don’t seem to work.
I’d like to think that there’s vampire blood running through our veins that’s why we roam about at night and sleep during the day, but I have to admit, my husband is right: we need to change our bad sleeping habit and start being a “normal couple” who have more time to spend with each other AWAKE rather than wasting precious moments in somnolence.
- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome and its Symptoms (sleepoptionsmattress.wordpress.com)
- How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep (answers.com)
- When You Have Trouble Waking Up (webmd.com)
- Mastering the Art of Sleep (enfamil.com)
- Sleep expert offers tips on how to get a good night’s sleep (time4sleep.co.uk)