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Understanding Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)

Do you have trouble falling asleep at night and struggle to wake up in the morning? If so, you might be dealing with a sleep disorder called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). This condition affects a significant number of people, causing them to have a delayed sleep-wake cycle that goes against the typical daily schedule. Understanding DSPS and its symptoms, treatment options, and long-term effects can help you take control of your sleep, enhance your quality of life, and prevent health complications. 

What is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)? 

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) is a sleep disorder that affects the timing of your internal body clock (also known as the circadian rhythm) and the release of certain hormones that regulate sleep and wakefulness. People with DSPS go to bed and wake up much later than the normal schedule, often by several hours. For instance, they may find it challenging to fall asleep before 2 am and struggle to wake up before 10 am, even if they have to attend work or school in the morning. As a result, they often experience sleep deprivation, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes. 

What are the causes of DSPS? 

The exact causes of DSPS are not entirely clear. However, research suggests that genetics may play a crucial role in predisposing some people to DSPS. People with DSPS are often “night owls,” meaning that their internal body clock favours nighttime activities and wakefulness. Other factors that may contribute to DSPS include stress, erratic sleep-wake schedules, exposure to bright lights at night (such as electronic devices), and certain medical conditions or medications that affect sleep. 

How can you diagnose and treat DSPS? 

Diagnosing DSPS involves a comprehensive sleep evaluation that includes sleep history, physical examination, and sleep studies. The sleep study may involve measuring brain activity, breathing patterns, and heart rate during sleep. Treatment for DSPS typically involves a combination of behavioural and medical interventions. The behavioural interventions aim to reset the internal body clock by adjusting the sleep-wake schedule, avoiding bright lights at night, adopting healthy sleep habits, and managing stress. The medical interventions may include light therapy, melatonin supplements, or other prescribed drugs that affect the circadian rhythm. 

What are the long-term effects of untreated DSPS? 

Untreated DSPS can cause several health and social consequences, such as disrupting the natural balance of hormones in the body, reducing the quality of sleep, impairing cognitive and emotional functioning, and worsening mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, DSPS may impact a person’s career, education, and social life due to difficulties complying with standard schedules. Therefore, seeking timely diagnosis and treatment for DSPS is crucial to minimise the risk of complications and improve sleep and overall health outcomes.

How can you improve your sleep quality and prevent DSPS? 

Preventing DSPS and enhancing sleep quality involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits that promote a regular sleep-wake schedule, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine before bedtime, establishing a comfortable sleep environment that is cool, dark, and quiet, and engaging in stress-reducing activities such as mindfulness, exercise, or journaling. Additionally, it helps to limit exposure to electronics or bright lights at least two hours before bed and avoid napping during the day. 


Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) is a sleep disorder that affects the timing of the internal body clock and the sleep-wake cycle. It can cause symptoms such as daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes and may have long-term health and social effects if left untreated. Understanding the causes, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention strategies for DSPS can help individuals improve their sleep, enhance their quality of life, and prevent complications. Therefore, seeking professional help from a sleep specialist is essential for those experiencing persistent sleep problems.