Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome DSPS
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Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome DSPS
DSPS is where you fall asleep at a time that may be inconvenient to you and can interfere with your work life and prospects.
Some people may fall asleep at 3,4,5 or whatever a.m. every single day of their lives and this has always been their cycle.
They may have trouble keeping a regular job because they are always exhausted through lack of a good nights sleep.
You can change the time to anywhere you like and you will find someone that sleeps naturally at that time.
We are not machines but we are still definitely governed by the needs of the machine age. Have you ever wondered why most work is centred around the hours of 9 - 5? It's not for your benefit.
It is because 9 -5 are usually the hours of daylight and it is cheaper to run a business in the daytime than at night.
So how can you fit into a system that you have no control over setting up. You could start your own business or find a night job. But to be honest these changes don't actually make much of a difference as you will see below.
Symptoms of poor sleep
You may have you spent years counting sheep, counting backwards from 1000, taken sleep aids. Nothing worked.
You still found yourself wide awake until whatever time, every night/day. You live in a sort of twilight world which can be quite enjoyable but interferes with the rest of your life.
Have you ever felt that you were out of step with the rest of the 24 hour world?
No matter where in the world you may have been. It made no difference to your sleep pattern and you are just tired all the time.
Are you the one lying in bed for hours while everyone that you know seem to drop off to sleep in 2 minutes. Annoying isn't it.
We are not machines
Do you ever wonder why or how they can sleep, and yet you cannot.
Do you ever think there is something wrong. Why can't you sleep at the 'right' time. Or what society dictates is the right time.
If the answer to any or some of the above, rings a bell then maybe you are suffering from:- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome or DSPS.
The following records my journey through the assessment process, after decades of fruitless alternatives, to a real cure.
What has been most surprising, is the number of people that have similar sleep problems,
Like you, they just get on with it, thinking they are the only one, with this particular sleep problem.
Researching this article has shown that it is a much more common problem, than it at first appeared.
I thought is was just me. Why is this? Simply because no-one talks about it, and when we do. The same old chestnuts of advice come out thick and fast.
Just go to bed earlier or get a job at night. This is really missing the point.
Going to sleep at 4 am. When you have to get up for work at 7 am quickly builds up a 'sleep debt' which you can never pay off.
Sleeping in late at the weekend to 'catch up' is just not going to help. After a while, if you do not address the problem, you could be headed for a serious physical and emotional crash. Sleep debt can be fatal.
Learning good sleep hygiene is the first step. This involves regulating food and drink intake. Setting yourself up, and in the mood for sleep. Sounds simple... It isn't.
Check your Sleep Symptoms
Melatonin. See your Doctor before taking anything
Tips to better Sleep
The hormone Melatonin is found in all animals, plants and microbes. In humans this compound fluctuates on a daily cycle, (biorhythm) It affects your circadian rhythms and many of your primary bodily functions including your wake/sleep cycle.
“Circadian rhythms are endogenous ("built-in", self-sustained), they are adjusted (entrained) to the environment by external cues called zeitgebers, (from the German for "time giver," or "synchronizer") the primary one of which is daylight.”
The term "circadian" was coined by Franz Halberg in the late 1950s. Although the above is true, using Melatonin as a treatment alone doesn't help people with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. A whole life approach is required.
DSPS affects approximately 0.15% or 1 in every 667 of the population and it can run in families indicating a genetic connection.
There is research on the genetic front but it is still early days. Globally the syndrome has minor variations although it is slightly higher in some Scandinavian countries.
As mentioned above experiments have been conducted in the use of Melatonin in an attempt to control the circadian rhythm and rectify DSPS. Melatonin artificially introduced this way has little long term effect on it's own.
The effects produced by Melatonin can be very short lived with the patient returning to their usual sleep pattern within a few days when the Melatonin is removed. Used with other life changes, it can be very effective.
Melatonin combined with light therapy can have a dramatic and long term beneficial effects. Sunlight or light therapy destroys Melatonin and so aids the waking cycle.
The term that we use for morning or evening people. Larks and Owls. In scientific terms they are known as Chronotypes.
A chronotype is a way of describing a particular attribute of an animal, plant or a human.
In our example indicating what time of the day, various physical functions are active i.e. cognitive faculties, eating and sleeping. In our case we are only interested in sleeping onset habits.
Papworth Hospital, Sleep Clinic, Cambridgeshire
Night Owl or a Lark?
Night Owls are what we would describe as a night person, or evening people. They and most active and alert at night. Larks love the morning.
When we consider the situation of the Night Owls or night person, and the problems of fitting into a society that operates on a completely different clock. We must conclude that living like this is extremely difficult and not something one would ‘choose’ to do.
Many people who have this sleep pattern are misdiagnosed and often viewed as lazy or worse. Many times they live their lives thinking there is something mentally wrong with them.
They may take all the tests and listen to the scant advice. They are often misdiagnosed and prescribed sleeping pills; that either don’t work at all, or knocked them out cold.
To keep their finances in order, many struggle on. Working the 9 to 5 on just a few hours’ sleep a night.
They come home and grab an hour or two on the couch, ‘power napping’. Long term this can lead to serious health problems, including exhaustion and depression.
Light Box Therapy
Light Therapy Boxes
Finally a Treatment that Works. See update below
If you suffer from this syndrome unfortunately there seemed to be no remedy.
All attempts and there have been many, to reset my body clock failed.
The Good News.
Now you know the truth. You can really do something about it finally.
The 'best advice' around states that the thing to do is to try to accept it. Try to find an occupation that fits around your sleep pattern.
Fortunately our society is 24/7, so the [night person] may consider switching to work that fits in with 'you', rather than drive yourself nuts trying to fit into a system that doesn't run to 'your' rhythm.
Some career choices to consider. Taxi Driver, Hospital Work, Writer (Technical or Blogger) Call Centre Operative, Gas Station Operator/Owner, Bakery Worker/Owner.
And countless millions more no doubt. When you truly discover that ‘you’ are not the problem, and have in fact got a syndrome. It can be very liberating. It’s not an excuse or a 'cop out' but an invitation to jump in.
When you come to the conclusion, that you’re not going to fight or try to control it anymore. You are going to accommodate it and make it work for you for a change. You may feel better for the first time in years.
You may finally understand what the heck has been going on all this time. You are a night person and that is all there is to it?
Of course this is all well and good, but what if, your work is in the daytime?
9th Feb 2012 Update:-
Following my doctors advice on tips to better sleep. I have been doing the following. I have been trying for the last month, to adjust my sleep onset by staying awake, an hour extra every day/night.
So instead of going to bed to sleep at 4 a.m. as is usual. I started going to bed at 5 a.m.then 6 a.m. etc. I couldn't keep it up and have reverted to the 4 a.m. sleep onset. This seems to be my natural rhythm.
I attended Papworth Sleep Clinic today and spoke to Sam (patient tech support). She has given me a new sleep data logger to wear tonight, or whenever I go to sleep, to try to get some decent data, on my sleep patterns.
I have also been advised to try a light box (simulated daylight box) in the next few weeks and see if that helps along with a new attempt at changing my body clock.
I have also been prescribed Melatonin, but advised not to use it, until I reach the time of night that I want to achieve. i.e. 11 p.m.
There are many Brands of Melatonin
The Pineal Gland
Update 9th March 2012 and 13th April 2012
I have some good news at last. Trying to adjust my sleep pattern manually failed.
So I decided to try the Melatonin and light treatment. I picked up a litebook elite light-box yesterday from Papworth sleep clinic. I had already collected a prescription for Melatonin.
I took the 2 mg Melatonin at around 10.30 p.m. and was sound asleep by 1 a.m. I slept through the night waking at 8.30 a.m. feeling incredible refreshed and that I had had a good sleep.
I could feel the effects of the Melatonin whilst lying in bed. It made me feel deeply relaxed.
I fell off to sleep with no problems. I would normally be awake until 4 a.m. and later. The next morning I awoke and turned on the light box.
The Light Box Therapy Felt Kind of Weird.
To just sit in front of a bright light seems abnormal. It works by stimulating the Pineal gland. The Pineal gland regulates the amount of melatonin the body produces.
Within 30 minutes I was very alert and wide awake. It actually worked.
I am surprised and relieved by these simple solutions. I wish I had discovered these simple fixes decades ago. It would have been very helpful, to say the least.
I have written this update to this article within 1 hour of waking.
This would not normally happen until early evening. When I would become more alert.
I will update again in a months time, I know it is only early days but I am very happy with these results.
Final Update 13th April 2012
I have been taking 2 mg of Melatonin for 4 weeks now. My life has completely changed for the better.
I am sleeping well from 11 pm until 7 am every day like clockwork. I cannot believe it. I have stopped snoring too.
The light box therapy in the morning wakes me up so effectively that I feel 20 years younger. I have not had this much energy in years.
I am so alert and feel like my brain is firing on all cylinders for probably the first time in my life.
I still have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, yes I am a night person. But it is now regulated by the melatonin.
If I miss taking a dose I revert to my old sleep pattern. I decided to check it to find out if my sleep pattern had changed permanently. It hasn't so I will continue taking the melatonin.
I am shocked, amazed, thankful and very, very impressed. With my GP and the staff at Papworth Hospital Sleep Clinic. Thank you all so much.
Melatonin has totally changed my life, for the better.
I know this may sound nuts, but sometimes, I miss the wee small hours. So I don't take the Melatonin, and revert to being a night owl [night person] simply because. I like the silence and clarity that solitude brings.
It really seems to improve my creativity. Ideas seem to flow more easily. Sometimes some things shouldn't be 'fixed'. At least, now I have a choice, That is truly liberating. Hope this helps you too. Dreams can come true.
This is not medical advice and you should always consult your doctor before taking any course of treatment.
Follow me on the tsu network Good luck.
Professional Help for Sleep Disorders UCSD School of Medicine
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