Recognizing and Treating DSPD

4 Steps to Achieving Quality Sleep

Delayed sleep phase disorder may be a new term for many, but once explained, some will be enlightened. In a basic sense, delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) is a condition in which the body’s reaction to the time in which sleep occurs has a direct effect on the quality of the sleep experienced. For example, if a person sleeps from 12 midnight until 8 am and finds that waking up is difficult, he/she appears visibly tired throughout the day, and staying awake all day is a struggle, then this person may suffer from DSPD. The determining factor would be if the time of sleep is shifted, for example, two hours later. If this same person can sleep from 2 am until 10 am and no longer finds waking up difficult, feels refreshed and appears lively during the day, and can stay awake with no trouble, then it is a safe bet that DSPD is a problem.

The causes of DSPD have not been clearly determined. In my personal experience, I believe that DSPD is a learned behavior. While a circadian rhythm problem may lead to the initial onset of DSPD, the prolonged effects are due to the consistent and repeated act of delaying sleep time. The reasons for actively delaying sleep could be job requirements, a flexible schedule, stress, or any other of a variety of impetuses.

Since DSPD is believed to be the body’s natural reaction to a learned behavior over a period of time, it seems logical that the process of correcting this disorder would be active behavioral modification. The following few steps can be taken to attempt to consciously modify behavior so the sleep phase of a person with DSPD is no longer delayed.

  1. Determine the times at which you desire to sleep. This will be unique to each person and depend on requirements of your life. The sleep time chosen should range from 7-9 hours. Take care not to make the time too short or too long.
  2. Set an alarm (e.g., on your phone) to alert you at the beginning and end of the desired sleep time. Because you suffer from DSPD, you must be reminded when to prepare for bed and when to wake up. This step is critical.
  3. Force yourself to sleep every day during the same time. At first, this will be difficult. Many people with DSPD feel the most awake at night. You should also fight the urge to nap during the day. Napping may create an inability to sleep at night. You may consider taking supplements such as melatonin to aid in falling asleep.
  4. Follow these steps DAILY. Fluctuations may occur, but you should find it easier to maintain this schedule as time passes.

Remember, DSPD did not occur in one night or one week, so the results of an attempt at correction should not be expected in a short time frame. At a minimum, two weeks should be committed to these exercises, but most people will find it necessary to stick to this strict plan for at least one full month.