What is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?

Delayed sleep phase syndrome is a preventable sleep problem that is widespread among adolescents. This syndrome describes the inability to fall asleep and wake up at preferred times. For instance, teens naturally have their sleep cycle shift towards later in the night.  So teens often find themselves unable to fall asleep until late in the night and unable to wake up with their alarm in the morning. Delayed sleep phase syndrome is caused by erratic sleep habits that confuse your body and prevent it from developing the desired times of falling asleep and waking up. The syndrome is often characterized by staying up late and sleeping in on weekends, then waking up early on weekdays and taking an afternoon nap. This erratic schedule can make it extremely difficult to wake up in the morning. Treatments are behavioral, and include becoming more aware of the importance of consistent sleep patterns and modifying your sleep schedule appropriately.
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Above is an example of a sleep diary that represents a typical pattern for individuals with this syndrome. What typically occurs is late nights on the weekend when socializing occurs combined with pressure to wake up earlier for work or school on weekdays. Since younger people typically socialize more, this is something that is particularly prevalent with teenagers, who then have to wake up extremely early for school. This is exactly the worst time for them to wake up based on a teenager's typical circadian rhythm. Shift workers are another group of people that suffer from this syndrome because of their erratic schedule. Whether its late night socializing or work-based pressure, there are simple solutions to adjusting your schedule, light exposure time, wind down time with melatonin, and meal time to address this issue.