What is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?

What is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

If you consider yourself a “night owl” you probably suffer from delayed sleep phase syndrome without even knowing it. You may not be able to fall asleep at normal bedtime hours. You also may not be able to wake up on time in the mornings and feel sluggish and lethargic when you do get up. This has caused many who suffer from delayed sleep phase syndrome to be branded as lazy or unmotivated when, actually, that isn’t the case.

What is delayed sleep phase syndrome? Delayed sleep phase syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects the sleep/wake cycle. It throws your internal clock off balance and can affect your sleep pattern. It doesn’t stop there; delayed sleep phase syndrome will also cause problems for you during the day. Millions of people suffer from this circadian rhythm disorder.

If you think you have insomnia, you may have delayed sleep phase syndrome. If you aren’t familiar with delayed sleep phase syndrome, you may have accidentally labeled yourself an insomniac. The two are very similar, yet different. Both play a role in your sleep schedule, but insomnia is the result of not being able to sleep at all. With delayed sleep phase syndrome, you won’t have a problem falling asleep and staying asleep. The problem comes from not being able to sleep at the normal time that most people do. This is what makes you want to stay up late and sleep in later.

Attending school or working a normal work schedule can become very complicated if you suffer from delayed sleep phase syndrome. When your body does finally fall asleep, it goes through your five natural sleep cycles. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. This can make it hard to get up and stay awake during class or during that important business meeting. You will experience the feeling of ‘jet lag’ and will not be alert, even if you get a decent amount of sleep.

There is no known cure for this disorder, but there are certain ways to try and get your delayed sleep phase syndrome under control.

What is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

Switching Shifts

The age-old saying, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ applies here. If you have trouble working the typical nine to five work-week or you can’t get up and make it to class on time and struggle to stay awake, there are other options. You can try finding a job that doesn’t require you to go in early. This will allow your body to get the sleep it needs and you won’t have to fight dozing off during that boring meeting or get in trouble for being late. If you’re taking classes, you can enroll in night school. You won’t nod off during a lecture, and you will be able to get up and not have to rush to get to class on time.


Two different types of therapy are highly recommended if you suffer from delayed sleep phase syndrome. They do not require medication and can usually be done without a trip to the doctor’s office.

  • Phototherapy

More commonly known as light therapy this approach can help to get your circadian rhythm in sync. Exposure to light in the morning will reset your internal clock and help get you on the right track.

  • Scototherapy

 This is referred to as dark therapy. Much like light therapy, it helps your internal clock know that it needs to wind down and get to bed. Using this therapy, which is the therapeutic use of darkness, can jump start your circadian rhythm and help you fall asleep earlier.


If you have tried other treatment options and still can’t get your delayed sleep phase syndrome under control, there are some medicines that you can try.

  • Melatonin

 Your body makes natural melatonin, but you may not be producing a healthy amount. Melatonin helps your body relax and will help you wind down before bed. You can buy melatonin over the counter at your local pharmacy or retailer.

  • Vitamin B12

 You can eat foods that are high in vitamin B12 including eggs, fish, dairy, and poultry. You can also buy an over the counter pill or capsule form of vitamin B12. This will help your body produce adequate amounts of natural melatonin which helps you to fall asleep.

There are a variety of pharmaceutical drugs that can be prescribed by your physician to help with your delayed sleep phase syndrome. Many come with different side effects and are not ideal for everyone. Talk to your doctor and discuss which one is right for you.