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Dealing With DSPS As A Student?

by Haruka

As far as I recall, I've always had some problem falling asleep since I was a kid with a 10 pm bedtime.

However, this somewhat worsened when I turned 12, and definitely worsened further by the time I was 13/14. (I'm now 17.) I would go to bed at 11 pm, but only fall asleep until midnight or shortly after. This eventually became later and later, until I was only falling asleep at 2:30 am at the earliest or almost 4 am at the latest.

I (along with my family) believed that it was a simple case of insomnia all along, until I recently found out about DSPS (delayed sleep phase syndrome). From what I've found so far, it seems to fit me like a glove. For example, take the following descriptions from the section on diagnosis:

1. Patient has chronic difficulty falling asleep at desired time to meet their daily schedules - work, school, etc. Typically patient reports inability to sleep before 2 to 6 am.

I rarely fall asleep before 2 am - the only (very) rare times that I actually sleep before that is on occasions when I'm completely and totally exhausted, such as after coming back from long practices or strenuous sports earlier in the day. (However, these episodes are generally accompanied by problems such as loss of balance, and almost always happen only after extended lack of sleep spanning almost a week, so it seems to come only with extreme sleep deprivation.) I have to use my handphone alarm to wake up in the mornings (around 6 to 6.30 am) for school - even this doesn't work sometimes.

2. The patient reports having dealt with these symptoms for at least six months, mostly for multiple years.


3. When not required to maintain their schedule--i.e. weekends, holidays, etc.--patient sleeps without difficulty, and will awaken spontaneously after a sleep period of normal length.

If undisturbed, I generally sleep from around 3 am to 11 am, varying by at most half an hour in sleeping and waking times.

I've tried various things suggested (though mostly for insomnia, not DSPS) such as hypnosis, keeping regular sleep schedules, and even just willing myself to sleep. None of these have been effective thus far. Thankfully, my academics have not been really affected by this, even though I feel exhausted almost consistently throughout the day. I find that taking small naps of about 20-30 minutes does help with the exhaustion, especially in early morning and late afternoon, but it doesn't seem to affect night sleep at all.

Unfortunately, being a student doesn't grant the resources nor flexibility to try many treatments frequently suggested for people with DSPS. I don't want to resort to medication if at all possible, but I am pretty much stumped about what else to do. Does anyone have any good suggestions? Would seeing a psychiatrist/psychologist help?

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