Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome Brochure

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Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are a family of sleep disorders affecting, among other things, the timing of sleep. People with circadian rhythm sleep disorders are unable to sleep and wake at the times required for normal work, school, and social needs.

The circadian rhythm is controlled by a biological clock that is in every human being and this clock works on a daily time scale. This internal clock affects the body temperature, alertness, appetite, hormone secretion and the time of sleep!

A person's desire to be awake or sleepy is totally dependent on this internal clock. A more specific disorder within the circadian rhythm area, is called the Delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS) or commonly referred to as the phase lag syndrome.


Often people with the disorder report that they cannot sleep until early morning, but fall asleep at about the same time every "night" (usually after 2 AM). They have an incredibly hard time waking up in the morning, and they feel exhausted all day.

What causes this disorder?

Many DSPS patients report that their difficulties began after a period of late night studying or partying, or after employment on the evening or night shift. Following these activities, they found it impossible to sleep on a normal schedule even when they resumed normal work or school hours.

So how do you know you have this disorder? The following are key indicators of DSPS:

  • Complaint of insomnia or excessive sleepiness
  • inability to fall asleep at the desired time
  • inability to wake up at the desired time
  • Depression may be present
  • (It is indicative if this sleep pattern has been present for 3 months)

    What can be done?

    Fortunately there is treatment for this disorder and it does not require surgery. Bright light therapy: Early morning exposure to bright light tends to lead to an early wake time and advance sleep onset at night. Artificial light is often used to consistently exposte delayed sleep phase syndrome patients to bright light early in the morning.

    Patients often receive bright light therapy at home, with the use of a light box. A light box emits a standard dosage of 5,000 to 10,000 lux of white light. The patient sits in front of the light at a specified distance for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour after waking in the morning.

    Only a fraction of us are actually "morning" or "night" people. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Only about 10 percent of the population are extreme morning or evening types. Should you strive to become a morning person?

    According to some experts, yes. According to Psychology Today, "early risers are more agreeable than those who prefer the P.M. hours," and "morning people also have more stable personalities and lower levels of aggression."

    If you feel like you suffer from this disorder you can find more help and information on which is a website developed and monitored by board-certified physicians. If you live around the area and you are interested in seeking professional advice the closest sleep clinic is located in Redwood City:

    Nelson Estrada

    Stanford Sleep Medicine Center
    Stanford Hospital and Clinics
    450 Broadway Street
    Pavilion B-2
    Redwood City, CA 94063

    Tel: (650) 723-6601 Fax: (650) 721-3448

    The Night Owl

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    Sleep and Dreams
    Professor Dement
    TA: Alexis Link

    Where to go from here:

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    About This Site

    Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

    We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

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    In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

    Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

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