My Solution To Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)
by Huu Do
Greeting fellow DSPS’ers. I am one the same as you. Look at my hands!
First off, great to find I'm not alone in this, but bad because we all want to get out of this.
If left to my own devices I would sleep at 6-7am, usually at the break of light.
I don't know but every time I see that cool morning blue begin to shine into my room, something tells me it's time to sleep. It appears there’s a trigger. Someone also posted something about setting wake and sleep triggers. Could be something to look in to.
I've tried everything I could get my hands on. Light therapy didn't work, or the results were temporal and only brought my sleep back at a couple of hours at best. It eventually gave me eye pain so I had to stop. And it didn’t get better so I couldn’t resume. There is some research to suggest that BLUE light therapy in particular causes macular degeneration. As a result, I then switched to green light therapy as they say it’s safer. I used it for 7 days and eventually the same eye pain returned so I had to stop. So anecdotally, I feel that regardless both may cause eye damage or strain at least, just the green not to the same extent as the blue. Although my eyes could be extra sensitive, ever since I looked into the sun for a prolonged period of time my eyes have never been quite the same.
I've tried a plethora of drugs, both prescripts and natural alternatives (Yes, Melatonin included), but they either didn’t work or eventually lost their effects over time, and I didn’t like the side affects, such as the drowsiness in some prescripts, but also the liver pain that I got from surprisingly the natural alternatives which are suppose to be completely safe.
I’ve tried chronotherapy: sleeping 3 hours later every night, or staying up the full cycle to get back to a normal sleeping hour, but it was just impossible to stick with once you do get to a normal sleeping time, as it will find its way slowly creeping back to 6-7am.
It all started for me when I was a bartender in my early 20s. Typically I would start my shift at 9-10pm, and would finish at 4am. Getting home I didn't want to sleep right away so I would bum around and won't get into bed until 6 or 7am. I had a stint with crystal meth and that gave me insomnia for quite some time, and when I did eventually find my sleep again it was always at 6-7am. And that trigger has stuck with me since. I have tried everything to break it to no avail. I am now 29.
I went thru my university degree like a zombie. Sleeping an hour and waking up to morning lectures or classes barely coping. I couldn't even talk properly, so uni was a struggle not just mentally and physically but also socially. I would do the work during the hours that I was up naturally so my marks weren't that affected much, but man doing class talks, speeches and debates as a zombie was horrible, I couldn’t even pronounce words properly at times.
It also followed into my work after I graduated. I managed to be able to sleep around 4am or so, wake up at 8 and get to work. I managed to get thru the day with copious amounts of caffeine and herbal supplements, then sleep for a couple of hours when I got home
and so the viscous cycle continues. I managed to keep this up quite well; I got promoted; the boss was happy with my performance; I got along great with the team.
I kept it up for 18 months then my body just gave up on me. I couldn’t do another minute on the job and decided to leave and now have been unemployed for 5 months as I write this. I have also been diagnosed with depression (my doctor has never heard of DSPS), and I do have suicidal thoughts at times, although I’m not sure if the sleep is the sole contributor.
I found sleeping hygiene helped at times. (Leaving a space purely for sleep and nothing else).
This may not work for everyone but it has helped me adjust to a more normal sleeping time. It sort of gets out of whack here and there since I’m currently not working and because of my late night choices, but I can slowly adjust it again whereas before I had no hope.
It could be an issue with light. Many DSPS’ers say they can only sleep once the sun rises. I suggest sleeping with the light on (and not a night lamp either).
Some will argue sleeping with the light on is bad (and some studies suggests this), but it's fair to say that sleeping within a normal sleeping time is more favourable for us DSPS’ers and it appears we’re living in the opposite. Day becomes night, and night becomes day. We just got out of whack like that.
I have found that I am able to fall asleep with the light on. I have since been sleeping with the light on because I find that I can only fall asleep with it on outside my normal 6-7am. You might have to apply chronotherapy (adjusting your sleeping time by staying up in increments per day) or do an all nighter to get back into a normal time but if you can't find yourself sleeping although you are tired and have stayed up over a full day's cycle, then turn the light on and see how you go. What have you got to lose? You can't sleep with the light off anyway.
Keep in mind, sleeping with the light on during these times has been known to cause depression in some or low mood (maybe this is what is causing my depression). I definitely notice a lower mood when I do. (Funny I don't have the same issues when sleeping during the day with natural light).
But for now I would rather be a bit down and sleep normal hours than be a hyperactive night owl with a life switched over the other way around.
I find if my mood is low, eating an “enjoyable” breakfast perks me up quite a bit.
My hope is that I will eventually be able to sleep with the light off. For now this is the next best thing for me. This may be because I use to have midday or afternoon naps all the time, so I didn’t have trouble sleeping even in broad day light. And this may be the trigger for me. For some reason I just feel more calm with the light on, with it off I begin to race, my mind starts racing and I can’t fall asleep. So as I have said, as there are some differentiating factors involved, it may not work for everyone.
Anyway hope this helps. Give it a shot, the worse that could happen is that you won’t fall asleep, but you’re already doing it.