11th October, 2022

‘What’s Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?’

By Max Kirsten
‘What’s Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?’

What’s Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?

Delayed sleep phase syndrome is a condition that occurs when people are out of sync with the circadian rhythm relating to the sunrise and sunset pattern.  This affects their inner SCN body clock usually causing them to go to bed later than normal and wake later than everyone else. It also usually means they sleep less soundly, or wake feeling very refreshed, and always feeling tired.

How Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome manifests in people with ADHD

People with ADHD often suffer from mental and physical restlessness that disturbs more than 75% of adults with long-term childhood-onset ADHD and suffer from a delayed circadian rhythm phase.  This includes a late rise of salivary dim-light melatonin onset (DLMO), and other signs signalling ready to sleep such as body temperature not dropping earlier as is normal. They usually want to go to bed at least 90 mins later than others without the condition. 

How to overcome Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome to ease the tiredness

The key to easing the severity of classic symptoms is to align with the circadian light pattern.  Lots of morning daylight exposure is essential, and short-term use of a prescribed melatonin supplement combined with magnesium to increase the brain chemical gabba taken 90 mins before bed in dim a low-light environment reduces stress and anxiety hormones and increases the ability to relax before bed. Exercise taken regularly (preferably outside, bright light therapy (or in winter a Lightbox), in the morning increases daylight exposure the earlier each day the better. Sunlight exposure is key as well as lower light at night. Often melatonin should begin even in the late afternoon until a new earlier-to-bed / wake sleep habit has been established.  Good sleep hygiene needs very strict adherence, such as only having drinks with caffeine in the morning. 

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome also impacts people with ADHD

Adults who are usually described as night owls or PM’ers are most likely to develop DSP.  Bad habits such as not going outdoors enough in the daytime can cause misalignment with the internal body clock becoming out of phase with the sun’s circadian rhythm.  LED lighting and LED bulbs with Blue light in the spectrum exposure also greatly contributes to DSP, and should only occur in the daytime. LEDs at night confuse the brain’s SCN body clock into thinking it’s not time for the sleep hormone melatonin to be released to signal sleep time.

Why sleep is so important for our wellbeing?

Sleep is essential for good health, and as key as your diet, exercise, and hydration, arguably more so.  Sleep helps the brain and body repair restore and renew themselves ready for the new day ahead. Every cell in the body and brain benefits from the sleep process, quality, and ideal quantity usually between 7-9 hours of sleep is optimal for good health and longevity.

Allowing the body to cool down at night is another essential key to the falling asleep naturally process, combined with expected darkness, and fresh air.

I wish you a great night’s sleep.

Max Kirsten
The Sleep Coach