Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome: The sleep disorder keeping you up at night

The condition is most common among teenagers, but some people tend to have it after adolescence.

It is recommended that human being get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. But not everyone is able to meet this sleep target, and for different reasons. There are people who tend to be more energetic at night than during the day; they might call themselves night owls. However, this distorted pattern of sleep could be a disorder.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome

This is a disorder that causes a delay of two or more hours beyond conventional bedtime. The result of this delay is a difficulty in waking up at the desired time. The UK’s Sleep Charity defines it as:

a misalignment in the circadian rhythm to the social and physical environment.
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For instance, instead of going to bed at 10pm and waking up at 6 in the morning, someone with DSPS will fall asleep after midnight and will struggle to be up in time for school or work.

This condition is mainly common among teenagers (7-16%), with most people reverting to the more socially acceptable sleep period during early adulthood. But some people still experience it after adolescence.


The most obvious symptom is the inability to fall asleep at the desired time. People who experience this would often complain of insomnia. For teenagers, this could be made worse by the pressure to stay up to finish school work or spending more time on the internet at night.

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Another sign of this disorder is difficulty waking up in the morning and daytime sleepiness. You know the saying, you can’t cheat nature? Well, if you don’t sleep early but are required to wake up early, naturally, you’ll feel sleepy during the day.

Other symptoms include:

  • No other sleep problems present
  • Mood and behaviour issues
  • Depression
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