Are you constantly dragging your son or daughter out of the bed? The symptoms of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome include:
Inability to Fall Asleep Before 2 or 3 a.m. Many individuals with DSPS first believe they are insomniacs. For teenagers, the inability to initiate sleep at conventional hours may be exacerbated by social pressure to communicate throughout the night via cell phones or computers.
Inability to Wake Up On Time for School or Work. While most people do not jump out of bed each morning when their alarm goes off, a person with DSPS will often sleep through multiple alarms and be very difficult to arouse even if given substantial incentives to do so.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness. A common complaint of DSPS is the overwhelming feeling of sleepiness in the morning and up to the early afternoon. Sleeping during morning classes is a common sign.
Depression and Drug Abuse. Children and teenagers with DSPS are more likely to experience depression and other behavioral problems.
If you believe your son or daughter has DSPS, contact your family doctor or a sleep specialist. Most sleep specialists will suggest keeping a sleep diary, allowing both the doctor and the patient to gain a quick, clear understanding of sleep-wake patterns. A sleep study is not required to make the diagnosis.
Once diagnosed with DSPS, treatment options may include:
Light Therapy. Exposure to a bright light will help naturally reset your child’s internal clock and advance the circadian rhythm. Sitting in a sunlit room or taking a walk in the morning is effective. However, that might not be practical given the sunrise schedule and/or weather conditions. There are several good commercially available light boxes, also used for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Physicians most often recommend turning on the light box for around 30 minutes in the morning. The production of sleep regulator melatonin is inhibited by light, helping your child wake up earlier and on time.
Schedule Adjustment. Depending on your child’s natural sleep rhythm, DSPS may be controlled by slight, incremental changes in bed time. If your child normally falls asleep around 1 am when he or she needs to be asleep by 11, set the bedtime to 12:45 one night, 12:30 the next night, and so on until the child is naturally falling asleep by the target time. For children who fall asleep too early, the same practice can be followed by setting the bedtime 15 minutes ahead each night.
Good Sleep Hygiene. The most important part of restful, healthy sleep is a consistent sleep-wake routine. Those at risk of or with DSPS should adopt a regimented sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Limit the child’s exposure to stimulants such as caffeine and sugar as well. In the bedroom, try to keep it as cool and quiet as possible. Limit their exposure to sensory-awakening activities like television and video games in the evening.
Medication. There are no FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of DSPS. A sleep doctor may recommend a low dose of melatonin to be given in late afternoon or early evening in addition to bright light exposure.
As your son or daughter continues to develop, he or she will most likely outgrow DSPS. However, it is important to treat the condition, once diagnosed, to ensure that your child is receiving the proper amount of rest throughout all developmental stages. Teenagers needs 8-9 hours of sleep each night.
More at Huffington Post Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D: Is It Typical Teenage Behavior — Or A Sleep Disorder?