Some people have a circadian clock that makes them “evening types.” These “owls” have a natural tendency to stay up late at night and sleep late in the morning.
Children tend to become night owls as teens because of a shift in the timing of their circadian clocks. This change causes them to feel sleepy later at night. As a result they also prefer to wake up later in the morning.
But as CNN reported last week, some teens may have an extreme change in the timing of their body clock. They may be unable to fall asleep until late at night or early in the morning. Then they may want to sleep until later morning or early afternoon. This problem is called delayed sleep phase disorder.
Insomnia symptoms can be severe when a person with DSP tries to go to sleep at a “normal” time. Excessive daytime sleepiness also can occur when he or she has to wake up early in the morning.
Teens with DSP can have a hard time in school. It can be difficult for them to conform to an early morning school schedule.
But there are effective treatments for DSP. It can be treated by taking melatonin in the afternoon or early evening. Another option is to use bright light therapy in the morning.
Both treatments can help “re-set” the body clock of a person with DSP. This can help normalize the timing of sleep.
“The way to treat delayed sleep phase is give light, in particular blue light like the light in the sky,” AASM member Dr. Jeffrey Durmer told CNN. “It activates a part of the eye that activates a part of the brain that keeps the circadian rhythm under control.”
DSP treatment should be supervised by a board-certified sleep specialist. It is important to determine the proper timing and dose of treatment that is required.
Get help from a board-certified sleep specialist at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.
Last month a study reported that teen sleep patterns may be disrupted by a lack of exposure to morning sunlight. The researchers proposed that the problem can be solved by designing better school buildings.
Read more about sleep and teens.