Not a Pretty Phase
Delayed phase disorder, in layman’s term refers to falling asleep at inappropriate times late at night and thereby waking up several hours later. This isn’t an inherent health problem but one that is acquired by habitual practice. 90 percent of sleep disorders in teenagers is of this type and it is closely associated with one’s internal body clock that regulates the 24 hour cycle of biological processes. Unfortunately, science isn’t yet advanced enough in this realm to completely explain the phenomenon but from what is known, those with phase disorder usually don’t feel sleepy until hours past normal bedtime. Biologically, the body isn’t yet ready to sleep as its hormone production, brain wave activity, cell regeneration and other processes are unfinished. At times it is due to the brain not sending out sufficient sleep stimulators and at other times, it is the habit to delay sleep that causes this situation.
The Biology Behind Phase Disorder
Suprachiasmatic nucleus or the SCN is the circadian clock in the human body, a group of cells situated in the hypothalamus of the brain. It determines sleeping patterns and also the ultimate cause for changes in the same.
The Various Factors That Contribute To This Situation
Pregnancy, time zone shift, medications, routine changes, shift work, are a few common causes of phase disorder. You may have experienced Jet Lag where the sudden change in daytime because of time zone changes causes the internal clock to go haywire and you feel sleep midway through the afternoon rather than the night. Then there are folks with DSPSor Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome who tend to go to bed late at night and hence have problem waking up early for social engagements, school or work. Folks with DSPS can also suffer from snoring and eventually sleep apnea.
How Can It Be Treated
Treatment is case specific since every person sleeps and hence suffers from a unique situation of phase disorder. The goal of any treatment therefore is to alter the sleep pattern to fit a particular schedule. It involves using light stimulus therapy and a personal change in timings. Even changing the mattress to make it more comfortable is a start. Jonathan Steven’s foam mattress range for example remembers the manner in which you sleep and hence will relax your body and mind the moment it hits the bed. These are just speculative methods of trying to change phase problems and get over such sleeping disorders. Until science can gather more evidence and conduct more concentrated research, assured treatments of this condition won’t be possible. For now, those who suffer from sleep deprivation or sleeping issues can at best use light therapy and in serious cases medication to help change their circadian clock timings.