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What Is Delayed Sleep Wake Disorder & How To Manage It

delayed sleep wake disorder

The overwhelming majority of people today just aren’t getting as much sleep as their body requires.

The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention believes that between 50 and 70 million US adults alone have a diagnosable sleep disorder, 38% of the population struggles with falling asleep during the day at least once a month, and 5% of the population has even reported falling asleep while driving in the past 30 days.

Conditions like Delayed Sleep Wake Disorder (DSWD), sometimes called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, are a major culprit behind why people aren’t getting the high-quality sleep they need a night tonight basis.

DSWD can wreak havoc on your health and wellness in ways that most people aren’t even aware of. Children and adolescents in particular are highly susceptible to sleep deprivation, crippling their ability to grow and develop not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

Confronting sleep conditions like DSWD is essential today.

What Is Delayed Wake Sleep Disorder?

DSWD is a sleep disorder (a relatively common sleep disorder, at that) where and individuals normal sleep cycle is delayed by two or more hours compared to more socially acceptable bedtimes.

The body has a natural circadian rhythm all its own, but because of societal pressure and behavioral habits most of us are inclined to fall asleep somewhere around 10 o’clock or so. The body then naturally wakes itself up anywhere between 6:30 in the morning and 8 AM without difficulty, naturally popping up feeling refreshed and ready to go.

Individuals with DSWD, on the other hand, are going to struggle falling asleep at 10 PM and instead will find themselves falling asleep somewhere closer to midnight (and sometimes well beyond). They obviously have a very challenging time getting up in the morning at 6:30 AM and even 8 AM can be a bit of a stretch.

Children and adolescents living with this sleep disorder are frequently referred to as night owls, feeling as though they function and operate during the later evening and nighttime hours.

why is sleep important for the brain

This may or may not be true, but because of the schedule that these young people have to stick to they certainly aren’t getting anywhere close to eight hours of sleep each night – and that’s wreaking havoc on their health and wellness.

Who Does It Affect?

DSWD can impact anyone and everyone a but it seems to be a problem that younger children and adolescent people have to confront and contend with more often than not. The CDC has estimated that between 7% and 16% of all adolescents are living with DSWD (most of them without having been diagnosed already).

Researchers also believe that the proliferation of this condition has led to an almost exaggerated reaction to the normal body clock. Adolescents then struggle to “get on schedule” with sleep later on in life and the DSWD issues can continue to follow them well into adulthood.

Making things worse is the fact that while people recognize high-quality sleep is important most don’t fully understand why eight hours of sleep is important for children and adolescents in particular.

We see young people have almost endless amount of energy even while operating on limited amounts of sleep and think nothing of it, never realizing that there are serious issues bubbling beneath the surface that contribute to health issues (mental health issues) later on in life because of a lack of sleep.

What Are The Symptoms?

There are a number of signs and symptoms you’ll want to be on the lookout for when it comes to this sleep condition, with some a little more obvious than others.

For starters, any inability to fall asleep around 10 o’clock on a regular and consistent basis (particularly over a significant stretch of time) is a surefire sign that something isn’t right with the sleep schedule of an individual. 

On top of that, and inability to wake up early in the morning after falling asleep around 10 o’clock at night is another signal that the body’s clock isn’t triggering the way that it should be.

You’re not likely to see other sleep disorders paired up with DSWD, either. If there are a lot of sleep issues a child or adolescent is contending with on top of the symptoms we highlighted above there may be something else medically you need to look closer into.

Like other sleep disorders, signs and symptoms of depression and behavioral issues are also closely linked to this condition.

Daytime drowsiness difficulty focusing, tardiness and inattention, and even a dependence on caffeine and other stimulants or sedatives or something you’ll want to look closer at.

How Can You Manage DSWD?

Why is sleep important for the brain?

We’ve evolved to require “downtime” for our brains to process everything that happened in our day to day existence, but we also require sleep to rest, recover, and reset from stresses and environmental factors.

why is 8 hours of sleep important

Our brains and our bodies alike use the time we spend asleep and unconscious to refresh and heal ourselves from the inside out.

Why is it important to sleep at night, especially as a teenager?

The brain and the body is going through a major change and shift when you go through adolescents, not only from a physical standpoint but from a hormonal and biochemical standpoint as well.

There’s a lot of maturation happening in all areas of a teenagers life and sleep allows the body to regulate these changes while fighting back against the stress and pressure this upheaval inevitably causes.

Learning to manage DSWD a lot of times comes down to working hard to exhaust yourself before 10 PM and getting into the habit of waking yourself between 6:30 and 8:00 AM on a regular and consistent basis.

Only through building the habit of going to sleep at 10 PM and waking up in the morning eight hours later (at least) will you be able to push back against this sleep disorder.

Working out later in the day, mentally taxing yourself before 8 o’clock in the evening, and abstaining from things like coffee and blue light from modern devices two hours before you go to bed should help you slip off to sleep at 10 PM with a lot more consistency.