What Is Delayed Sleep Disorder and How Is It Treated?

You may have always considered yourself a “night owl.” While it may feel natural to wait until late at night to fall asleep, doing this makes it difficult to awaken at an early time for school or work.

If your sleep habits interfere with your ability to participate in social or professional activities during normal hours, you may have delayed sleep disorder. Because delayed sleep disorder puts you on a schedule that’s different from most people, it can interfere with your professional obligations, social life, and family relationships.

You can find relief from the frustration of delayed sleep disorder with proper treatment. Sleep disorders specialist and neurologist Habib Khan, MD, of Arizona Institute of Neurology and Polysomnography has the expertise necessary to determine the source of your symptoms and help you get the rest you need.

What is delayed sleep disorder?

Delayed sleep disorder makes you delay falling asleep by two hours or more past the time that’s considered a traditional bedtime. As a result, you also find it difficult to arise at a traditional time in the morning. Without adequate sleep, you may have excessive sleepiness and feel fatigued for much of the time you’re awake.

Delayed sleep disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Your circadian rhythm regulates your internal clock, which is about 24 hours long. It produces one continuous waking period during the day and one continuous sleep period during the night. Circadian disorders disrupt the rhythm by causing your wake/sleep cycle to become out of sync with the natural light/dark cycle.

People with delayed sleep disorder usually enjoy a good quality sleep, but they don’t get enough of it because they go to bed too late. If you have delayed sleep disorder, your body may prefer to go to bed after 2am, and awaken around 10am. While you may awaken rested and refreshed, this isn’t a schedule that accommodates a traditional lifestyle.

How we diagnose delayed sleep disorder

When your symptoms align with delayed sleep disorder, Dr. Khan performs a thorough examination and medical history. The likelihood of developing delayed sleep disorder increases if your family members have it. About 40% of people with delayed sleep disorder have a family history of the condition, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Khan may order a sleep study, a noninvasive exam performed at Arizona Institute of Neurology and Polysomnography. While you sleep, an electroencephalogram (EEG) monitors your sleep patterns, and medical instruments record your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, breathing, and other physical signs.

Dr. Khan interprets the results of your sleep study to determine whether you have delayed sleep disorder. He also uses the results to identify any other sleep disorders or physical conditions that may contribute to your symptoms.

What treatments help delayed sleep disorder?

Treatments work to fit your sleep pattern into a traditional schedule. Some of the most common treatments for delayed sleep disorder include the following:



This therapy involves exposing yourself to bright light for a specified period of time immediately after spontaneous awakening in the morning. The light helps to stimulate cells in your retina that connect to the hypothalamus, which controls circadian rhythm. The bright light helps to reset your circadian rhythm to a more traditional pattern that aligns with natural light/dark cycles.



This treatment moves your bedtime a little earlier on successive nights until you reach your desired goal. At the same time, you gradually move your awake time toward your target.



This treatment, also known as chronotherapy, involves moving your bedtime from one to three hours later on successive nights until you reach your goal. The concept contends that it’s easier to adjust to a later bedtime than an earlier one.



Melatonin may help you establish a traditional sleep schedule. Research indicates that melatonin can help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and may help promote sleep in patients with delayed sleep disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic.  

Don’t let delayed sleep disorder put you out of sync with living a normal life. Book an appointment online or call our office in Casa Grande, Arizona, to discuss your symptoms and possible treatments with Dr. Khan.

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