Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS) is a relatively rare sleep disorder characterized by a ‘body clock’ shift to an earlier 24-hour cycle. This results in a person being unable to stay awake any later than between 6:00 p.m. to about 8:00 p.m. and then waking up between approximately 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
The sleep is undisturbed and of normal duration but the condition can cause potential embarrassment and negative social consequences due to the early nature of the sleep schedule. The malady can prove more serious, however, if the afflicted person is occupied with a sensitive activity or driving during the evening hours.
ASPS affects only about 1% of the population and appears most often in elderly people, both male and female. Studies have also discovered a pronounced genetic connection with about a 50% chance of the condition existing in family members.
Although it can be a hindrance, the disorder is not fundamentally unhealthy, and most people don’t consult a doctor unless it starts to adversely affect their social interactions.
- Inability to delay sleep onset until the desired bedtime
- Inability to stay asleep until the desired wake up time
- Symptoms are evident for at least 12 weeks
- During shifted schedule, sleep is of normal duration and quality
- Advanced age
- Irregular circadian rhythms
- Early release of melatonin and sleep hormones
- Sensitivity to the effects of natural light
Animals and humans alike tend to get sleepy at nightfall and become awake and alert at the beginning of a new day. So, it stands to reason that people with Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome have an acute sensitivity to the degree of light relative to nighttime and daylight.
Chronotherapy and bright light therapy can be used in the treatment of Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome. Chronotherapy would involve a plan of advancing the bedtime hour until the optimal bedtime is attained. Bright light therapy would be used to induce a phase delay by facilitating the exposure of light in the early evening. Doctors may also recommend drugs that reduce daytime sleepiness and help reset circadian rhythms (like melatonin).
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