Beneficial sleep hygiene is essential to treat DSPS. Important sleep hygiene habits include the following:

  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Exercising in the early part of the day as opposed to the evening
  • Making slight variations in sleep and wake times
  • Practicing stress reduction techniques

Different strategies work for different patients; some adopt or discard a habit "cold turkey," while others change their behavior slowly. Because sleep is a delicate environment for DSPS patients, patient and physician often must adjust sleep therapy techniques during treatment.

Many people outgrow DSPS naturally, suggesting that DSPS often is caused by lifestyle. It may take a few months to a few years to outgrow the disorder.

Melatonin is sometimes used to treat delayed sleep phase syndrome. The exact dosage of melatonin required, its efficacy, and its adverse effects vary from person to person, and use of this drug for DSPS is somewhat controversial. Melatonin reduces jet lag in some travelers, which suggests that it may help to manipulate the circadian rhythm.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain when the body prepares for sleep. Secretion occurs when it becomes dark and is suppressed by exposure to light. Melatonin secretion also is associated with diet. The substance has been synthesized for medicinal and therapeutic use and it is usually taken 30 minutes before bedtime. Some studies have shown that melatonin may advance sleep phase in patients with DSPS.

There is concern among sleep specialists that the melatonin currently available is not sufficiently regulated or standardized. Some patients feel sluggish or achy after taking melatonin, and it may complicate pregnancy, nursing, cardiovascular conditions, and depression.

Sleeping pills usually are not an effective treatment for DSPS and they are not indicated for continual use. Generally, synthetic sleep aids provide only temporary relief from sleep difficulty and they do not address the underlying cause of sleep disorders.

Vitamin B12 is a necessary component of proper nutrition and overall bodily function, including sleep. Supplements may be administered in pill form or, in cases of severe deficiency, as an injection. In some cases, vitamin B12 improves sleep for DSPS patients by quickening sleep onset and helping to regulate bedtime. However, its precise function in sleep regulation is not fully understood and it is not widely prescribed.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 30 Nov 2000

Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015