by Laura FallsChief Editor
Sarah’s Story: As a child I always woke up early. I used to be active and have energy. But by the time I reached high school I wanted to sleep late all the time. I was often in trouble at night for not going to bed at bedtime, but that’s when I was doing my best homework. In college I was having real trouble getting up for class. My room-mate threatened to go to the authorities because I kept snoozing my alarm, repeatedly waking her up. I was unaware that I was even doing it.
But who knew about sleep disorders? A lot of people complained about falling asleep and getting up early in the morning. So I just forced myself to do so.
After a number of years of struggling with sleep I got sick, had migraines, missed work and even some social engagements. I was just too exhausted.
I thought I was just going to be stuck with this for the rest of my life. But then I saw a sleep physician. I was hesitant as I thought I’d tried everything. I had tried yoga, relaxation music, taking melatonin and sleeping pills. Melatonin gave me side effects and sleeping pills often made me feel groggy.
I thought sleep physicians were just for people with sleep apnea, which I knew I didn’t have but I had no better options and went to my appointment.
The sleep physician told me I had Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). My body clock was timed to a later time. I had never heard of it. I researched the symptoms and it made perfect sense. I finally had a reason for why I couldn’t fall asleep, why I was always so tired in the mornings and why when I set an alarm I never woke refreshed.
As it turns out DSPS is more common than you might think. I was living with it for years and had never heard of it. The prevalence is higher in adolescents and reported to be 7% to 16% across the whole population.
This diagram shows the difference between someone with a ‘normal timed body clock’ and someone with a ‘late timed body clock’. The latter was me.
The Solution: My Lucky Break
My Sleep Physician recommended light therapy to me. I was a skeptic having tried so many other options and didn’t understand how light could reset my body clock and fix my sleep, but to my amazement it worked! I followed a schedule whereby I used light therapy slightly earlier each day. I noticed a significant difference after just one week of use.
I now sleep and have the energy to do more of what I enjoy
I still use light to regulate my sleep cycle. In 2013, I started using Re-Timer a portable light therapy device, worn like a pair of spectacles. I wear it over my reading glasses for thirty minutes while reading the newspaper and having breakfast. It is safe and easy.
I am so grateful to now understand my sleep and be able to control it. If you know someone who feels tired at the wrong times, maybe they too have a mis-timed body clock. I hope by sharing this story it helps to spread the word about these under-diagnosed disorders.
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