Advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS) is a sleep disorder that causes people to fall asleep and awaken earlier than they would like. ASPS doesn’t prevent people from performing typical daytime activities, although these individuals are unable to remain awake for evening activities. Advanced sleep phase syndrome affects less than 1 percent of U.S. adults, according to the American Sleep Association (2007), and is more common in elderly people.
Symptoms of ASPS include:
- Awakening spontaneously at an earlier time than desired
- Being unable to stay awake until desired bedtime
- Falling asleep as early as 6 p.m., and no later than 9 p.m.
- Waking up as early as 1 a.m., and no later than 5 a.m.
ASPS isn’t life threatening and won’t necessarily affect your health or routines. Advanced sleep phase syndrome causes mainly social difficulties, as the rest of the world functions on a different sleep-wake cycle. Serious side effects may occur, however. A person with ASPS may fall asleep while driving, for example, if she stays up past her normal bedtime. Sleep deprivation may also be a concern, if you’re unable to get a full night’s rest.
Causes of Advanced Seep Phase Syndrome
Advanced sleep phase syndrome results from irregular circadian rhythms â€” internal clocks that regulate many natural functions, including sleep-wake patterns. Melatonin secreted by the pineal gland may make people with ASPS very sensitive to light. When the sun goes down, people with ASPS naturally produce high level of melatonin, which controls sleep. Alternatively, early morning light causes people with ASPS to wake up.
When ASPS runs in families, which occurs often, the condition is called familial advanced sleep phase syndrome.
Diagnosing Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome
Circadian timing issues have many underlying causes. Before diagnosing ASPS, your doctor will need to rule out other conditions.
Most advanced sleep phase syndrome patients need to keep a sleep diary for two weeks. A sleep diary is a record of various aspects of sleeping behavior. You may also participate in an overnight sleep study at a sleep center.
Light Therapy for Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome
Many people with advanced sleep phase syndrome respond to light therapy, which involves sitting in front of a bright light for about two hours in the evening. These special lights are five times more intense than home lighting. Exposure to this bright light in the evening helps the body remain awake.
Although light therapy helps people with ASPS stay awake during the evening, it doesn’t help them sleep longer in the mornings. When the sun begins to rise, ASPS patients awaken, regardless of how late they went to bed. Keeping the room dark in the morning may resolve this problem.
American Sleep Association. (2007). Advanced sleep phase syndrome/disorder. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://sleepassociation.net/index.php?p=advancedsleepphasesyndrome.
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Melatonin and sleep. Retrieved August 27, 2010 from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/melatonin-and-sleep.
Stanford University. (1999). Advanced sleep phase syndrome. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/advanced.html.
Toh, K. L., Jones, C. R., He, Y., Eide, E. J., Hinz, W. A., Virshup, D.M.