New hope for night owls

National Office

A woman not sleeping with a pillow pulled over her headIn the spirit of our 2010 Big Sleep Survey National Project, Professor Shantha Rajaratnam of the Sleep and Circadian Medicine Laboratory at Monash University is hoping to reset the physiological clock in individuals which suffer from Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD) is a circadian rhythm disorder defined as a sleep schedule occurring substantially later than the conventional or desired time. Its affects 7-16% of adolescents and young adults and is associated with poor health and impaired academic and social functioning.

Two major signs of DSPD are difficulty waking at an early time and difficulty falling asleep until late in the evening. These symptoms sometimes make DSPD resemble insomnia and in fact, approximately 10% of diagnosed insomniacs actually have DSPD.

A multi-centre collaboration involving Monash University, Flinders University, University of Sydney and Harvard Medical School will test in a randomised controlled trial whether the hormone melatonin can be used as a treatment for DSPD.

The study will recruit healthy men and women who work or study five or more consecutive days per week. It will include four study visits over an eight week period where participants will:

  • be monitored for sleep-wake behaviour;
  • visit a sleep laboratory for collection of saliva samples;
  • take either melatonin or placebo for a four week period; and
  • have 2 x 30 minute consultations with a Sleep Physician

The study will provide a much-needed standardised diagnostic and treatment approach for DSPD.

To volunteer for the research or to find out more information you can make contact by email, telephone Michelle Magee Ph.D on +61 03 9905 3952 or complete an online survey.