Late Sleep

Reporter: Tineka Everaardt

Teens sleeping-in until late morning is a familiar scene, played out across millions of Australian homes every day. But that sleep-in could signal something more sinister than typical teen behaviour.

Emma Botterill suffers from a little-known condition called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder -- it affects 7 in every 100 teens. The symptoms are poor concentration, reduced attention span, increased moodiness and tiredness -- it's also linked to insomnia and depression. "You just can't seem to physically get out of bed because your body isn't ready to wake up yet", Emma said.

Not much is known about why people develop this disorder. What we do know is it can impact anyone but teens are much more likely to have it.

At Melbourne's Monash University, they're delving deeper into this mysterious syndrome.

Professor Shantha Rajaratnamsay says suffers usually go to bed in the early hours of the morning and get up around noon. If they're forced to get up any earlier they feel groggy. It's a bit of a problem for those 9am lessons or exams. It's not just kids being kids. "This is not a disorder that is caused by lack of effort or laziness. It is actually a disorder caused by disruption to the biological clock", Professor Rajaratnamsay said.

Melatonin is at the centre of it all. When the body releases this hormone it helps you fall asleep and it's timing is controlled by your internal biological clock. . "If we measure the evening rise of melatonin then we're able to truly identify whether the person has a delayed biological clock", Professor Rajaratnamsay said.

The Professor is looking for people in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide to be part of a new sleep study. They'll test you for DSPD and hope to develop a new treatment. "We know anecdotally that many report that melatonin administration may be effective in the treatment of sleep phase disorder, so we're going to test that rigorously in this study", Professor Rajaratnamsay said.

Late sleeper Belle Jackson is keen to get tested. "It would explain so much", Belle said. But mum Jackie has her doubts. "They've got school, they've got socializing, social media, late nights, early mornings -- so what can you put down to absolute tiredness and exhaustion", Jackie said.

It's not just younger Aussies affected by sleep issues. 24-7 lifestyles are tiring us out. Megan Brittain is a single, working mother of three and like many, she isn't getting the recommended eight to nine hours of shut eye every night. "By the time you get home and try to wind down and then get to sleep it can be quite late", Megan said.

Doctor Maree Barnes from the Sleep Health Foundation believes it's the stuff nightmares are made of. "People can become depressed and anxious, it can predispose to other behavioural and mental illnesses", Dr Barnes said.

So, for a good night's sleep try setting yourself a time for bed; switch off that technology at least half an hour before; avoid alcohol and cigarettes and stick to a routine which helps you unwind before you turn in. "We need to start prioritising sleep and planning for a good night's sleep every night", Dr Barnes said.

If you're interested in getting involved in the sleep study head to to see if you're eligible

For more information on DSPD or any other sleep disorders - Sleep Health Website