I hope this may help someone else too!
I am excited to share with you that I have been sleeping between 10pm-6am and waking up refreshed for 2 months now, after 6 years of late, miserable, scattered sleep. I do realise 2 months of good sleep may not be long enough to be positing a success story, so I will keep you updated in the coming months if success continues. Skip to the solution section if you've read it all before.
Below is my sleep diary.
Like many others, my sleep issues began in High School. It was 6 years ago when I began to regularly not feel tired until after 1am. I would happily stay up until early hours of the morning doing school work, watching movies and playing piano or drums (to my neighbours delight). After the first year of this sleeping pattern I began to feel extremely tired during the day, often falling asleep in class, crashing in the afternoon and then waking up around dinner and staying up past 1am. This started to affect my grades and socialising, and I began to feel depressed and anxious. The main symptoms that followed me in the next 4 years were -
At this point I joined the Non-24 Facebook group and a friendly member mentioned that she'd had success with a doctor local to me. I went to him with my sleep diary and he diagnosed me with DSPD (with possible Non-24). He explained that my body clock is ignoring the normal cues and that sleep hygiene is unlikely to reset it. His solution was for me to take 0.5mg of melatonin 5 hours before bed each night, in combination with light therapy.
Night 1: Take 1mg of Melatonin 2 hours before desired bedtime.
Night 2: Take 1mg of Melatonin 2 hours before desired bedtime.
Night 3: Take 1mg of Melatonin 3 hours before desired bedtime.
Night 4: Take 1mg of Melatonin 4 hours before desired bedtime.
Night 5: Take 0.5mg of Melatonin 5 hours before desired bedtime.
Continue 0.5mg of Melatonin 5 hours before desired bedtime for 1 month and re-assess. If successful, alternate nights with and without melatonin, until you are confident without it.
Put on the blue light blocking glasses 2 hours before bed for the first 3 nights, then 3 hours before bed from then on. (Personally I just put them on at sunset)
Use the Re-Timer glasses (or light box) the moment you wake for 1 hour.
6 years ago my blood test showed I had a Vitamin D level of 60nmol (24ng/ml). I got it tested again this year and it hadn't changed. Apparently a healthy range is 50-250nmol (20-100ng/ml) After reading a few research articles on Vitamin D and sleep, including this one, I decided to boost my Vitamin D up to the mid-range just to be safe. I also took a Vitamin B complex and a Multi-Vitamin. I went off the Vitamin D after a month, but within a week my brain fog had come back, so I went back on it - brain fog disappeared. Tried to lower it to 5k a day - brain fog came back. I'm back on 14k a day (which is too high!) so I'll be chatting to my endocrinologist about this.
I stopped using the melatonin after a month as it began to make me feel very drowsy. I also rarely use my Re-Timers, as I go outside and exercise first thing. I still limit my artificial light exposure after sunset as much as possible, and I still follow good sleep hygiene. Now that it's winter in Australia and is dark in the morning, my schedule has shifted later. But I still sleep great!