Get Some Sleep: Are you a night owl? Here's why
November 30th, 2010
01:41 PM ET

Get Some Sleep: Are you a night owl? Here's why

I hear the floorboards creak, the toilet flush, first one shoe drop to the floor, then the other.  My husband pulls back the covers and climbs into bed, disturbing the dog, who now spins around rattling her tags looking for a new, cozy den.  I groan and turn over to look at the clock:  3 a.m., an early night for him.  You see, my husband is what many people call a "night owl," but really he suffers from a circadian rhythm sleep disorder called delayed sleep phase disorder.

Circadian rhythm means a 24-hour cycle.  Humans have a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle that is linked to the 24-hour cycle of the sun.  So, in the optimal situation, we rise in the morning and after about 16 hours of wakefulness we are sleepy and we go to bed and sleep for eight hours.  In my last blog, I talked about shift work disorder and how shift workers are not able, because of their jobs, to flow with this natural rhythm.

People with delayed sleep phase disorder also get out of sync with what we would consider normal bed times (10 p.m. to midnight), but for unknown reasons. The exact prevalence in the general population is unknown, but it is estimated to affect 7 percent to 16 percent of teens and young adults.

Delayed sleep phase disorder usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood.  Sleep onset is delayed at least two hours from social norms, and these altered sleep/wake times can impair the work, academic and social parts of sufferers' lives. People with DSPD often complain of insomnia because they try to go to sleep at a normal time but their internal rhythm is set to a later time and sleep is usually impossible until very late.  Then, if they have to get up for work or school, they are very tired and sleepy in the daytime and are not functioning at their highest capabilities. Often, they will steal a nap, but that only sets them up for further delay in their bedtime.

Usually the patients who show up at the sleep center are teens who are brought in by their mothers because they can't get up and make it to their early morning classes.  Their grades are failing and the school is threatening to expel them.  How do I help them?  Well, I must return to my near-constant theme:  Light.

We get them on a schedule where we slowly move up their bedtimes - just 15-30 minutes each time over a series of weeks. With each change in bedtime, they are instructed to be sure to avoid bright light two hours before the desired bedtime.  We often need to use glasses that filter the blue light because it is not realistic to think that teenagers are not going to be on the computer or using some electronic device.  I also have them get outside and get some bright light in the mornings.  Where I am in Chicago, for much of the year we recommend that such patients use light boxes in the morning. I recommend the ones made by Lite Book because they use LED technology, which means they are smaller and patients  need to spend only 15-30 minutes in front of the unit.

We also use melatonin, but not as a sleep aid.  Instead, we use it to alter people's circadian rhythm, and therefore, we give it 5-7 hours before desired bedtime and we use small doses (0.5-1.0 mg).  And I always recommend that they try this at home the first few times in case it makes them sleepy right away.

I would like to caution that although this general principle of bright light in the morning and dim light before bedtime is easy enough to understand, it is also easy to apply the principle incorrectly and actually make matters worse.  For example, a well-meaning mother of a 16-year-old reads this and tomorrow morning hauls her son out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to get him to his first AP class.  The next night, to her dismay, he stays up even later, and getting him up the following morning would require inviting the marching band to hold practice in his bedroom.

What has gone wrong?  Well, when mom got him up at 6:30 a.m., he had only had 4½ hours of sleep and his core body temperature had not reached its low point.  When his eyes received bright light before the lowest drop in core body temperature, then the internal clock in the brain was being reset to a later time and actually delaying the sleep onset for the next night. Many times we have to wait until a vacation to try to reset someone's clock.  Most times, the help of a sleep physician is essential, and always, the patients themselves have to want to change their schedule.

Another word of caution: It is easy to confuse this disorder with insomnia, but just giving the young person a sleeping pill doesn't usually work to reset the internal clock.

Why do some teens have these dramatic shifts in sleep onset and not others?  This can run in families and changes in one of the circadian clock genes have been associated with this disorder but we cannot yet point to a specific genetic mutation that causes this problem. Delayed sleep phase can be associated with depressive symptoms but the good news is:  Many will naturally outgrow it, especially when the responsibilities of adult life force them into becoming morning people.  Some, like my husband, will return to their nocturnal ways every chance they get.

Lisa Shives, M.D., is the founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. She’ll blog on Tuesdays on The Chart. Read more from her at Dr. Lisa Shives’ Sleep Better Blog.

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.

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  1. Melissa

    Interesting. Not sure how much I believe it. I've always been one to go to bed late and sleep late. I've been forced to adjust so that I go to bed at 11 pm or midnight rather than 2 am like I want to, but given just a couple days off, its easy to fall back in to that.

    No, adjusting bright light won't do a thing, no matter what the writer of this article likes to pretend. Bright light isn't the issue. The issue is that I feel more comfortable at night than I do during the day. Its more peaceful so I can relax for a while.

    November 30, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Allison

      I wouldn't be so harsh to reject the author's scientific reasoning for the argument based on your personal experience. There's a difference between preferring to stay up late and having a biological inclination for it. From what you say, Melissa, it seems like you prefer the peacefulness of the late evening. Had you gone through a rigorous training of resetting your biological rhythm, I'm sure it would have been effective.

      November 30, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
    • Caed

      I have to agree with you, night is just more peaceful and there are fewer distractions and interruptions when you want to get something done. I'm sick of the 'daybreakers' that think the rest of the world should revolve around their schedule and ridicule us 'night owls'.

      November 30, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
    • no but for real...

      no but for real...

      November 30, 2010 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      I'm with you Melissa. I'm much more alert and productive at night.

      November 30, 2010 at 16:59 | Report abuse |
    • Alexandra

      I agree with Melissa that going to bed late is no sickness as long as you feel rested the next morning. I may suggest reading some reputable scientific articles and you will see that there is extensive research on this and that there is such a person as an "extreme owl" or a "lark". As for the article if you want to sell more melatonin or encourage therapy where it is not needed, good job.

      November 30, 2010 at 18:10 | Report abuse |
    • Evan D.

      Alexandra: "...going to bed late is no sickness as long as you feel rested the next morning. ... As for the article if you want to sell more melatonin or encourage therapy where it is not needed, good job."

      Your first sentence is mostly correct, but your sleep cycle also needs to not interfere with your day-to-day life. As mentioned near the start of the article, many of the people getting these therapies are teens who aren't making it to class or whose grades are slipping because they're tired. That goes beyond "going to bed late is no sickness" and *certainly* doesn't sound like "not needed" therapy to me.

      November 30, 2010 at 21:58 | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      MELISSA...........I have been a night worker all my adult life right up until my retirement. Now that have lots of time to sleep, I find that I still enjoy the peace and quiet of the night to get my work done (grocery shopping, washing clothes, cleaning house and the like). Every morning about 6 or 7AM I beging to get sleepy as the light of day breaks over my house and I turn in and sleep soundly until about 2PM everyday. I still get out during the day to get my sunlight even though I hate it. I think some people were just born to be "Night Hawks". I am one that soars high at night and shuts out the light of day to sleep.

      November 30, 2010 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
    • Alexandra

      To Evan D. In your opinion it is "needed" therapy to try to force somebody's natural "late rhythm" to obey the not very flexible school/work hours? How about trying to lobby for changing the inflexible work/school hours for those who are true extreme owls? Just another angle ;^)

      November 30, 2010 at 23:21 | Report abuse |
    • christine


      much better article about biological clocks and sleep schedules. i'm naturally a nocturnal person and don't see myself as having a 'disorder.' how degrading.

      December 1, 2010 at 00:35 | Report abuse |
    • Emerson

      I've been dealing with this (though it doesn't really bother me) since I was thirteen or fourteen and I agree with Melissa. At night, after everyone else is in bed, I can finally relax. And whether I'm on the internet or reading a book I still don't get tired until well after 'normal' bedtime.

      December 1, 2010 at 00:38 | Report abuse |
    • Bismarck

      The draw of it being "peaceful" at night can be very great, especially if someone is stressed, or depressed about something. If a person is already a night owl, and is also under stress for some reason, being up late gives a desired escape. Nobody expects anything from you at 3 A.M. No boss, no children, no parents, and no significant other expecting things from you. Besides circadian rhythm issues and insomnia there are strong social and psychological reasons for people staying when others are sleeping (even if they personally aren’t aware of it.)

      December 1, 2010 at 01:12 | Report abuse |
    • ME

      If you are able to adjust to "normal" times with so little trouble, then this article has nothing to do with you. People with sleep phase disorder experience extreme difficult with early sleeping and wake times. The lights used to adjust sleep phase disorders are not just "bright lights." They are full spectrum specialty lamps designed to mimic sunshine. You really shouldn't try to dismiss scientific studies based on your own experiences that are completely unrelated to those of people who actually do have sleep phase disorder.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:01 | Report abuse |
    • JacktheCritic

      I completely agree with you Melissa. I can't work during the day very well. Too many people at the Library or moving around at home. Night is just a simpler time with fewer distractions.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:16 | Report abuse |
    • Carl

      I'm a night owl too. But when going camping, after to the 2nd day, I get to bed early no problem. I'm sure its because I'm no longer exponsed to light after 7:00 or 8:00 PM...not even a laptop monitor. The darker and more remote the camp, the easier it is to sleep.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:24 | Report abuse |
    • NightOwl

      I don't think that people who are not night owls can understand... I agree with Melissa. My mind is much sharper and I am more productive after 11 pm, when most people go to sleep. Even when I had to adjust my schedule for long periods of time when I worked at the office (years!) I still felt sleepy and lethargic through out the day. I am not a teenager, I'm 56. My energy perks up in the later evening. Now, since I have been working from home, I am accomplishing a whole lot more by going to sleep at about 4 am and getting up at 11. Still, first part of the day is better to be given to errands, exercise, etc, and getting to working at about 6 or 7pm, until I am ready to sleep again by about 4 am.. This works for me 😛

      December 1, 2010 at 02:38 | Report abuse |
    • kerry

      @ Carl – I was going to write the exact same thing. I'm usually up to 2 am or later, no matter what time i have to get up. But I'm always staring into a screen of some sort. When I go backpacking into nowhere and camp out, I'm in bed as early as 8 or 9, knocked out cold, and I wake up naturally right before dawn. It's the most amazing experience. Go back to civilization, and I'm wide awake yet again.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:40 | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Nothing better than night time for getting anything done...no interruptions quiet, you feel like you have the entire world to yourself. When I do have to get up at 6 or 7 in the morning I'm always amazed at just how long the day seems. Anyway like everything else, moderation is the key. I found out early on that given nothing to do, my normal bed time seems to be 7 am in the morn...always goes back to this if I spend more than a week being idle. So I split the difference, make it 3 am....I only get 5 hours of sleep during the week, but its not like I'm running marathons at 2 am...Pretty much sedentary from about 12 PM on...I figure the mind gets 5 hours of rest and the body 12 lol.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:50 | Report abuse |
    • Anthony

      I am with all you night owls. The night is your time!

      December 1, 2010 at 03:36 | Report abuse |
    • Francisco

      I too am a 'night owl', but there is an important factor Melissa and most of you have ignored: is it possible that you are more awake, focused, productive, etc., precisely _because_ your circadian rhythm is not normal?

      December 1, 2010 at 06:44 | Report abuse |
    • Francisco

      Sorry; I meant "... mkore productive, etc. late at night", but you get my drift.

      December 1, 2010 at 06:49 | Report abuse |
    • HPN

      I prefer to stay up a little late and get up a little later and as some have said it has to do with winding down and besides 9 to 12 is when the best programs come on TV. If it does become a problem however, it might be worth looking at a reduction in consumption of drinks with sugar or caffeine and yes cigarettes 2 hours before bed time.

      December 1, 2010 at 08:37 | Report abuse |
    • Beeper

      Couldn't agree more- love the quiet and solitude of the night with no one around to op-ed everything I do!

      December 1, 2010 at 12:31 | Report abuse |
    • Zuly

      True I am the same way I think better when am awake at night and just what to sleep in the day.. I tried coffee, even redbull nothing works, I been like this since i was 12 ... I tried to sleep at night like going to sleep at 9 pm and be in the dark.. it work for a while but again am back in the same thing of staying up late and wanting to sleep in, but me having kids make me feel like am in a dream state the whole day.. but when i get a chance to nap I take it .. managing my life is hard but this of just my brian wanting to stay awake .

      January 12, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse |
  2. Rip Van Winkle


    November 30, 2010 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mandy

    Tell them all to have a baby that wakes up at 6am sharp, and see how long they delay their bed time past 10pm! lol

    November 30, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie K

      one of the myriad reasons I have remained childless by choice...

      November 30, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      Sadly, a crying baby is just as easy for my brain to tune out as an alarm clock or a grumpy spouse....

      November 30, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      Sad for my employer or child (who are almost grown, thank goodness), good for me, I suppose 🙂

      November 30, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      My daughter's almost five no, no matter how early I've had to get up with her, my body still won't shut down until at least 1-2 a.m. Same goes for any job and schooling I've had that required being up early. I'd just catch up the difference on weekends or days off, and supplement with caffeine to make the morning less brutal. Even if I only get two hours of sleep, after about 8 p.m. my body naturally starts to wake up as I hit my "prime" period of the day – even without caffeine. If I fall asleep earlier than that or within that period of time, I won't be asleep for the night, and will wake up shortly after my normal "fall asleep" time. And even on the rare occasions I sleep at a normal time, and am up at a "normal" time, my body never feels rested. I don't really feel awake unless it's after 9 or 10 a.m. Sleeping pills tend to take forever for me to metabolize and just make the problem worse. This started when I was a teenager, and I'm almost 30 now. I like to think at some point it will normalize, but my mom suffers from the same problem and still falls into the same routines when given the opportunity, even in her mid-50s. I suspect for some of us, no amount of therapy will cure it unless you really can stick to a consistent sleep schedule, and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule isn't always feasible, due to job, families, or simply emotional health. For me, night is the only time I truly have to myself.

      November 30, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
    • grace

      I need at least 2 alarm clocks to wake up. Sometimes I turn them off in my sleep, sometimes my brain incorporates noises into dreams. Sometimes my husband wakes me up and talks to me, yet when I'm very tired I fall back to sleep and I don't even remember talking to him when I'm up. So no at thist time a screeming baby wouldn't wake me up immediately; but I'm sure that after few days I would be more intune with a baby and would process the sounds quicker.
      It doesn't mean that I cannot be counted on to be at work on time. It just means that unless I have a regular work schedule, it is very difficult for me to be on time, because my brain doesn't know how to rest on cue. And yes when I have a regular work schedule, most of the time I fall a sleep at 10-11pm. But it doesn't mean that I get adjusted to the new cycle or that I'm not tired. It just means that it was too early for my body to wake up, and I am so exhausted enough that I'm falling asleep at 11 instead of sometime between 12 and 2am. And if you know anything about sleep, falling asleep because you didn't have enough sleep a night before and because you're exhausted is different than falling asleep naturally. Even when I wake up early during the week, when the weekend comes and I'm sleeping until 9-10am. I've been like that since I was little. I wish people would understand that it's not about being lazy. It's more about regaining energy and being ready to use it. The funny thing is, it's much easier for me to wake up after 1-3 hours of sleep (before 5am) than sometime between 5:00am-8:30am.
      I don't complain about my work hours.
      What I complain about is loosing my time on commuting, because of poorly designed transportation systems as well as city districts. I still can't get why it takes so much time to get from one part of a city to another in the XXI century. Also, why do we need to work, play, live, in separate areas? Most neighborhoods within large cities (for example in Chicago) don't have much variety. To go shopping you have to waste time on getting there, same with everything else.. Why do mayors of big cities focus business in downtown, industrial areas some in another area, and living in yet another area or in the suburbs. This focus makes us rely on transportation, parking fees, etc. instead of on walking or bicycling to work. The funny thing is, this artificial city design comes from our taxes, because mayors bribe companies to bring their offices downtown for large tax breaks, instead off allowing companies to take their companies wherever feels best for them as long as it's within our country. Then majors raise taxes and market values of downtown properties increase in price for those who also want to live there, but large business has the best of both worlds (low taxes and downtown location), while everyone else looses sleep and wastes 1/12 of their lifespan commuting.

      November 30, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse |
    • NightOwl

      @CJ: Ditto. I feel the same! I got up early for school and work as well as when I was raising my son, but I never got to 100% till about 8 pm. Now in my 50's, I work from home and stopped fighting my natural cycle. Working late at night is very peaceful and productive.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:49 | Report abuse |
    • ME

      Just like alarm clocks don't work for delayed sleep phases, neither do babies. The parents might have to wake up for the baby, but it certainly doesn't change their biological need to sleep later. They will just end up suffering.

      December 1, 2010 at 05:00 | Report abuse |
  4. Katie K

    Please – a "disorder"? I think not. I was born at approx 12:30 am and am simply a "night owl". I was 19 when I found out there was a natural work shift for me – 3pm to 11pm. I've worked graveyard and I've worked days and the only time I felt normal and rested was during the afternoon shift. There's a whole world out there for us night owls – we just need to find it instead of being made to "fit in" with the day people.

    November 30, 2010 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sleepless in wherever

      I have to agree with you KatieK, There are fortunately many jobs that "normal" people can't handle such as night shift work and we "disfuntional" people fill that nich. I worked nights most of my working life and felt great every night I did. The absolute worst jobs were the normal 9-5 jobs that we are supposed to enjoy, it was "painfull". I can wish to go to sleep early all I want but the bottom line is not until I'm ready about, 5am. I can get away with getting up at "normal" hours for a short period of time say a week or two at most, but when I have a chance to get caught up to my clock I'm caught up in a day or two.
      Hang in there you bunch of disfuntional wackos and find that night shift.

      November 30, 2010 at 20:35 | Report abuse |
    • Tara C

      Right on, Katie K! I do well as a freelance writer because I am a night owl. When breaking news happens elsewhere in the world at 3 a.m. EST, guess who gets the scoop? 🙂

      December 1, 2010 at 00:35 | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      I am a night owl. I have been since I was a young child. I have been called lazy, bad, and evil my whole life by my morning loving mother. She has told me that my husband will divorce me and that no one will be my friend for my unproductive ways. Fortunately, I am intelligent enough to rise above this abuse and find my own way. I was a bartender and waitress for 6 years. I never had to set an alarm clock, always was awake in plenty of time for work, and always well rested. I have a child now, and must conform for the time being, and I think it is taking a toll on me. This is just where I am now, and when my life alows it again, I will return to my 4am to 2pm sleep cycle and revel in it!

      Does it occur to anyone that someone was awake watching out for the morning people all night to keep them safe in the dark?

      December 1, 2010 at 03:03 | Report abuse |
  5. Joanna

    My husband has a delayed sleep phase. Left to his own devices, he naturally sleeps from about 4am until noon. Even since we've had a baby (who is now 12 weeks old), he has barely been able to shift up his sleep schedule. Even though he's exhausted and up early in the morning to go to daycare, he rarely gets to bed before 2am because he just can't fall asleep.

    A truly sleep-phase delayed person cannot fall asleep at 10pm even with a baby who wakes up at 6am sharp. There is a difference between choosing to go to sleep late and waking up late because it's more fun having a genuinely delayed sleep cycle.

    My husband's father is 60 years old and is just like my husband. It's not something that only affects teenagers and they don't always grow out of it. Both chose careers that offer more flexibility than your standard 8am-5pm office jobs. Ironically, my job requires me to wake up at 5am so we often see each other as I'm getting ready for work and he's going to bed.

    November 30, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. jlf

    Learned something valuable here about core body temp influence with re-setting schedule. How does this work with jet lag? Very interesting!

    November 30, 2010 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa Shives MD

      Actually, getting light at the wrong time for your temperature nadir is a big part of jet lag syndrome. I plan to do a separate blog post on this topic, perhaps next week, because it fits with the light theme that I have been writing about.

      November 30, 2010 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
  7. Josie

    You cannot imagine what this does to your life. I did not have this disorder until I was 50. The first couple of years I was a zombie. My body has gotten use to getting up with less than 3 hours of sleep at night, and I get catch-up sleep on the weekends. It plays havoc with your immune system, and I get sick frequently. I haven't had any fun on weeksends for a decade. If you don't have this disorder it is easy to think that it can dealt with by choosing to go to bed earlier. You cannot imagine what it is to be so tired that you crave sleep like a junkie craving a fix, but your body will not let you go to sleep until 4AM. Sleeping pills have no effect. Trust me – no fun!

    November 30, 2010 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Rick

    Wow, this totally describes my sleep patterns the past couple years. I'm definitely going to try the light thing. Thank you so much!

    November 30, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Joe in Colorado

    I think that society is the problem. I want to live in a society that gets to bed at 2am and rises at around 10am. What's wrong with that? I just don't understand why everybody wants to go to sleep and wake up so damn early!

    November 30, 2010 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rose

      Oh, but think of all the electricity that society will burn and have to work extra for!

      November 30, 2010 at 19:35 | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      Joe, an earlier poster said that the 3:00 PM to 11:00PM shift worked perfectly for her There is a place in this global scheme of things for late morning starters like you! Find your niche and keep the faith. There is room for all of us.

      November 30, 2010 at 23:36 | Report abuse |
    • ME

      Agreed. Who decides what "normal" is anyway? I read a study a few years ago that indicated that teenagers have a physical need to sleep later and stay up later, yet high schools often require them to be on a bus at 7 AM. We don't start schools early because it makes sense, we starts schools early because it's convenient for parents with "normal" jobs. I think it defies logic and common sense and the world would be so much more productive if there were multiple school and work shifts to allow people to attend when they can function at their best. No matter how early I go to bed, I still feel like death at 7 AM. My body just rebels against such barbaric early waking times and I don't mentally peak until around 10 PM.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:09 | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      Joe, if that is the schedule you're looking for then go to Spain. Dinner is between about 9pm and midnight. Most places don't open until 9-10 am. The problem is that this country is still stuck on farmers hours. Well we've had cheap electricity for a long time now. Just say no to farmers hours. I did and I get a great morning's sleep everyday from about 4am til noon. I get plenty of sunshine down here in Florida and these are the sleep hours my body always gravitates toward. If you stop arguing with your body and do as it tells you, then you will live a healthy life with plenty of rest and energy.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:24 | Report abuse |
  10. ELBSeattle

    Seriously? This is not a disorder. It's just how some people are. We have way too many 'disorders' in our society as it is. Let's not jump to add more.
    I have always been a night owl. It's my natural rhythm. I have read several recent studies that show people tend to be 'larks' or 'owls.' Since my job accommodates my sleep clock perfectly, it works out perfectly for me.
    I have also read that 'owls' tend to be more creative and, yes, intelligent than 'larks.' Might explain a few things here...

    November 30, 2010 at 16:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      Actually it is a disorder. Although this brief article doesn't really get into it, people with delayed phase sleep disorder have bodies that live on 26-28 hour days. Thus, they tend to go to bed later and later each night because their circadian rhythms are off. Plain old being a night owl is extremely different from having delayed sleep phase cycles.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:15 | Report abuse |
  11. Abbyka

    Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuullcrap. I suffer from insomnia. This whole daylight thing is nonsense, I could sit all day long if I wanted to in a bright spot of sunshine coming from the window and not be phased. My problem is that nighttime makes me anxious and even freaks me out. I've had a lot of bad experiences happen at night so my body tends to tense up more in the dark. I'm perfectly able to sleep during the daytime though, but I can't because I have kids. I stopped drinking caffeine altogether a while ago and it's the only thing that has helped in the slightest.

    November 30, 2010 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • no but for real...

      no but for real
      as a grad student who had taken three physiology courses, i can defend this as scientific fact. its biology. its not crap. and its not instant... it takes time but it is a natural physiological process involving your brain. its real.

      November 30, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      No need to call buuuuuuuuulcrap on something that obviously does not apply to you or your situation. It most definitely applies to me. I go to bed every night around midnight but I don't actually sleep until around 4am. And it has nothing to do with anxiety. Sleep just doesn't work for me before that time. The only time I ever felt really rested was when I worked from home and slept regularly from 5am to noon. I miss those days...

      November 30, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • Jade

      Nonsense! You need to learn how to go to bed on time!

      November 30, 2010 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      @Jade. On time for what? Design your life so that you're not a slave to a clock.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:29 | Report abuse |
    • nightwalker

      If you are anxious and nervous at night that is not simply insomnia and this article has nothing to do with you. You state it's because you've have bad experiances, so obviously a light box is not going to help you. It does, however, sound like you may need some sort of medical intervention, either from your family physician or possibly a therapist to help you work through whatever it is that happened to you that is troubling you so much.

      I don't know anything about you, so please don't be offended, but it's possible you might be developing something refered to as "Sundowners Syndrome", which the main symptom is extreme aggitation/anxiety/confusion in the evening. It typically affects Alzheimers and other types of dementia patients though so again, I have no way to say for sure since I don't know your age or history. It's just an observation.

      December 15, 2010 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
  12. Michael

    It's troubling and ignorant to label being a night owl as having a disorder. This just adds to the conviction of all those morning people that there is something wrong with us night people. I come from a long line of night owls - my mother, her mother, her mother, etc - and, like them, I need about 6 sleeps and my best sleep is from about 2:00-3:00 am to 8:00-9:00 am. All of us have struggled to deal with a world run by ignorant people like this author. I worked in a job where I had to go to bed early and awaken early - and I was miserable the entire 8 years despite my best efforts to adjust. Studies have shown that people do in fact have differing sleep cycles, and that some people are naturally predisposed to being night owls. Articles like this just perpetuate the myth that us night owls could be morning people if we would just quit bucking the system. I agree with Katie, Joe, and everyone else: the problem lies not with the owls but with the larks who expect the owls to be just like them.

    November 30, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      Being a night owl is completely different from having delayed sleep phase cycles. Many people prefer to be awake at night but can function on a normal schedule as needed. People with sleep phase disorders simply cannot function on "normal" schedules because their bodies live on a 26-28 hour cycle that consistently throws them off. I could sleep for ten hours and still not hear three hours of a blaring alarm clock because my body simply refuses to be awake and functional before a certain time. Obviously, you do NOT have sleep phase disorders or you would know what it's like.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:19 | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      @ME. The problem is that night owls are common and they are being caught up in trawl of having a disorder. Read the article, even the author's spouse is simply a night owl which displeases the author. Therefore he must be ill and will benefit from treatment for his no doubt infuriating body clock. Poor guy.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:36 | Report abuse |
    • niteshiftRN

      Totally agree Michael!! I'm in my mid-30's and have been convinced for years that being a night owl is genetic. I've been a late-nighter and so were my biological father and maternal grandmother. When I was in my early 20's I moved out of my parents and into my grandma's because my parents got tired of my night life and my grandma loved having someone up and home with her all night. Other than these two relatives I've always been the oddball in my family, and have had my fair share of criticism from relatives, friends, co-workers, etc.. I've heard it all, "why don't you just go to bed earlier and get up earlier?", "you need to learn to operate on 9-5 hours like the rest of the world does", and my personal favorite, "so what DO you do all night long?!?". Well to all you daytime people, guess what? We night people do the exact same stuff as everyone else–we cook and eat dinner, watch TV, clean house, shop, get A LOT of homework done (I'm a grad student, no better time to concentrate on lengthy papers and research!) and basically relax. The middle of the night is a lovely and peaceful time to take a drive. I remember when my hubby and I were first married, he used to make fun of me for staying up past 11 PM when he would head for bed. A few years later he left his day job to work in restaurant management, now is on my hours, and he fell in love with nighttime living. Fortunately I chose a profession where being a night owl is a HUGE advantage. I once worked hours most people would kill to have, 8:30-4:30 day shift. Did this for a year and hated every minute of it. Changed jobs back to what I considered more "normal" hours, 3P-3A, never looked back. Actually I'm not sure what is more difficult, getting up in the morning when you'd normally be sleeping, or trying to go to bed early the night before. Luckily I don't have to do this much, just on Sunday mornings for church, then take a nap after lunch for a couple hours and I'm good to go. So to all you day people out there, I've just given a glimpse of what life is like for us nighty owls. I consider it a rare gift to be a natural night person, certainly nothing to be ashamed about.

      December 1, 2010 at 04:05 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa Shives MD

      I am not stating my opinion in this blog post, I am sharing with readers the latest understanding and classification of delayed sleep phase disorder according to The International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 2nd ed; 2005. I am also not saying that all people who are night owls have a disorder. It is only considered dysfunctional if the shifted schedule adversely affects people's work, academic or social lives. If you are gainfully employed and have happy relationships, then likely you do not have a disorder. But many people want to change and they come to the doctor for help.

      December 1, 2010 at 10:41 | Report abuse |
  13. man_of_the_night

    There have been many scholarly books and articles written over the years about the sleep patterns of 'morning glories' and 'night owls'. Actually, many, if not most, of the world's most creative individuals have been night owls; so why would anyone equate being a night owl with having a disorder? Probably because the majority of people are morning glories and in our dumbed-down America we live by a mob (majority) rule mentality that encourages minorities to just be like "us". Perhaps night owls are the new gays – needing a "cure" for their affliction.

    November 30, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Cieje Valentine

    VEERRrrrry Interesting.. I can't cite this as THE reason for my troubles, as I have had ALL KINDS of sleep-related issues since birth. Food for thought I guess. Thank you, Dr. Shives.

    November 30, 2010 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Kari

    For me the worst part is the thought that everybody else in the entire world is sleeping... and I'm the only one awake or worse still, I'm the only one alive...!!! Though, it's funny when I think of it in the morning...!!!

    November 30, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Annie

    As a person who has a delayed awake/sleep schedule with a family, the offset pattern can indeed be considered a disorder. There are many people who need helpful suggestions to get more restful sleep. On the other hand, If you're lucky to have a personal schedule that isn't affected by personal or employment factors, just continue to enjoy being a night owl.

    November 30, 2010 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jade

      Makes total sense!!

      November 30, 2010 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
  17. Cieje Valentine

    It definitely isn't fun to deal with the "Normal" people who think you're just lazy or irresponsible in your private life because your body doesn't want to wake up till 1:pm..

    November 30, 2010 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      Oh yes. Thank god my dad has it too, because he completely understands. My mom doesn't. I'm over 30 and she still harasses me about when I go to bed. I finally had to say explain to her that I haven't lived in her home for 15 years and I am not affecting her in any way so she needs to stop with the closed mindedness and realize it does NOT matter when I need to sleep. Some "normal" sleepers just love to wallow in ignorance and act like their way is the only way. I'm glad we have an increasing number of 24 hour stores, because in 2010, there is no reason we should be ruled by outdated farmer's sleeping patterns that were based on sunlight and lack of electricity!

      December 1, 2010 at 02:23 | Report abuse |
  18. Kat

    I've always been a Night Owl. And I'm tired of Morning People (Larks?) telling me I'm the one who's wrong. My 2nd husband would literally pull the blankets off me in the morning on the weekends if I tried to sleep in one day. Hey, folks, I'm now in my 60's and am self-employed. I work afternoons and evenings and I'm rested and happy and do a good job. If you'd work with us, instead of trying to make us change, you might be amazed at what good employees and partners we can be. Who died and made Larks king?

    November 30, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      Exactly! If employers were more open minded about people's circadian needs, they could get way more productivity by varying potential work shifts.

      My ex husband used to scream at me for sleeping late, even though he forbade me to have a job. We had no kids and he wanted to feel manly by being the sole wage earner. I'd try to explain to him that if I'm not expected to be anywhere and I have no responsibilities other than cleaning our already immaculate house, it did NOT matter if I slept late. But, he was controlling and psycho and would call me on his way to work every morning to make sure I got up soon after he did. Crazy.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:26 | Report abuse |
    • niteshiftRN

      Exactly Kat!! I wonder if a single morning person ever thought of the fact that if it weren't for us in-the-minority night people who love to work the evening and late hours, that THEY would be the ones doing the graveyard shifts!! Not so pleasant thought is it you AM people?? Sheesh, you'd think they'd be grateful for us night owls working late so they don't have to!

      December 1, 2010 at 04:25 | Report abuse |
  19. abby

    I have been a "night owl" - according to my parents - since the day I was born. I was born early am and wentpromptly to sleep and that started a life-long pattern of seeking sleep in the day and staying up at night - I mean until 2 or 3 am - much to the chagrin of my parents. When I force myself to sleep at night and stay up during the day I feel like I am out of it.

    November 30, 2010 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. TheTeacherThePreacher

    Many species are nocturnal to avoid predators. Among humans, who vary individually from nocturnal to diurnal, you could make the evolutionary argument that the night owls must be the ones whose bodies are smart enough to avoid becoming lion fodder, and also smart enough to be awake when their prey is available. So why are the daybreakers in the majority, when they should have been selected out in prehistoric times? Don't have an answer , but it certainly explains why lions (and bosses) are still around...

    November 30, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shane

      As we are continually shown, but some of us still choose to deny, we are all of value and are all different. In former times, I believe that the night owls were of special use to the rest of society by providing a watchful eye while others rested. Without larks, regular folk, or night owls we may not have made it to where we are today. Today, a criminal case may be hanging from a single night owls testimony, when no one else was around. Or a house fire or accident may be noticed because one of us was awake. In any case like this, I think we should be thankful that we are all individuals.

      December 1, 2010 at 03:37 | Report abuse |
  21. Moonslice

    Love this article and the comments. I also have a naturally late sleep cycle, but people are amused or just think I'm lazy. Vacation is a great time to reset your sleep cycle - I just did it! I had to get up early to get on the road or visit, so I was sleepy at night. Now that I'm back home I'm too sleepy to stay up late. I have to decide which way I'll go. I already slept later today than I did on vacation, so my guess is I'll sleep 30 minutes later a day till I'm back to staying up late and sleeping until noon! That's how it usually goes. I also prefer nights. No interruptions. Yet, society does make us night owls feel ashamed. One day I'll embrace it and proudly announce to others I sleep late.

    November 30, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. pfcpat2

    I've been diagnosed with delayed sleep phase disorder too. The head of the sleep lab of a major hospital in my area told me that in his experience that unless this is addressed when the person is in high school, using the techniques suggested by the blogger, he's found it's nearly impossible to switch a "night owl" over to a normal circadian sleep rhythm. I have had this sleep pattern since high school and I'm 58 now and retired. I NEVER was able to successfully switch over to a normal rhythm for very long, and doing it was very stressful each time! When I had a 3pm to midnight job, I felt way better than when I had a job where I had to get to work at 6:00 am!! On that job, I HAD to take naps at work in order to be able to function!! On the way to work in the mornings, I'd almost fall asleep driving, MANY, MANY times! Thank God, I was never in a wreck!! Like a lot of you who are commenting, my energy spurt comes anywhere from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm and I usually go to bed by 2:00 am or 3:00 am in the morning, .... er.... night!! ALSO, my elderly father had the SAME pattern, even when he was in his 80's and 90's!! He'd be up, sitting in his chair, reading till 1:00 am!! He NEVER went to bed early like a lot of elderly people do! I'd wake up and find him reading and tell him he'd better get to bed! He'd look at the clock and be surprised that he was up so late! Of course, like other elderly people, he'd nap during the day while sitting in his chair reading!! When he was younger, he worked a midnight to morning shift, and seemed to feel good with that schedule. The 3:00 pm to midnight shift also worked well for him. Over the years I've gotten so TIRED of people telling me there was no such thing as a "night owl" and that if I was just disciplined enough, I could be like everyone else!! They were soooo.... WRONG!!

    November 30, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dtphilbrick

      You are speaking exactly what i went thru for 20 years. Falling asleep on the train, in my office at lunch. Any meeting where I was still for more then 10 minutes.

      December 1, 2010 at 03:32 | Report abuse |
    • penemuel

      Yes, I agree so completely with you! My parents were both the same way, and while I don't know about my grandparents, I'm certain it's genetic and normal for me. I understand that for some it should be considered a "disorder" because it affects their lives, but to lump all of us in the same category - implying that there's something WRONG with us - is insulting.

      January 6, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse |
  23. Swimmer23

    I have DSPD and I tried this light treatment seriously and saw no results. I've basically tried every sleep medication, most do nothing or make me have auditory hallucinations. THE ONLY THING that I've tried that helps me get to sleep and stay asleep is CANNABIS, usually a strong indica. It just dishabituates your sleep behavior, so you stop thinking about all the crap that happened in the day or things for tomorrow and puts you in the present, which means SLEEP! There's no bad side effects and it's easy to stop if needed. The only side effect is caused by PROHIBITION! LEGALIZE CANNABIS in 2012!

    November 30, 2010 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Owl

    Disorder? You've got to be kidding me. The only disorder these night owls suffer from is listening to morning people.
    It's quite obvious that night people are more creative and intelligent, and morning people more boring and conformist. Now not being like them is a disorder?

    November 30, 2010 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. KC

    For decades, I was forced to get up between 6-7 AM to get to school/work. I generally walked to school or work, thus getting 1/2 hour of sunlight early in the morning, and this did NOTHING to change the fact that I cannot fall asleep before 2 AM. Trust me, if decades of such behavior didn't do the trick, a week or two of vacation was not going to be enough to reset my body clock. I'm now self-employed and can work when I feel alert, not when some boss decrees I'm going to show up, awake or not.

    November 30, 2010 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • enuffisenuff

      You hit it right on ... work when you feel alert, and thus more productive ... that's what many employers do not understand. We have different clocks ... there are those who are alert in the mornings, and others in the afternoon/evevenings. It's about productivity and results – not time of day.

      November 30, 2010 at 22:03 | Report abuse |
  26. Veteran Insomniac

    Whether I have delayed sleep cycle disorder or chronic insomnia, I've been living on less than 3 hours of sleep in every 24 hours for more than 20 years. I go to bed on-time at 10pm, but can't sleep so I get up. Don't finally get back to bed (and to sleep, if at all) until around 2:30 or 3. I get up at 5:00 every morning (and have been for so long I don't even need an alarm clock anymore..). I feel like Ralph Roberts in Stephen King's _Insomnia_. 🙂 Would love to get some sleep. Been to every doctor on the planet, every one of whom has a different solution (none of which work), and while warm milk, honeycomb, dim light, and myriad other potential "home-grown" solutions have been tried, none of them have worked either. Sleeping pills just make me goofy (OK, more goofy than normal..). Do you have any suggestions, short of death, to get some sleep? (You'll be the 34th dr. I've asked..).

    November 30, 2010 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sporky

      I never had a problem with sleep until my first semester of college- somehow my schedule shifted to the opposite of what it was supposed to be, and it had horrid effects on my grades. I find that working out until I am sore and tired is the best way to fall asleep and stay asleep. Training for a marathon right now, and usually get 7 hours at night and a nap during the day.

      November 30, 2010 at 22:26 | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      I am a mason and fully agree with sporky. If I work hard enough, and I mean hard, I can get to bed earlier and have a more restful sleep. An exercise regimen may help some people. Make sure to not work out much before your desired bedtime as it takes a few hours for your body to cool down and be able to rest.

      December 1, 2010 at 03:48 | Report abuse |
    • janos

      Try the Silva methode – that is the best advice I can give to you – and will see results in 3 weeks – all the best from Hungary

      December 1, 2010 at 09:13 | Report abuse |
    • shoulder

      @ veteran insomniac, while 3hrs/night for 20 years is extreme, my sleep problems started with a shoulder injury. 8 years ago, i dislocated my left shoulder without knowing it by throwing fast balls with my off (left) arm. It was dislocated for 5 months (despite 3 ER visits for chest pains, etc...) before I finally figured it out and reset it. That whole time I got 15MINUTES of sleep a night, for 5 months. The worst torture i ever went through in my life. I was a complete zombie. The backflow of blood through my brachial artery to my heart and lungs, the complete stoppage of blood through my left carotid to my brain, the ice cold limbs, numbness, and shooting pains throughout my body (brain, gut, thighs, etc), the innervated throat column, the frothy mouth and insatiable thirst, the extremely dilated pupils, the bloodshot eye (left eye, inner half only), and 15 minutes of sleep a night, all for 5 months straightk, was intolerable. But i credit some internal mechanism in our body/brain with 'shocking' me awake every 'night' after a mere 15minutes of laying down, with probalby saving my life or saving me from some form of permanent damage. (i usually never get my 8hrs most nights now, and i also had 'VTach' last year, which was cured, which the doctors could have cared less what caused it, but i'm pretty sure 5 months of pounding chest pains and 'brachial backflow' and 'carotid-cutoff' might have had something to do with it :/ ) I'm 'not a doctor', but i might suggest, that those with less than, e.g. 5hours of sleep a night, have a complete physical done (not that doctors helped me at all – sent home each time 'normal' or with 'chest wall irritation' or some crap like that, with an rx for naproxen – :I ), and perhaps get a 'blood flow' workup done, etc. I.e. Be attuned as possible to your overall health condition, something maybe waking you up after only 3 hours for a reason; you ought to guess what that might be, if anything.

      December 4, 2010 at 04:23 | Report abuse |
  27. Kari

    All said and done... your body knows how to take care of itself... if it needs sleep, it'll drag you to bed one way or the other... bed or no bed, you may end up sleeping anywhere...

    November 30, 2010 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. SkiGirl

    Great comments. I guess I've never felt like there was anything wrong with being a night owl. Never took a college class before 10 a.m., hated every job that made me get up at the crack of dawn. Frankly, I don't think anyone likes getting up at 5 am! Have always loved staying up late and sleeping in until I'm good and ready to get up. I'm a highly productive artist and writer, and think it's just fine to love the night.

    November 30, 2010 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • penemuel

      Unfortunately, based on some of the folks I work with, who are at work 2 or 3 hours before me and actually wake up something like 4 to 5 hours before I do, some of them actually do LIKE getting up early. I honestly can't understand it myself. It's such an alien concept to me. I love seeing the sunrise, but only if I've been up all night!

      January 6, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
  29. phonecharger

    It is a good post,thank you for sharing!

    November 30, 2010 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. AM

    Im in 2 AP classes.
    I go to bed about midnight every night, and wake up at 6pm. I get really energetic at night, but in the morning i feel like a zombie. I literally have to roll out of bed to wakemyself up. I wrestle as well, as now that the season is starting, i might have to wake up at 5:30am to do some treadmill work to cut weight every few mornings.


    November 30, 2010 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Ramsey

    I've been a delayed phase sleeper for most of my 54 years. My only quibble with this account is that it's pegged as a "disorder." The percentage of people with this sleeping rhythm is roughly the same as those who are left-handed, which I also am. Why are these things automatically deemed disorders just because we're a relative minority? When left to my own devices - not tethered to 9-to-5 obligations - I'm REALLY content with my natural sleep rhythm. Still, Dr. Shives, this is a good report! Thanks for helping to get it into the mainstream!

    November 30, 2010 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marc

      Well in the 19th and early 20th century they did force lefties to write with their right hands. That learned 'em.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:46 | Report abuse |
    • penemuel

      Fellow night-owl/leftie here. And now I'm curious to find out how the statistics on that work out...

      January 6, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse |
  32. Kitty Pryde

    A disorder simply means: ": an abnormal physical or mental condition"
    This is a disorder, but too many people are translating "disorder" as a negative. It's not. It's just not the normal. There is nothing wrong with that. I was disagnosed with DSPD almost a decade ago after three years of seelng a sleep specialist. Nothing helps me. Sleeping pills don't work, I tried the light therapy for a year with no results. The only thing that can affect my sleeping pattern is the outlined treatment of resetting your Circadian rhythm. I usually do it in two hour intervals every other day. So if I'm normally sleeping at 4am, then I'll go to sleep at 6am, then two days later at 8am, etc. Make sure you don't sleep more than 8 hours (which I never can anyway) as well. Then you can get back to sleeping at a "normal time" (10pm – midnight), at least I can for a little while. I've just accepted it and learned to deal with it.
    For those of your disagreeing with the article or berating it, this is a true sleeping disorder. How do I know? Because I've had it for almost my entire life. It's not insomnia. It is different from insomnia. There are a myriad of sleeping disorders other than just "insomnia". Each are different. And labeling something a disorder is fine. Calling it a "disease" would be wrong, but she didn't call it that. People should calm down and just look at it scientifically.

    November 30, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marc

      How can you say this is not normal? How is waking up before dawn with an alarm clock normal? It's trained behavior. Instilled in you by those who would profit from your labor. Could your sleeping disorder be that you just haven't woken up yet?

      December 1, 2010 at 02:53 | Report abuse |
  33. kazz

    sleep is for the weak

    November 30, 2010 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Ramsey

    A very reasoned response, Kitty. Thank you! As for my coping mechanism, I've made long-term peace with Ambien - a drug not to be trifled with but very effective. I was also formally diagnosed by a sleep specialist, but not before suffering the lifelong, insidious effects of trying to adapt to the more popular human sleeping rules.... 😉

    November 30, 2010 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Stacy

    I have been a night owls for years. Have tried many things to try and change that. Nothing lasts very long and I fall back to my old ways, being a night owl. My family and friends know (wish work knew and would stop calling my house at 8am for something stupid that I can address when I come in at 4pm!) and tend not to call on me until afternoon. Lately I have felt sick and tired of being a night owl. Everything happen during the day. I feel left out and alone alot at night sitting all by myself reading or watching tv. Would like to do more house work at night but would wake up my fiance sleeping away in the other room. On some of my vacations to Mexico I have been able to get up early (like 8-9am) with no problem. When I get back, I wake early, but then fall back to my sleep of about 4-5am to noon-1pm. My fiance works day shift and I work 4pm – 12:30am. When I get home from work he is asleep. When he leaves for work, I am asleep. I had the chance to move to a day shift of 9am – 5:30pm. I start that in January. I am hoping to get turned around and turn into a day person. I admit I have my doubts. I'm worried I am still going to be awake until 4-5am and then have to get up and go to work on little to no sleep. But, I am willing to give it a try for the sake of something new in my life. I feel like I am in a rut and I want out! I plan on using sleeping pills the first week or so. I managed to do days while doing an internship years ago, and still worked 2nd shift. We will see. Nothing wrong with being a night owl, I'm just ready for a change, that's all.

    November 30, 2010 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sleepy Zombie

    I think this must be my problem. I know it's not really insomnia because when I am sleepy I can sleep, it's just that I don't get sleepy until it's really late or I'm just so sleep deprived I can't help but go to sleep. It's making me miserable and I literally feel like a sleepy zombie. I'm lucky I have a job where they are flexible enough to let me come in a little later. It helps some but I still can't get enough sleep it seems. Where can we find out more about light therapy and maybe getting some of those glasses that filter blue light?

    November 30, 2010 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Mickie

    I have to side with the natural night owls here, and that's right I used the word natural. I have four kids and have had a variety of jobs over the years. I can and have switched to earlier schedules (while still getting a normal amount of sleep), but given a preference I always revert to 1-2 a.m. to 9-10 a.m. for my sleep time. I do my best work in the afternoons and evenings, and feel happiest during those times. In the early part of the morning my brain feels sluggish and I feel "out of synch." I cannot nap, either, it has the same effect on me-I feel like I am on the outside of the world looking in and have lost something I can't find if I take a bite out of the middle of the day and nap. I would rather be tired and go to bed at night than nap. To me that sleep pattern just feels normal and healthy-it is what my mind and body prefers. I don't buy into what feels natural being diagnosed as a disorder requiring medical treatment.

    November 30, 2010 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LaLa

      Mickie, I totally agree.

      November 30, 2010 at 23:34 | Report abuse |
    • ME

      1-2 AM? That's nothing. People who actually have delayed sleep phase disorder are usually up until sunrise. 1-2 AM is nothing more than a regular night owl.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:30 | Report abuse |
  38. nonhyperbolic

    I'm one of these people. I'm in my 40's and have struggled with it all my life. I can only get 8 hours of sleep on weekends.

    November 30, 2010 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Pure Night Owl

    Viva the night owls! We don't have a disorder. We are as we are! I have always been one and I'm sure I always will be! I typically fall asleep at 1 or 2 am. I chose a job that does not require me to wake up at 6 am and never will choose one like that. I am just as productive as morning larks. Just at 8 pm, NOT 8 am!

    November 30, 2010 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. LaLa

    what about those of us that when exposed to light, SLEEP BETTER? I cand rive all night long on vacations and road trips but as soon as that ol sun hits me in the am, I'm tired. Sun actually makes me feel sleepy........I sleep BEST from noon til about 6 pm.

    November 30, 2010 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Quizzle

    I want to add, for all the people reading this article at some crazy hour: light from computer screens will definitely screw you up. Blue light frequencies are the worst. Invest in a pair of SCT Orange lenses (they block higher frequency light) and put them on an hour before you want to sleep.

    November 30, 2010 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daniel

      Hey, check out this program called flux. It is flux dot com, I think. It dims the computer for you and takes away the blue tint, replacing it with an orange tint. I love it.

      December 1, 2010 at 01:41 | Report abuse |
  42. Sunshine

    Since leaving Southern CA for the north my sleep patterns have changed. Not only do I sleep longer hours but have found my evenings turning into mornings. It's strange but I'm okay with it. It's the people around me who seem to have the real issue, treating me like I'm lazy and odd. Oh well, at least I'm happy and rested.

    November 30, 2010 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      I grew up in the Midwest and have had delayed phase sleep disorder as long as I can remember. Pretty much the only time I was able to keep a more "normal" schedule without feeling sick and tired was when I lived in SoCal. I honestly do believe it was related to the sunlight. Where I'm from, sunny days are rare most of the year, but in SoCal, it's rare NOT to have a sunny day. Too bad their economy is so bad or I'd move back.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:32 | Report abuse |
  43. Now I'm sleepy

    Okay, it's almost 11 PM (CST) on a school night and we're all up reading this. And I have to get up at 6.

    November 30, 2010 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. gradman

    This article consolidates everything else I have read about difficulties with sleeping at "normal" hours. I have delayed phase sleep disorder, probably due to the lifestyle I have as a grad student. My sleep time is normally around 4am and I get up around 10am. During semesters with classes around 8am, I would be in bed by about 2am. Sometimes, I take naps after work, but mostly catch up on sleep during the weekends.

    The onset of delayed phase sleep disorder started when my schedule got busier. I would get off work later in the day and at night, would catch up on leisure activities on the computer. Computer activities include reading, watching videos, online chat and occasionally, gaming. When it first started, I was going to bed before midnight but my mind would still be racing, even if the computer activity was relaxing 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. Most thoughts were centered on work, mainly research ideas and troubleshooting. It's been a few years now and I have accepted it as a way of life.

    During this time period, the only times I broke free from delayed sleep phase was when I spent a few nights away from my pc, during road trips. As soon as I reverted back to my time on the pc at night, the delayed sleep phase kicked back in. Personally, the major factors causing the delayed sleep phase is 1) hectic work and 2) time spent on pc before bed time.

    This article nailed it with regards to the effects of lights exposure in relation to the circadian rhythm. Since there is not much I can do with regards to my work schedule, perhaps I can try using glasses to filter out blue light when I am on my computer at night, in addition to the other suggestions. Thanks for the tips, Dr Shives!

    November 30, 2010 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Mike Bender

    For most of my life, I had to work the day shift. It was worse then most, not 9-5, it was 5:30AM – 2:30PM for 8 hrs and sometimes till 4:30PM on 10 hrs. I HAD to be up at 4AM to get there on time. I did and eventually adjusted but many times had trouble staying awake for the drive home.
    After retirement, I learned my schedule began to slowly migrate deeper and deeper into the wee hours of the AM. When I wasn't pecking away at a story, I was doing online crosswords or playing cards at Yahoo. Or maybe I would just be reading news from all over the world. When the clock chimed 2AM I knew it was time to wrap it up and go to bed. So maybe I was a naturally occurring "night owl " all my life and never had the chance to be on the second shift.

    I feel obligated to warn people that staring at a bright screen whether it be TV or PC, will stimulate the brain in such a way as to prevent drowsiness. I challenge you, turn off the screen and pick up a book. I bet the bank you will get sleepy sooner then you would by staring at that screen.

    Now in defense of night owls, I must say, "WE NEED THEM." The whole world can't go to bed before midnight. Who's gonna knead dough for the bakery, provide security to keep thieves away, man the emergency rooms, get those groceries to the store? HMM? Who's gonna do that if we are ALL in bed by midnight?

    Tell your children to analyze the sleep habits of prospective spouses. Don't let an early bed marry a night owl unless they plan to work opposite shifts to avoid baby sitters. Early birds tend to think night owls are lazy. They pull blankets off in the early AM and expect them to go hiking or biking, or play golf, or so something with kids. You have to have balance and understanding if you are married to someone who is not on your same shift. My wife and I worked opposite shifts to avoid the expense of baby sitters when the kids were little. Oddly, I was on first and she was on second. It was kind of backwards now knowing my natural rhythm and she is now retired as well and had become an early bird so we are STILL on opposite shifts. I think you CAN overcome your natural rhythm when necessary but it takes patience and dedication, and you may never feel comfortable with living outside your natural sleep tendency.

    Just be careful who or what you marry..................

    December 1, 2010 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. conan

    30-45 mins of exercise a day will cure most of your sleep problems.

    December 1, 2010 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • marie

      I think that's definitely a good and easy option that people should try. But for me, just for example, I did cross country & soccer for four years of high school 6 days a week and woke up at 5:30am for school and I'm telling you, I could not get to sleep at night. My dad and my 2 of my sisters are the same way so maybe it's genetic or learned. All I know is flippant suggestions such as no naps, no caffeine in the PM, do something relaxing, exercise etc... They don't work for everybody.

      December 1, 2010 at 00:30 | Report abuse |
    • Marti

      "most" but not all ... sadly, this isn't one of them (at least for me). For if it were, I wouldn't have been dealing with it for the past 25 years.

      December 1, 2010 at 02:40 | Report abuse |
  47. marie

    Good Lord I'm in love with most of these other posters.... It's just the story of my life and it's true, others think I'm lazy. I swear I do not take ANY naps, I've cut out ALL caffeine at this point (I used to just avoid it in the PM), but I still cannot get to sleep at a decent hour. As the week wears on I get more and more tired then finally sleep in on the weekends and it's just sooo glorious. I had a brief night shift job in undergrad (7PM-7AM) and I only did it Fri & Sat nights, with a traditional class schedule during the week. You'd think I'd crash and burn halfway through my night shift on Fridays but nope, without fail, I perk up around 10PM. I look forward to the night shift life after grad school, you've all inspired me!!

    December 1, 2010 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. sickandtired

    Josie, I know exactly what you are living through. I can't sleep until around 6 am. Then I sleep until 2 pm, and I have to make myself get up then. This is a living hell for me. My husband can sleep fine and get up early. He often yells at me for not going to bed like normal people. I developed rheumatoid arthritis due to my sleep disorder. Now I'm in constant pain along with being awake all the time. I've come to the point where I don't want to live anymore. The RA is very bad. I'm almost in a wheelchair. I'm 42 years old and have run out of hope that I will ever sleep normally. I've tried sleeping pills. They made no difference. I'm doomed to live this way forever. That's what nights are for me. Forever.

    December 1, 2010 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Barb

    I would like to see the results of a study done on people who work a mix of dayshift AND nightshift each week. This is the schedule my company has forced on us. I have been doing this for over seven months now, and it absolute hell having to shift my sleep schedule every 3 and a half days by 8 hours. I do not have any life outside of work,as I am constantly trying to force myself to sleep when I'm not ready, and trying to stay awake when I'm at work. When I sleep, it is never for more than 2 to 3 hours at a time, because my body just can't adjust to the back and forth twice a week. I am over 50, and I know that sooner or later, this will cost me my health in one way or another...

    December 1, 2010 at 00:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shane

      Constantly shifting sleeping patterns has been linked to development of cancer in humans. Most likely due to the constant stress of trying to adjust physically and mentally. In my own experience, and what most articles I have read on this topic suggest, a rigid schedule may be the only way of overcoming this obstacle, if you need to. I find I can vary my bedtime slightly as long as I wake at the same time, regardless how tired I am. I'll admit that feeling tired all week is countered by the glorious feeling of getting a full eight hours on the weekend. Try training your body to get less rest, through polyphasic sleep, and trust me you will feel fully refreshed on the weekend on as little as six hours.

      December 1, 2010 at 04:08 | Report abuse |
  50. Night watchman

    I'm a night owl... 2am-10pm is my natural cycle, computer or no. My theory is that early human tribes needed someone to keep up the night watch. That someone was my distant ancestor.

    December 1, 2010 at 00:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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