12

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Late sleeping: what is it.

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created October 19, 2010 at 6:57 PM

Having just become aware of the existence of the term Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (Wikipedia), despite having had "symptoms" nearly all of my life that fit the "diagnosis" (I think you can tell from my scare quotes where I'm going with this) I'm wondering if it is, to put it bluntly, real.

That was my provocative introduction. Here are the facts. I have always felt most comfortable going to sleep late and waking up late. In the times in my life (college, etc.) when I didn't have to wake up early every day, I would generally gravitate toward a late schedule: say, 3:00 am til 11:00 am. This meant unfortunately that the occasional 9:00 obligation was a total nightmare. I tried again and again to wake up earlier, but even if I did I would inevitably drift forward. I just did not get tired at the earlier time like most people do. But once I set into the 3:00 am bedtime, I would get reliably tired at that time, fall asleep, and stay asleep. That's why this is different from insomnia. I could go on and on about my experiences, but I'll spare you. Let's just say I have been annoyed to death over the years by people giving me advice when they clearly just have bodies that are different from mine. The worst is when people imply I am lazy. It's an incredibly frustrating situation because you want to shake them and say "just open your d*mn mind for fifteen minutes and try to understand where I'm coming from." Oh wait, that's also what it's like to be paleo ... I digress.

Now I've read a couple of books on sleep and sleep research, and one thing I learned (in addition to learning that people tend to drift forward in their sleep schedules if they are in sealed apartments without windows or any time cues (Zeitgeber)) was that sleep researchers generally classify people as "owls" and "larks." Some people just have an easier time falling asleep at night or reverting back to an early schedule, and some people are the opposite. So DSPS would just be an extreme version of an "owl" pattern.

After reading that Wikipedia article I was ready to begrudgingly admit that there was something wrong with me, but a passage toward the end caught my eye.

DSPS is a disorder of the body's timing system???the biological clock. Individuals with DSPS might have an unusually long circadian cycle, might have a reduced response to the re-setting effect of daylight on the body clock and/or may respond overly to the delaying effects of evening light and too little to the advancing effect of light earlier in the day. In support of the increased sensitivity to evening light hypothesis, "the percentage of melatonin suppression by a bright light stimulus of 1,000 lux administered 2 hours prior to the melatonin peak has been reported to be greater in 15 DSPS patients than in 15 controls."

Here's my thought. I have a hard time accepting that those of us who are "owls" or even extreme "owls" would be sleeping into the day in a pre-agricultural, pre-industrial setting. So it must be the case that, were the night-time light stimuli not present at all, there would be no DSPS sufferers. But those of us who do fit the pattern are just more sensitive to the stimuli that are nearly inevitably there -- as my block quote suggests. I think a powerful analogy can be drawn to obesity. There were probably no obese paleos. And yet it is not the case that nowadays everyone is obese. The best explanation is that conditions exist which some people are more sensitive to than others. These are the obese.

What do you think? I hesitate to settle on this as a complete explanation -- in part because that is a good policy to follow in general, but also because there are a few peculiarities: one is that the late-sleeping tendency is much more prevalent in adolescents and especially in male adolescents, which could accommodate biological explanation. (I recall recently seeing some publicity on studies showing that we are basically waking up our teenagers way too early for school and making their lives miserable.) Any other theories? Anyone want to share experiences? There is an older paleohacks thread that addresses this, but I wanted to ask about my pet hypothesis, and also this is a important topic to me and I'd be delighted to hear what people have to say. Apologies for the long question. Paul.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 05, 2012
at 01:03 PM

Top annoying things to hear when you are a delayed sleep phase person: 4. "Why do you eat dinner so late?" [Because I'm not hungry at 6:00!] 3. "You really shouldn't have caffeine after 12:00." [Thanks for the advice; I wake up at 11:00.] 2. "It must be fun to sleep so late; I can't because I work so hard." [Hey idiot: When you're lying in bed at 10:00 PM like a total lazy-*ss I'm up working. Get a work ethic!] And the #1 annoying thing to hear: 1. "Have you ever tried just going to bed earlier?" [I'd like to slap you now.]

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 05, 2012
at 12:56 PM

Thanks so much for your contribution, Kevin, I'm totally there with you. I especially like the comment about body temperature. I think that I can keep up an early schedule but I have to be careful as heck about it. One thing it means is that I can't stay out late on the weekends like normal people can. And even then, getting up early is clearly not optimal for me. My body resists me at every turn.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on March 04, 2012
at 11:29 PM

I thought it was interesting that the linked Wikipedia article mentioned B12 as an investigative target that later could not produce results. I'm curious now if there's a correlation between DSPS and B12 deficiency; some people with damaged guts cannot properly absorb B12 from food, so it would be interesting to find out if anyone had a story about getting to sleep earlier or better after a B12 injection.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on July 19, 2011
at 08:52 AM

I have nothing to compare the Source Naturals to; it's the only one I've ever used. I had never thought to try different brands ...

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 18, 2011
at 08:26 AM

I don't think I tried that one. It has been probably a decade since I last tried melatonin. I tried 2 brands, one I ordered from Swanson's and the other one from my local drugstore had a purple label (sorry I can't remember the name). Do you like the Source Naturals? The Ashwagandha tincture was such a slam dunk for me that I never looked back.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 16, 2011
at 10:32 AM

I've learned to keep my mouth shut on the playground when moms are comparing their kid's sleep schedules. The few times I've mentioned not being able to get my kid down until sometime between midnight and 3am, but that he sleeps great, I'm usually met with looks of horror and disbelief. Now I've got some ammo.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on July 16, 2011
at 09:46 AM

@Turkeytyme, I have Source Naturals. Any experience with that brand?

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 16, 2011
at 08:31 AM

I haven't found a melatonin brand that I like yet. When my shift changed at work, and I had to start getting up at 4:30 in the morning (closer to my normal bedtime) I started taking Ashwagandha about an hour before I wanted to go sleep, and put a timer on a lamp to turn on 90 minutes before I needed to get up. The Ashwagandha made me really sensitive to light, and cranky about noise so I had no interest in television. The light made a world of difference getting out of bed. With a little discipline and the fear of being fired I made it work.

B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

(3909)

on July 16, 2011
at 06:03 AM

Keep in mind that not all brands of supplements are good quality. You may well have tried a brand that didn't have any significant amount of melatonin in it. Sad but true. Would you consider trying again if I recommend a brand? I swear by the GNC brand. It was a real life saver for me as I was in the same boat you are for many years.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 16, 2011
at 04:46 AM

I only added flux onto my laptop a few days ago, but my eyes are already saying, "Ahhhhh."

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 04, 2010
at 04:51 AM

Although I might add to your summary sentence that those who nurture themselves into it can also be split into two camps: those who have done damage that can now properly be described as physical or somatic (nurture becoming nature) and those who just have bad habits that have not yet set into the body (nurture is still just nurture).

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 04, 2010
at 04:46 AM

And above, in the seventh comment to the seventh answer we have a great, collectively attained result: your summary sentence that begins "We can grant that ..." Also I like Matthew's kin selection idea in the first comment. I have a similar idea about sleep: it makes sense that our bodies tolerate a single night of missed sleep every week or two much better than a week in a row of not-quite full nights of sleep; perhaps in the old days we were taking turns staying up through the night to keep watch. (The joys of speculation ...)

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on November 03, 2010
at 08:04 PM

I did however occasionally go nights without sleeping (for various reasons) and on these occasions the sleeptime wouldn't shift substantially, I would naturally sleep at around the 'normal' time almost instaneously. (Plus I would feel awful if I didn't compensate by sleeping beyond 10 hours). Subtle increments earlier or later just didn't make much difference, which surely should have flagged to me and my GPs earlier that it was a fixed problem, not just 'not being able to get to sleep.'

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on November 03, 2010
at 07:59 PM

Agreed it's probably higher than the official 3/2000, given that most are undiagnosed (no doctor I encountered had heard of it until I told them about it). We can grant that a smaller number have this extreme, fixed condition (regardless of environment), a larger number have a condition such that they would manifest given environment and a larger number still nurture themselves into it via lifestyle. I never risked a rollover because a) I feared that I would just get stuck sleeping at 10am, b) I viewed the issue as insomnia not 'wrong sleep cycles' c) I was actually pretty sleepy at 6am+...

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 03, 2010
at 04:27 PM

[Continued] I use the Atlantic Ocean for my purposes. I've had many an occasion to go to Germany, and when I do I take advantage of the time difference (7 hours from Central Time here in Chicago) to "precipitate" a quick rollover. The first night is tough because you wake up at 1 or 2 in the morning in Europe (I'll let you do the math) but within a couple of days you set into a nice 5 am wakeup time. I have read, by the way, of sleep doctors using this same technique to fix people's schedules. (The rollover in general, I mean, not shipping them to Europe.)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 03, 2010
at 04:23 PM

But your case sounds pretty extreme, David, and I have to say it's good to find kindred souls, since I don't know anyone else like me. I also have at various points fallen asleep regularly at 6 am even. One question: have you ever done what I like to call a "rollover"? Sleep a couple hours later every "day," so that after about 7 days you're waking up around four in the morning. I've done this when I've had weeks off and have been able to maintain my new early schedule (waking up at 5, 6, 7) for a month or more. Inevitably I always drift back however. Similarly, [Continued]

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 03, 2010
at 04:18 PM

I found much higher incidences than 3 in 2000, but I think the number probably depends on the kind of severity we are talking about. But I agree that if it's a rare thing we can understand it as not merely environmental, whether in a simple or indirect sense (see my comment to Kamal below), but when you start talking about 30% of the population or whatever it is for obesity then you have to say "come on, get real."

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on November 03, 2010
at 11:01 AM

Agreed, we might be useful, or we might just be the inevitable consequence of a population that contains more modest, definitely useful variation (the occasional outlier). Similar sort of arguments are made about the evolutionary basis for aspergers/autism. We know that adolescents naturally have a later melatonin release anyway, so there must be a limited use. And yes, it's incredibly irritating to be met with complete incomprehension/disbelief, when you suggest that you can't "just sleep earlier"; it's rather similar to the attitude to obesity "why don't you just not choose to eat so much?"

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on November 03, 2010
at 10:24 AM

Also DSPS is only one end of a continuous spectrum from DSPS to Advanced Phase Sleep Syndrome. While only a small percentage are at the extreemes many more show milder morning or evening sleep tendences.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on November 03, 2010
at 10:17 AM

David, I have similar sleep experiences to you, being told all I need to do is go to bed earlier can be very annoying coming from naturally early sleepers. I think late and early sleepers would be an advantage to groups of our early ancestors, decreasing the time when everyone in the group is asleep and vunerable to predetors. I think i'd specialise in evening hunting myself :)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 22, 2010
at 03:45 PM

42, just thought of something: I use f.lux, which maybe is different, but it has a "slow transition" setting, so that the light on my computer changes gradually over a one-hour period.

2b4f887f5fd32a37c6038eb0aaaf3bf5

(1648)

on October 21, 2010
at 08:53 PM

Yeah, it's true, I thought about adding that in my post. Yep, on of the reasons to go to bed so early was because there wasn't much to do. And it was awkward trying to read by candle light, holding the light on the bed under the mosquito netting hoping it wouldn't catch fire. So, perhaps the issue is too much mental stimulation.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 21, 2010
at 02:07 PM

Thanks. See my comments to Cave Man Mind above. (Or below, whichever way you have it set up.)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 21, 2010
at 05:20 AM

Aha, interesting. I was going to say something like this to Paleolady, in fact. I think when I'm in a situation like hers from Peru I often find myself able to fall asleep just because there's nothing else to *do*. And sitting at a computer might be the culprit not because it's so bright or so blue-bright, but because it's so stimulating. I've found that if I watch a movie on my laptop it doesn't keep me up nearly as much as websurfing does. (It's around 12:20 central now -- I'm always afraid someone's going to call me out when I'm posting at this hour. But I'll be in bed soon, promise.)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 21, 2010
at 05:11 AM

Will, thanks for contributing again. Crazily enough, being in the woods does very little for me. Or maybe it would if I gave it more than a couple of days. But I have spent many a night lying awake in a tent while everyone else went to bed (which they had been "looking forward to" -- I don't get it). The one thing that does seem to help a lot is not just being outside but getting a *ton* of sunlight, and on my skin as well. I can get sleepy very early in the summertime.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 21, 2010
at 05:04 AM

Interesting that the diet seemed to have such an effect for you, or possibly at least. It made no change for me as far as sleep is concerned.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 10:31 PM

Thanks ... crazy.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 19, 2010
at 09:13 PM

WCC, There are people with exactly what you describe. It is called Advanced sleep phase syndrome.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 09:02 PM

What I want to know is why aren't there people out there who just keep going to bed earlier and earlier every night, uncontrollably? And maybe they end up with a stable sleep schedule at the opposite, equally strange, end of the spectrum: say, 5:00 pm to 1:00 am? And no matter what they do they can't go to sleep later or sleep longer?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 08:59 PM

Or if it's a nurture-becoming-nature thing, as happens with obesity as well. You might damage whatever part of your brain controls your circadian rhythm, so that if you have trouble keeping an early schedule later in life that can be described as a real, somatic thing, and not just bad habits -- even though it was bad habits that originally caused it.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 08:56 PM

Melatonin doesn't work for me, for various reasons, though I am aware that it is one of the things that often helps. Also, the impetus for my question was today's thread http://paleohacks.com/questions/12542/supplemental-melatonin-and-natural-production As for melatonin and aging, that I've never heard before.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 08:52 PM

I'm definitely getting better at this as I get older, you're right. But I'm guessing the tribe would have wanted me to get up in the morning when I was in my twenties ...

E46d4f7e35e46ee4e8211ab4bc852023

(1510)

on October 19, 2010
at 07:09 PM

I remember reading this whole theory of owls and larks in Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body by Jennifer Ackerman. But she also pointed to studies that people who are owls tend to become more lark-ish as they age. Are you not experiencing this change? One theory is that children were hardly the ones doing the most hunting-gathering, so their desire to sleep late was not detrimental to the community's survival. While adults needed maximum daylight hunting-gathering time to amass enough food for survival for themselves and the kids.

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11 Answers

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4
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on November 03, 2010
at 09:29 AM

I entirely take the point about the idea that DSPS-symptoms might somewhat result from individuals merely having differential responses to factors that are (largely) unavoidably in the modern environment, but (largely) absent in the paleo context. I wouldn't say that accepting this means that DSPS is not "real" however.

My own experiences rule out the possibility that DSPS is merely natural entrainment from more or less normal sleep times to increasingly later sleep times as people choose to stay up later than their natural sleep time, progressively. In mid-late adolescence (the time symptoms typically present themselves), I quite quickly moved from a standard sleep cycle to a later one (sleeping from 1-4am), which I of course first identified as insomnia and was diagnosed by my GPs as such (and endlessly given irritating, useless advice- to drink less caffeine near bed and not stay up playing computer games, when I was doing neither). With hindsight though, it was clear that it wasn't really insomnia, since I was able to sleep quite comfortably once a certain hour hit, rather than just being unable to sleep generally. Indeed, latterly my sleep cycles were such that I could sleep more or less instantaneously once it hit around 6am, despite having been awake and alert all night previously. It goes without saying that over the years of torture through these means, I removed pretty much everything that could conceivably be said to limit sleep (no caffeine, proper exercise, no bright lights before bed). I would endlessly just lie in bed, in complete darkness, not doing anything for whole nights (before learning that "sleep hygiene" dictated that I shouldn't do this, but get up and do something monotonous out of bed). It's also worth nothing that I couldn't simply compensate by sleeping later during this period, since I was woken for school before 7am every morning and had church on a Sunday, so only had 1 day of sleeping in. I just got by on my 4 hours or so sleep per night by taking ever larger amounts of caffeine, sleeping about 16 hours on a Saturday and even longer during the holidays, as well as napping as soon as I got home from school. It also seems dubious to me that modern light could have such a drastic effect on sleep cycles, given that I could go to sleep quite easily just after dawn and would sleep through easily until past noon.

Anyway, the conclusion I draw from these experiences, is that no environmental changes (including being transported to the paleo era) would have had a dramatic effect on my sleep cycles. No amount of exercise, bright light and absence of screens, would I think, have removed the problem, given that these factors were fairly closely approximated during my experience without any effect whatsover. Indeed, at one point my GPs decided to prescribe me the strongest sleeping pill they had, just for one week (having declined to prescribe any previously), which just had the result of making me very drowsy for about an hour, but then I just woke up (as though to greet the dawn) and got on with critiquing a friend's philosophy essay quite merrily. Conversely, as soon as I was provided with a small dose of melatonin, I slept quite easily immediately.

As to the idea that we can't imagine any paleo HGs with DSPS: I agree that it would seem odd to have large numbers of these integrated into paleo society. However, we should recognise that DSPS afflicts only about 3 in 2000 people (0.15%) and that's in the current environmental context which is inimical to sleep and health anyway. The fact that such extreme variations in sleep cycle seem evolutionary problems, should not, I think, lead us to rule out the idea that they could just be inherent traits. There are plenty of plainly genetic disorders which are evolutionarily detrimental (Downs affects 1 in 800 people, not wildly different from DSPS). I suppose it's also not impossible that incidence of DSPS has increased during our evolution since paleo-times, since there's no longer a selection pressure killing off those people with distorted sleeping. In any case, I don't think we should imagine that people with sleep patterns from 6am-2pm would live just like that in a paleo context. They would probably do more or less what I did: get kicked awake without enough sleep on a fairly frequent basis, collapse into naps whenever they could, function highly suboptimally most of the time while being mildly sleep-deprived constantly. I managed to stumble through school and my first year of university living like this and achieve well, so evolutionary downsides aside it would probably be possible to survive as a paleo-DSPSer. I think that recognising that there are distinct circadian rhythm disorders (advanced sleep phases, non-24 sleep phases, split sleep phases, irregular sleep phases etc) is the best way to understand the phenomenon (aside from those people who are semi-consciously sleeping late as a lifestyle choice).

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on November 03, 2010
at 07:59 PM

Agreed it's probably higher than the official 3/2000, given that most are undiagnosed (no doctor I encountered had heard of it until I told them about it). We can grant that a smaller number have this extreme, fixed condition (regardless of environment), a larger number have a condition such that they would manifest given environment and a larger number still nurture themselves into it via lifestyle. I never risked a rollover because a) I feared that I would just get stuck sleeping at 10am, b) I viewed the issue as insomnia not 'wrong sleep cycles' c) I was actually pretty sleepy at 6am+...

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 03, 2010
at 04:18 PM

I found much higher incidences than 3 in 2000, but I think the number probably depends on the kind of severity we are talking about. But I agree that if it's a rare thing we can understand it as not merely environmental, whether in a simple or indirect sense (see my comment to Kamal below), but when you start talking about 30% of the population or whatever it is for obesity then you have to say "come on, get real."

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 04, 2010
at 04:51 AM

Although I might add to your summary sentence that those who nurture themselves into it can also be split into two camps: those who have done damage that can now properly be described as physical or somatic (nurture becoming nature) and those who just have bad habits that have not yet set into the body (nurture is still just nurture).

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on November 03, 2010
at 11:01 AM

Agreed, we might be useful, or we might just be the inevitable consequence of a population that contains more modest, definitely useful variation (the occasional outlier). Similar sort of arguments are made about the evolutionary basis for aspergers/autism. We know that adolescents naturally have a later melatonin release anyway, so there must be a limited use. And yes, it's incredibly irritating to be met with complete incomprehension/disbelief, when you suggest that you can't "just sleep earlier"; it's rather similar to the attitude to obesity "why don't you just not choose to eat so much?"

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on November 03, 2010
at 10:17 AM

David, I have similar sleep experiences to you, being told all I need to do is go to bed earlier can be very annoying coming from naturally early sleepers. I think late and early sleepers would be an advantage to groups of our early ancestors, decreasing the time when everyone in the group is asleep and vunerable to predetors. I think i'd specialise in evening hunting myself :)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 04, 2010
at 04:46 AM

And above, in the seventh comment to the seventh answer we have a great, collectively attained result: your summary sentence that begins "We can grant that ..." Also I like Matthew's kin selection idea in the first comment. I have a similar idea about sleep: it makes sense that our bodies tolerate a single night of missed sleep every week or two much better than a week in a row of not-quite full nights of sleep; perhaps in the old days we were taking turns staying up through the night to keep watch. (The joys of speculation ...)

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on November 03, 2010
at 10:24 AM

Also DSPS is only one end of a continuous spectrum from DSPS to Advanced Phase Sleep Syndrome. While only a small percentage are at the extreemes many more show milder morning or evening sleep tendences.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 03, 2010
at 04:27 PM

[Continued] I use the Atlantic Ocean for my purposes. I've had many an occasion to go to Germany, and when I do I take advantage of the time difference (7 hours from Central Time here in Chicago) to "precipitate" a quick rollover. The first night is tough because you wake up at 1 or 2 in the morning in Europe (I'll let you do the math) but within a couple of days you set into a nice 5 am wakeup time. I have read, by the way, of sleep doctors using this same technique to fix people's schedules. (The rollover in general, I mean, not shipping them to Europe.)

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on November 03, 2010
at 08:04 PM

I did however occasionally go nights without sleeping (for various reasons) and on these occasions the sleeptime wouldn't shift substantially, I would naturally sleep at around the 'normal' time almost instaneously. (Plus I would feel awful if I didn't compensate by sleeping beyond 10 hours). Subtle increments earlier or later just didn't make much difference, which surely should have flagged to me and my GPs earlier that it was a fixed problem, not just 'not being able to get to sleep.'

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 03, 2010
at 04:23 PM

But your case sounds pretty extreme, David, and I have to say it's good to find kindred souls, since I don't know anyone else like me. I also have at various points fallen asleep regularly at 6 am even. One question: have you ever done what I like to call a "rollover"? Sleep a couple hours later every "day," so that after about 7 days you're waking up around four in the morning. I've done this when I've had weeks off and have been able to maintain my new early schedule (waking up at 5, 6, 7) for a month or more. Inevitably I always drift back however. Similarly, [Continued]

6
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 16, 2011
at 05:19 AM

I'm an owl too. I have this romantic notion that we were the first astronomers. Everyone else got bored and went to sleep, while we sat up, tended to the fire, and charted the skies.

4
1a91ec126b2b4189539b028d2767e518

(320)

on March 05, 2012
at 07:31 AM

I've dealt with DSPS for all of my adult life. It started when I was in high school. I took Ambien for eleven years, and five years of that time, Ambien was taken everyday. Ambien withdrawal sucks big time. That was one of the hardest things I have ever done and is not recommended to get on this crap everyday for any period of time over two weeks. I tried other things like melatonin. This did not work at all for me. It gave me migraines. Plus your endogenous melatonin downregulates when taking exogenous melatonin, so when you go off the stuff you go through fun times while your endocrine system adjusts. Hormones are interesting things.

I have been in sleep research studies. More on this in a moment.

Advanced sleep phase syndrome is similar to DSPS, just at the other end of the sleep spectrum. Researchers found that there are specific genes related to both ASPS and DSPS. Go the Wikipedia pages for both, and Google DSPS and genes. So while behavioral and other sleep hygiene patterns can be contributing factors, there are people who have a genetic reason for this.

After getting real worked up about this one time when I was in to see my doctor, he said that it was possible I was like this and to accept it and make things work in the context of my life. He said that in Paleolithic times that some of the tribe needed to be up at night to guard the camp or cave from predators.

I took some solace in this and remade my life. I have been self-employed to work around my schedule. I would not have been as successful as I am without being in business for myself. This has resulted in a lot of wealth, which I doubt I could have achieved working 9-5 for someone else.

Back to the sleep research studies I participated in. The study at the University of Utah found that my blood levels of melatonin spike approximately four hours later than day schedule people. My basal metabolic temperature is highest at night.

All of this feeds into my body not being able to go sleep at what most people consider to be a normal time. Right now my to sleep time ranges from 2:00-3:00 a.m., although four years ago, it was not uncommon for me to go to sleep from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m., which is not optimal for interacting with the world.

I am not shy of sunlight and light. In the late spring, summer, and fall months where I live, I get out in the sun for an hour a day.

Kevin

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 05, 2012
at 12:56 PM

Thanks so much for your contribution, Kevin, I'm totally there with you. I especially like the comment about body temperature. I think that I can keep up an early schedule but I have to be careful as heck about it. One thing it means is that I can't stay out late on the weekends like normal people can. And even then, getting up early is clearly not optimal for me. My body resists me at every turn.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 05, 2012
at 01:03 PM

Top annoying things to hear when you are a delayed sleep phase person: 4. "Why do you eat dinner so late?" [Because I'm not hungry at 6:00!] 3. "You really shouldn't have caffeine after 12:00." [Thanks for the advice; I wake up at 11:00.] 2. "It must be fun to sleep so late; I can't because I work so hard." [Hey idiot: When you're lying in bed at 10:00 PM like a total lazy-*ss I'm up working. Get a work ethic!] And the #1 annoying thing to hear: 1. "Have you ever tried just going to bed earlier?" [I'd like to slap you now.]

3
5be844214037850c304c1e6a05dc5277

on October 20, 2010
at 11:06 PM

My thoughts is it is probably like many things in science where the explanation is quite complicated and interrelated with numerous things at play here (thus the reason we don't have a good "solid" explanation yet).

I also have the same night-owl tendencies you do, my optimal sleeping time being 4am - midday

It's hard to disentangle cause and effect in my lifestyle as I am always trying new lifestyle tweaks from diet & supplements to exercise and activities. However I do beleive I have had some success in 'correcting' my primary onset insomnia with Melatonin as has already been mentioned. Looks to be very safe, so I would certainly at least try it out! Then be sure to get GOOD morning exposure to light to help reset your clock.

There is also one real easy way to test your hypothesis; get some special glasses that filter out the blue light which disrupts Melatonin production, and give them a test run for a while. This should help separate the light being the culprit in this problem, with other factors like simply reading really interesting Paleo articles or having online discussions keeping you alerted and not in the 'winding down' phase potentially optimal before sleep.

I also had a commentator once say something really interesting which ringed very true to me; when people such as yourself and I were growing up, we probably spent most of this late night time on computers (or with digital media) playing games or reading or chatting, etc. Staying up late is fun, every kid wants to do it, so when we had nothing to be up for the next morning we would stay up late because it was fun and we were doing fun stuff. But I know myself certainly have spent more nights than I could count quite dreary eyes and tired in front of the computer, or played games till 4am then flopped into bed and be sleeping within almost second. What this person said is perhaps we have "trained" ourselves out of being tired, or with staying awake despite feeling the feelings of tiredness. Over many years and thousands of nights we have essentially stuffed up our whole bodies normal mechanisms for sunset, melatonin production, sleep sometime shortly afterwards.

So now when our body/mind starts becoming "tired" in the normal sense, we have created an adaptation to remain wakeful. I like the word adaptation here, because it has great Paleo reasoning. Our brain has no idea that the interest and attention we are spending on computers late at night is quite trivial (although all of those hours probably led me to Paleo!), go back ~20K+ years and any intense level of attention and interest like that would be in deciphering the complexity of nature, or securing mates, or something very dependant or advantageous to our survival. I don't know how this fits in with the fact not everyone suffers from it, perhaps you and I get more emotional reward from late night activities, or maybe your hypothesis is correct in it being biology but not for light-sensitivity but rewiring our brain or neurochemistry for wakefulness.

At the end of the day; I haven't found a fully satisfying answer yet but I am confident that this very powerful evolutionary lens will provide a clearer view.

2b4f887f5fd32a37c6038eb0aaaf3bf5

(1648)

on October 21, 2010
at 08:53 PM

Yeah, it's true, I thought about adding that in my post. Yep, on of the reasons to go to bed so early was because there wasn't much to do. And it was awkward trying to read by candle light, holding the light on the bed under the mosquito netting hoping it wouldn't catch fire. So, perhaps the issue is too much mental stimulation.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 21, 2010
at 05:20 AM

Aha, interesting. I was going to say something like this to Paleolady, in fact. I think when I'm in a situation like hers from Peru I often find myself able to fall asleep just because there's nothing else to *do*. And sitting at a computer might be the culprit not because it's so bright or so blue-bright, but because it's so stimulating. I've found that if I watch a movie on my laptop it doesn't keep me up nearly as much as websurfing does. (It's around 12:20 central now -- I'm always afraid someone's going to call me out when I'm posting at this hour. But I'll be in bed soon, promise.)

2
Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on March 04, 2012
at 09:34 PM

Damn it, if I can effectively reverse my obesity at age 21 from 290lbs to 160lbs...I can fix this stupid DSPS!! candlelights, Flux, goggles and blue light in the AM it is for me!

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on March 04, 2012
at 11:29 PM

I thought it was interesting that the linked Wikipedia article mentioned B12 as an investigative target that later could not produce results. I'm curious now if there's a correlation between DSPS and B12 deficiency; some people with damaged guts cannot properly absorb B12 from food, so it would be interesting to find out if anyone had a story about getting to sleep earlier or better after a B12 injection.

2
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 19, 2010
at 07:32 PM

Interesting theory. I wonder what would happen to the definition of an owl if you controlled for procrastination tendency and attachment to media. I am an owl of that variety, and can imagine being a normal sleeper if circumstances didn't allow me to do those things.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 08:59 PM

Or if it's a nurture-becoming-nature thing, as happens with obesity as well. You might damage whatever part of your brain controls your circadian rhythm, so that if you have trouble keeping an early schedule later in life that can be described as a real, somatic thing, and not just bad habits -- even though it was bad habits that originally caused it.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 10:31 PM

Thanks ... crazy.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 19, 2010
at 09:13 PM

WCC, There are people with exactly what you describe. It is called Advanced sleep phase syndrome.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 09:02 PM

What I want to know is why aren't there people out there who just keep going to bed earlier and earlier every night, uncontrollably? And maybe they end up with a stable sleep schedule at the opposite, equally strange, end of the spectrum: say, 5:00 pm to 1:00 am? And no matter what they do they can't go to sleep later or sleep longer?

1
B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

on July 16, 2011
at 06:10 AM

WCC Paul, I saw your comments about melatonin not working. Unfortunately it's a sad but true fact that supplements do not always provide what the label claims as far as potency. The particular brand you tried may well have not had enough melatonin in it to have any effect. The one brand I have found to be very consistent as far as melatonin is GNC. It really saved my life as far as sleep because I was very much like you, and, because I had to work everyday, was chronically sleep deprived. Before giving up on melatonin I would recommend trying this brand. It really does work. Melatonin is the hormone that makes us sleepy as it gets dark outside so in theory it really should work for you, assuming you buy a good quality brand that actually has it in it. That's always the trick when buying supplements.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on July 16, 2011
at 09:46 AM

@Turkeytyme, I have Source Naturals. Any experience with that brand?

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 16, 2011
at 08:31 AM

I haven't found a melatonin brand that I like yet. When my shift changed at work, and I had to start getting up at 4:30 in the morning (closer to my normal bedtime) I started taking Ashwagandha about an hour before I wanted to go sleep, and put a timer on a lamp to turn on 90 minutes before I needed to get up. The Ashwagandha made me really sensitive to light, and cranky about noise so I had no interest in television. The light made a world of difference getting out of bed. With a little discipline and the fear of being fired I made it work.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on July 19, 2011
at 08:52 AM

I have nothing to compare the Source Naturals to; it's the only one I've ever used. I had never thought to try different brands ...

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 18, 2011
at 08:26 AM

I don't think I tried that one. It has been probably a decade since I last tried melatonin. I tried 2 brands, one I ordered from Swanson's and the other one from my local drugstore had a purple label (sorry I can't remember the name). Do you like the Source Naturals? The Ashwagandha tincture was such a slam dunk for me that I never looked back.

1
2b4f887f5fd32a37c6038eb0aaaf3bf5

on October 20, 2010
at 10:30 PM

I also have always been a night owl, and have a horrible time waking up in the morning, as my work can attest. I usually roll into work between 10 and 11 in the morning, even though I always have the intention to wake up earlier. I will say I don't have any trouble falling asleep if I go to bed at 10, I just often find it hard to be ready to go to bed at 10.

But my main point! You asked about experiences that would shed some light on if this delayed sleep cycle would be true in a pre-agricultural society.

Several years ago, I stayed at a shamanic retreat center in the Peruvian Amazon, for 3 weeks. In this center, we all had our own little huts, and there was no electricity anywhere except in the kitchen. So, all we had for light in the evening was candle light. Evening would come on between 7 and 8. I would often stay up for another hour, until maybe 8:30 or 9, and then would go to sleep, no problems. And every morning, I awoke at dawn. It was a very unusual experience for me, since I have NEVER been the type to awaken within even 3 hours of dawn.

When I returned to the states, this trend kept up for a short period of time, but eventually I returned to my old pattern.

So, from my experience, I would say I agree with you, that this is just about some of us being more sensitive to light cues. I know I keep the lights on in my place quite low at night, I can't take a lot of bright light. And in the morning, I HAVE to have light to come into my room, otherwise I can't wake up. That's why I will never do the black out curtains that some propose, because otherwise I won't wake up until 2 in the afternoon.

Hope that helps!

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 21, 2010
at 02:07 PM

Thanks. See my comments to Cave Man Mind above. (Or below, whichever way you have it set up.)

1
F8fa4b0809d3b74fcf0361c0d53b60c1

(911)

on October 20, 2010
at 07:37 PM

I posted the earlier thread you mentioned, and I have wondered about this exact same thing myself. Like you I maintain a regular sleeping period when allowed to sleep freely (even later, in fact: 4 AM to noon for me).

My anecdotal experience is that when I am hiking in the woods, and then camping at night, I am able to fall asleep at a "normal" bedtime. This suggests to me that DSPS is really something like an extreme sensitivity to environmental light cues. (I can't rule out a contributing role of exercise here, but my usual strength/HIIT routines alone can't put me to bed earlier.)

If this is true, it is unclear to me why we would have such regular sleeping periods - why not just keep staying up until fatigue hit? Also, what about other circadian rhythm disorders?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 21, 2010
at 05:11 AM

Will, thanks for contributing again. Crazily enough, being in the woods does very little for me. Or maybe it would if I gave it more than a couple of days. But I have spent many a night lying awake in a tent while everyone else went to bed (which they had been "looking forward to" -- I don't get it). The one thing that does seem to help a lot is not just being outside but getting a *ton* of sunlight, and on my skin as well. I can get sleepy very early in the summertime.

1
C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on October 20, 2010
at 12:13 AM

Interesting... I considered myself to have DSPS for most of my life; a typical night own who found it impossible to go to bed much before midnight and equally impossible to get up on time for nearly everything. I was once fired from a job for excess tardiness.

Now I'm pretty much in bed between 10-11pm. This has been true since last summer when I changed jobs and had to be up early. I don't think evening light exposure had anything to do with it more of a fear of losing the job given this economy. Since going paleo/primal this winter it's gotten easier to get up and often I'm already awake when the alarm goes off.

Not saying it was diet that finally fixed it, but people who have known me for a long time still don't believe I get up at 6:30 or so every day now, maybe a bit later on weekends.

Oh by the way, using the "Flux" tool to slowly change your computer screen from daylight (6500??K) to something less blue/bright (4100??K) helps a lot. It looks really odd when it kicks in but you very quickly don't notice it.

http://www.stereopsis.com/flux/

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 22, 2010
at 03:45 PM

42, just thought of something: I use f.lux, which maybe is different, but it has a "slow transition" setting, so that the light on my computer changes gradually over a one-hour period.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 21, 2010
at 05:04 AM

Interesting that the diet seemed to have such an effect for you, or possibly at least. It made no change for me as far as sleep is concerned.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 16, 2011
at 04:46 AM

I only added flux onto my laptop a few days ago, but my eyes are already saying, "Ahhhhh."

-1
5da0583a0fa86cc08f5a49510b6468f4

on October 19, 2010
at 08:29 PM

Try melatonin. I've been taking it for about 8 years now.. For both sleep regulation and for it's longevity promoting abilities. It's a great supplement. I swear it's keeping me from aging.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 19, 2010
at 08:56 PM

Melatonin doesn't work for me, for various reasons, though I am aware that it is one of the things that often helps. Also, the impetus for my question was today's thread http://paleohacks.com/questions/12542/supplemental-melatonin-and-natural-production As for melatonin and aging, that I've never heard before.

B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

(3909)

on July 16, 2011
at 06:03 AM

Keep in mind that not all brands of supplements are good quality. You may well have tried a brand that didn't have any significant amount of melatonin in it. Sad but true. Would you consider trying again if I recommend a brand? I swear by the GNC brand. It was a real life saver for me as I was in the same boat you are for many years.

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