The following is a visitor-submitted question or story. For more, you can submit your own sleep story here, or browse the collection of experiences and questions other visitors have shared here.

Born This Way

by Elizabeth
(San Jose, CA)

Born at midnight, of course (my special wake up time). As far back as I can remember, sleeping before 1 am was impossible. I especially remember my mom having a difficult time getting me to sleep in my first few weeks of school. I remember that first night, having to go to bed much earlier, and feeling bitter and helpless. I have never in my life been able to get decent sleep before 2 am, and I get my best rest if I can go to sleep at 4am and get up at noon. Most of my life (pushing 60 now) I have lived on less than 5 hours sleep, often on 3 or 4 and if I have to wake especially early for meetings, etc., then 1 or 2 hours.

Seems to be familial: Dad & one brother always up at 3am. One brother like me, bed at 3 am. My mom & one other brother, quite normal. My daughter, quite normal. Since young adults tend to like to stay up late, my social life never suffered much, but these days family would like to see me sometimes.

I am sharing here because I am now experiencing something very new. Before the last 2 years, when people said they were tired because they'd slept too little, I assumed they meant they felt sleepy. This was how I felt. I could function, work, remain active, & pursue an academic career (PhD) on an average of 4 hours of sleep every 24.

But after menopause, I now understand that when people say they are tired because of too little sleep, they mean just that: physical exhaustion.

With this newfound exhaustion from too little sleep, my
sleep time has gone completely awry. In the past, I could always adjust somewhat to return to my normal pattern by staying up 24-36 hours. But now I am too exhausted to stay up for 24 hours or more, & so, right now, in the midst of grading finals, I'm on a ridiculous schedule: up until 2pm, and sleeping until 10pm--and even with 8 hours sleep, this feels tiring and just too weird. But I no longer have that great intellectual energy I once had, and readjusting my pattern would require no academic work for 2 or 3 days so I can reset through not sleeping for a couple of days.

After reading some of the comments here, I think I've been very lucky. I have always been able to get up and function on even as little as 2 hours sleep. But aging is changing my luck.

Kevin: Elizabeth, thanks for sharing your story and your thoughts. It's an interesting point you hit on in the differences between the meaning of "tired" and "sleepy". Their meaning in everyday conversation blends and merges, but really they can mean very different things. Being aware of these differences is important in understanding the subjective nature of how we feel with regards to fatigue.

You certainly do seem to have been on the lucky end of the sleep need spectrum, and I hope you're able to adjust well to your body's new demands. Stay tuned for some upcoming articles on circadian rhythms and adjusting your biological clock to help sleep at the time you need to. If your interested in seeing these articles when they come out, you can follow our updates here on our blog page.


Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Thoughts On Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.

Enjoy this page? Please help us pay it forward to others who would find it valuable by Liking, Sharing, Tweeting, Stumbling, and/or Voting below.

About This Site

Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?

A Note On Visitor-Submitted Questions:

Publishing sleep stories and questions from our visitors is meant to create a forum for open and proactive dialogue about an extremely important portion of our lives (one that occupies 1/3 of it and affects the other 2/3) that isn't talked about enough. It is not meant to substitute a trip to the doctor or the advice of a specialist. It's good to talk; it is not good to avoid consulting someone who's profession it is to help you with this kind of stuff.

If you are in any way concerned about your sleep health, don't wait for an answer on here, and don't necessarily rely on them. See a sleep specialist in your area as soon as possible.

More Questions:

Ask | Answer

The Stanford Sleep Book

Stanford Sleep Book Picture

Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

More Sleep Resources

The Zeo

A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.

Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

Sleep Paralysis Treatment Book

Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.

Important Disclaimer

Please Note:

The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.

For more info, see our
Terms of Use.