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I've Been Living Like That My Whole Life, and I'm 28

by Esther
(Málaga (Spain))

I think I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, and that I had it my whole life. Right now, I'm 28.

For me, going to sleep is very very difficult at a normal bed time. I get so much awake when it gets dark, or even at 10pm, or midnight. It's when I become more active, I remember things I have to do, I'm more creative, and I have a bunch of good ideas about how to spend my time.

I've learnt during my life that I can't go to bed at midnight, not just like that. If I do so, I won't sleep until 2.30 or 3 am at least. It's such a nightmare because when I have to get up early in the morning it's like hell. I use an alarm clock and two mobiles phones with so many differents alarms. I used to set the first alarm half an hour before the waking time because if I don't do it, I'll be late for sure. I need at least those 20 or 30 minutes to realize that it's time to wake up, but actually, most of days I wake up tired.

Weekends are very different. I usually spend my time in nights properly and I go to bed about 3 am or 4 am. I wake up spontaneusly at midday, 13 pm, or even 14 pm or more without problems, completely awake and ready to live a normal life.

I feel good sleeping only 5 hours. After 5 hours sleeping I can wake up almost normally. But if I sleep 6 or 7 hours it's so much difficult to wake me up. I have to sleep in cycles of 5 or 9 hours. It sucks, actually, because I can't have a normal timetable. I've tried to go to bed early, but it haven't worked for me. I always find something to do, to remember, to read, to look at the internet, etc.

I'm a journalist. I've working in newspapers where the timetable were a little bit different from other work. I started working at 11 am and, with two hours break for lunch, I usually got home about 11 pm or even midnight. I had no social life, but I felt that the timetable was good for me, I had the "right" to be awake until late and wake up at 9.30 or 10 without problems. I didn't feel guilty about that.

Right now, I work with a normal timetable, from 9 to 18h, so I have to wake up early and usually I can't. I use to arrive a little late everyday, 10-15 minutes. I know that if I wake up 15 minutes early, I'll do it, but I can't, I've
tried and I can't! It's a very easy thing and I can't wake up 15 minutes early!

I've living like this my whole life. I didn't know that it was a diagnosed "disease". I have friends who suffer imsomnia, etc, but I knew that when I fall sleep I can't sleep normally, I have no nightmares problems, I didn't wake up during my sleep, and I sleep without difficulties.

I would like you to help me find a solution. I've read that you're speaking about teenagers, but I'm not one anymore, am I going to live like that my whole life? There's something I could do? Here in Europe, I don't know if the doctors are familiar with this condition... How can I change my routine to improve my sleeping?? Please, help me. Thank you so much!

Kevin: Hey Esther, thanks for sharing your story. You give a pretty textbook case of a delayed sleep phase, and when you need to wake up early in the morning for work it is really a recipe for a constant battle against sleep deprivation. The key to getting out of it though, if you are set in remaining in a schedule where you have to wake up early, is to shift your body clock, or the times in the day that your body releases hormones that promote wakefulness and sleep.

Imagine for a second that you've just flown to the United States, and your current body clock settings compel you to fall asleep at 8 or 9PM and wake up for work with enough sleep. If you were in a different time zone, your schedule would be normal. The key then, if you want to get more sleep but keep your work schedule in Spain, is to make your body clock match up with the time zone that you operate in. And the most affective way to influence this is with light. You need to tell your body when it is day time and when it is night. A good way to do this is to avoid bright lights at night (computers, TVs, etc.) and get a large dose of bright light as soon as you can in the morning.

For light to have any affect though, it needs to be bright enough. There are actually products out now that are specifically designed for this type of light entrainment. An example is the NatureBright SunTouch Light Therapy Lamp.

Some people have a tougher time entraining their body clocks than others, but I wish you the best of luck with it!


(Please keep in mind that I am a student of sleep science and not a medical doctor. Please take any thoughts I give with my background in mind.)

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