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What times should a normal 20 year old go to sleep?

I am 20 years old and my parents think it is very weird that I go to sleep at 2-4 am in the morning and get around 10 hours of sleep. At night, I am on my computer watching videos, reading articles, surfing the internet, mainly because it is entertaining. I am not going to school right now and do not have a job so I have no reason to wake up early or go to sleep early for that matter. I am fit and thin. If I try to sleep early, I feel sad or bored. So do I have a problem? Is this normal?

Kevin: Hey, thanks for the question! As a fellow 20 year old, I know what it's like to have a late (er...early...) bedtime and then to face the skepticism of a mother.

What you are experiencing right now is what's known as a delayed sleep phase. This simply means that your circadian rhythm has effectively been shifted back, making it so the alerting chemicals your brain would release in, say, the early evening in an orthodox sleep schedule, release at night instead. And similar stories up and down the clock.

I've written before on this site that having a delayed sleep phase is by no means inherently bad, or anything of the sort. In fact, I'm sure many a mad genius before has produced his or her most inspired work in the wee hours of the morning because their shifted biological clock permitted them the alertness to do so. I'm sometimes most productive late at night myself, when the external busyness of the day has less of an effect on my attention and I can focus on my tasks. This, I imagine, can be hard for a person who has never had anything but a traditional sleep schedule to understand--especially if they have the "early to rise, early to work" mentality and
view sleeping in regularly as lazy. But it's how we choose to spend the time we are awake, whether it be late at night or early in the morning that defines our laziness--not our sleep schedule. In a day and age where endless new opportunities exist on a World Wide Web that can be accessed at any time of day, making any night full of potential like it never was before, this may be difficult for some from generations before us to readily understand.

But it's clearly how we use our waking time, and not when we use our waking time that should be the key factor here.... long as we can afford to do so. One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that there is also a sleep disorder known as Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome that is a result of when a delayed sleep phase becomes conducive to not getting enough sleep. In other words, when your shifted circadian rhythm doesn't let you fall asleep until quite late, but some other commitment (school, work, etc) forces you to wake up before your able to acquire sufficient sleep. It can be a debilitating downward spiral of events (as evidenced by some of these stories) if one is not careful, or if one has a particularly hard to adjust circadian rhythm. So I'd say you should definitely be wary and cognizant of this so that your able to prepare appropriately if you ever find yourself in a situation where you may need wake up early again.

But beyond that, sleep time is far from a one size fits all thing. As long as we're obtaining healthy and sufficient sleep, it's up to each one of us to determine what type of a sleep schedule suits our life the best.

Anyone else want to provide their own perspectives on this question? Please do so, just use the "Post Comments" link below.


Comments for What times should a normal 20 year old go to sleep?

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Sep 04, 2014

My son struggles with being up till 4 and not being able to get up in the morning. Sleeps all day and cant sleep at night. Has caused him to loose out on college and jobs. He really struggles with this and I am at a loss as to how to help.

Feb 04, 2016
Responsibility NEW
by: Anonymous

If you aren't in school, you should have a job. You're an adult now, and should behave as such. It's not up to your parents to provide a roof over your head and food for your plate for the rest of your life. This is the transition you must make to become an independent person. They will not be here forever, so get up and be productive. The only person who can change your life is you.

Mar 16, 2016
late hour sleep NEW
by: Anonymous

It seems to me that an afternoon shift could solve the problem.

Dec 22, 2016
@ Responsibility NEW
by: Health

It's not always that easy to get a job, whether it's people not hiring or something else. For example, mental and physical health. You show an alarming lack of sympathy and understanding for people struggling to fit into a world that values your usefulness over your self.

Dec 28, 2016
Don't Let Them Get Away With It NEW
by: Parent of 20 Year Old

Unfortunately, the world is not that sympathetic. A 20-year-old adult child living with his or her parents, not paying rent and/or not contributing to the welfare of the family should not be sleeping all day and non-productive all night. "Productive" does not mean playing video games, watching youtube, etc. This can turn into a vicious cycle if the parent allows that to happen. Unless the parent instills rules and implements them when broken, the adult child will continue to do this and will hurt him or her in the long run. Yes they will get mad at you, be passive aggressive with the silent treatment, and become aloof but if you truly want your adult child to launch anytime in the near future, you have to be comfortable with this.

Jan 11, 2017
Same NEW
by: 22 year old

I'm an engineering student and I think school broke my sleeping habits which weren't great to begin with. I am inbetween jobs as I just completed an internship, but I found it really hard to get up at 7:30am and get to work, and had my fair share of late punch ins (5mins). Also, I would mess around on my phone or computer and be late or miss my 1pm class even though I woke up at 11am. I think at the very bottom of everything I have a lot of inertia in the sense that I like to keep doing what I am doing and not be bothered with times. When I'm in bed I don't want to leave, but when I'm at school I don't want to leave, and when I'm at work I don't want to leave. It's not unusual to be at school until 1am almost night of the week, doing work or getting distracted thinking of new ideas or things I could be doing with my time. I would like to implement more structure in my life and stick to it, but I'm not quite sure how to get that driving force and really make it a life choice and act on it wholly and honestly. I am an INTP though, so it's my nature to not do these things. Anyway, good luck friend, I think you just need a little accountability in your life to get that extra push you need to get things together.

Jun 30, 2022
Make a plan NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi, it sucks that it is hard for you to go to sleep early. 10 hours a night sleep is good though - it's not your problem. Your distracting yourself with the electronic stuff - Set an earlier time say 7pm or during the day (as if it is a work/study activity and reduce it) - set a limit and own it as it should be no more than 2 hours per day max in a couple of months - after a few hours your brain structure starts to change (unhealthy) so want to reverse that. Also going on the phone and internet stimulates the brain so not a good idea before bed. You want deep sleep. Before bed try something relaxing, reading is good but not on an electronic device - a real book or try a warm shower and different routine - try walking around the block first thing in morning (walking gives happy hormones - it sounds like you are sad because you are not doing anything - and wind down activities in the evening, just a couple of little things will shift your sleeping pattern and make a world of difference.:)

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