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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....

....as 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.

Warmly,
Kevin

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