Human Beings...Who Are Truly Nocturnal?? Nocturnal People vs. Sleep Disorders

Home sweet home...

Why does insomnia afflict so many?

Insomnia...I've seen some great suggestions for dealing with it including drinking warm milk or herbal tea, providing yourself with a very relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom, taking relaxing baths before bed, and so on. All of these things worked for me...at one time. The cold hard fact about insomnia - or, more accurately, hyposomnia which is "too little sleep" as opposed to "no sleep" - is that it is a very disruptive disorder that can cause untold problems in work and daily life.

How my life experience has led me to nocturnals

As always, let me start with a bit of my own experience. For my entire life I have been unable to sleep restfully at night. That's right, even as a small child I simply could not bed down and go to sleep and stay that way at night (you can probably imagine I was quite a headache for my mother) and to this day no matter how much I try I can not sleep restfully until sunrise. Every relaxation tip in the world is something I have tried and each one worked for a week or two before throwing me back into the world of sleeplessness.

Think you have something more than insomnia? It may still be healthy

The Body Clock Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body's Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum Health
The Body Clock Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body's Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum Health

Great health -- both mental and physical -- isn't about conforming to society's clock, but in learning how to work with your own internal clock for optimal function.

 

Because of a pre-existing serious depressive disorder I am not able to take any of the chemical sleep aids available on the market, relaxation tips don't work, so then what? We'll try forcing a "normal" schedule. At first I did not force my bedtime but rather made myself wake up and be active (as opposed to waking up and sitting around) at 6:00 every morning. The first night...great! Asleep at 11:00 and up at 6:00, not bad for a first try. The second night, asleep at 12:15....and awake again at 12:38...sleep came back as the sun rose around 4:30 and I rose at 6:00. I insisted on this 6:00 waking time for more than two months, two months in which I just got more and more drug out as I functioned on no more than four hours and often less than two hours' sleep each night.

With three kids in single digits running around the house, there's only so much my body and mind can take and only so much resolve before I turn back to my own schedule as depicted by my internal clock. If allowed to sleep as I wish, I will fall asleep around 4:00 or 4:30 every morning and be fully alert and rested by 10:00. Wow, that doesn't seem normal, does it? I very rarely have the chance for naps and generally can't settle down in the middle of the day even if I do have the chance so how do I feel so good on six hours or less of sleep? Add to that one strange little fact...the symptoms of my bipolar disorder are much less severe when I've kept this strange schedule. When I go for a late-night walk before my sunrise bedtime I feel downright happy. Sounds too strange to be true, right?

Hyposomnia at night, combined with daytime fatigue, may indicate that you don't have a typical diurnal circadian rhythm.
Hyposomnia at night, combined with daytime fatigue, may indicate that you don't have a typical diurnal circadian rhythm. | Source

And, voila, I'm not the first person with this nocturnal human theory

About a year ago I was working on my beading in front of the TV casually soaking in all the information the Discovery channel threw at me when a documentary came on that nearly made me forget about my beading; it was about a family who had two people who kept normal schedules of sleeping at night and being awake during the day...and two who had to deal with the realities of this severe form of hyposomnia until they simply adhered to nocturnal schedules. Then the Discovery channel took it one step further with studies about nocturnal humans.

A look at the importance of the brain's internal clock, and "atypical" circadian rhythms

Nocturnal humans? This is the first I'd heard about the possibility of there being such a thing as a truly nocturnal human. I started to think about it and do some research...research that states that an estimated 60 million people in the US alone suffer from severe hyposomnia and/or give in to a nocturnal schedule dictated by their internal processes. It started making sense.

Why would the human species need nocturnals?

Whether we believe in evolution or not, it is proven that all species adapt to their needs because if those needs are not met the species suffers. Once upon a time, the human species required some people to be up all night to guard the helpless sleepers and, eventually, to tend campfires and such as well. Nocturnals would have to be able to function efficiently on very little sleep in societies where all members had to work together at some point such as in the case of nomadic tribes who had to move frequently...a fascinating explanation for how I can feel so good on so little sleep.

Thinking about it -- today, there is still a huge need for nocturnal people. Police must be on duty all night, there are some jobs best done at night when crowds and the heat of the day are not in the way, and so on. Unfortunately these overnight jobs are often not filled by true nocturnals, possibly because so many people don't know they exist or there just aren't any available or...who knows? It is interesting to note, though, that a true nocturnal could have a job that keeps them out all night, come home and sleep soundly for five hours and be ready to do housework and play with the kids.

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Melatonin works to "re-set" your internal clock to conform to different sleep patterns. Discuss it with your doctor if you have had issues with depression, but it might just help you be awake and alert for your diurnal life schedule.

 

What does the idea of nocturnal humans say about sleep disorders?

How many of these 60 million people in the US are true nocturnals? I have no idea. Similarly, I have no idea if such a classification really exists outside of speculation and wishful thinking (not to mention the vast archives of the internet), but I do know that I and others I have met fit the bill perfectly and it just makes sense. The classification that does exist is something called Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder which is basically a "disorder" that causes an otherwise normal person to sleep and wake at times not normal for the rest of society. It is my own opinion that just maybe it is too easy to stamp "disorder" on this behavior rather than acknowledge that it may actually be a normal part of being human.

Coping with being a nocturnal human

Unfortunately, a problem arises in that the majority of the human population is not nocturnal. It may not always be possible for a nocturnal person to follow their desired schedule as their parents, spouses and children lead a normal sunlit life. It is my own experiences and the observation of others that prefer to keep the same schedule as mine that has prompted further investigation into causes and coping skills. Just maybe, the answer for many hyposomniacs is just to go to sleep when you can and wake up when you can.

It only took a couple of weeks of adhering to the demands of my internal clock to discover this strange schedule and personal experimentation has shown that no matter how tired I am (I have kept myself awake for over 48 hours in an attempt to force sleep at a specific time) I will not sleep soundly, if at all, until 4:00 or 4:30. That said, I will sleep a solid six hours, rise refreshed at 10:00, feel pretty much depression-free and be able to exercise, clean house, and do my work with no problem.

If so many people are operating outside their internal clock, what about you?

How do you feel your internal clock compares to that of the "normal" diurnal world?

  • I can comfortably adhere to a schedule similar to those around me.
  • I'm always waking and going to sleep far earlier than everyone else.
  • I stay up much later, and awaken later than most people around me.
See results without voting

Is there a way to cope for true nocturnals who don't have the option of abiding by the schedule their body desires? I don't know. My own experience would say probably not, as years of trying to force a daytime schedule and using all the coping methods suggested have returned absolutely no results except to further deprive me of sleep. Perhaps some chemical sleep aids will work for some, perhaps some will be more successful at employing skills to force sleep, but for the rest of us it can be a very long and lonely road unless we find a way to simply acknowledge these tendencies as a society and let nocturnal people live as their bodies insist they should.

What do you think, can humans be naturally nocturnal? Please leave a comment below with your take on the subject, I'd love to see everyone's views. Thank you for your time, and I hope this hub has been helpful.

More thoughts on sleep disorders in general

More by this Author


Comments 33 comments

hellchic profile image

hellchic 8 years ago from Australia

Wow! I too have trouble sleeping, but have never heard of 'nocturnals'. What you have discovered makes total sense. Thanks for sharing the results of your research. Cheers from another 'chic' from Oz!


R. Martin Basso profile image

R. Martin Basso 8 years ago from California

a nice hub and well writtten too!


C.S.Alexis profile image

C.S.Alexis 8 years ago from NW Indiana

wychic,

This article was of particular interest to me because I have the same sleep pattern only I would prefer to go to bed around noon and get up about 6pm. The night time is the right time! C.S. Alexis


Pixieguts 7 years ago

Me too! A whole life of struggling with this tendency to want to sleep very late (3am - dawn) and feeling out of it with the rest of society. I have never been able to last a 9-5 work schedule (including when I was at school) for more than about 3 months at a time and have suffered from high anxiety and panic attacks when doing that. Night time is so peaceful to the mind. I think I was meant to be one of those tribal sentinels who kept the fires burning for the tribe overnight and watched over the rest of the vulnerable humans in sweet calm quiet, love and maternal care...


Insomniac_618 7 years ago

Brilliant. I'm 20 years old, I've had insomnia from before i can even remember, I recently got the flu for the first time, and I started sleeping beautifully all of a sudden. Eventually I realised that I'd messed up the rigid schedule I was trying to keep because during that period I was only sleeping during the day. So...

...I have to change my online alias...


johann 7 years ago

damn i have been this way since babyhood. i love leaving at 3 am and staying out till 8 am then i go to sleep and wake up at 6 pm. i do it naturally no matter how hard i try not to.. nedless to say i look very young for my age on account of hardly ever seeing the sun. my energy spikes at 3 am in which time i love to lift heavy weights, run, and do calisthenics. iam extremely talkitive too, during the day ( if I HAVE to be up for something) im sluggish, stupid, weak, and quiet!


Kim Garcia 7 years ago

Sheridan,

Interesting article! Thanx for posting this hub...very beneficial.


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 6 years ago from London

This sounds just like me as well. I haven't heard about nocturnal people before, but it makes sense. I find it so difficult to go to bed and sleep at night, and with a 3 year old who likes to be up early I also end up not getting much sleep. I don't function too greatly on it, but I've got used to it and I cope - although I'm sure it's not good for my health.

I keep telling myself that I must force night sleep at a decent hour to get a proper, awake daytime, but maybe it just isn't for me!? I'm hopefully going to try it and see if I can change my entire routine. Let's see if it works. You've given me food for thought.. Thanks!


grillrepair profile image

grillrepair 6 years ago from florida

interesting.


devilchild666 6 years ago

since i leant about speciation and mutation in biology i have thought that maybe i had a mutated gene which makes you nocturnal... it makes so much sense! its really encouraging to see that so many other people also could be nocturnal, ive had insomia/hypersomia for as long as i can remember as well and im only 18, and ive found that drungs just dont work for me, if anything they make me physically tired but mentally im still wide awake :(


unknown... 6 years ago

Thanks this has relly helped, I have now been drinking herbal tea and taking baths more often and its really helping!


Andrea 6 years ago

I am 21. I have had this problem since I was about 15. Sometimes it is better than others, where I will fall asleep about 3am. But normally I go to sleep at about 5 or 6am. During school this takes a toll on me, as I only get 1-2 hours of sleep a night. But I can run on only a couple hours of sleep, luckily. My ideal amount of sleep, too, is 6 to 7 hours. I have always said I was nocturnal, but nobody believes me. They tell me I don't try hard enough to get on a "normal" sleeping schedule. But I lay there for hours, trying and failing. When I do fall asleep at a decent hour, like 10pm or so, I end up waking up at about 1am. I think I will forever be a nocturnal human. I'm glad to see that I am not the only night walker.


Tamarind 6 years ago

I have the same type of situation. Ever since I was a kid everyone would fall asleep before me and I would be left alone awake at night in the house. When I got older I would lay in bed for about two hours every night frustrated and trying to sleep so I could get up for school. I have come to learn that if I just totally wear myself out cleaning or something, and don't take any naps during the day, I can sometimes fall asleep withing an hour. If I just wait to fall asleep when I am tired it is around 3 am and I wake up whenever I have to or seven to eight hours later. I have been called lazy, or that I'm just not trying to go to bed. I think it would be hard for someone to fake have sleeping trouble their whole life, don't you. And I also saw that show on the Discovery channel about the dad and daughter I believe it was, who were diagnosed as nocturnal something. The thing I do realize though, if you start living on a different time schedule as everyone else too much then your relationships will suffer because you will not be functioning at the same times. Good luck to you. It is good to know others with similar sleeping characteristics. I am one of the only night owls that I know of, except for now you too:)


Chris 6 years ago

I'm nocturnal and sleep like from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Dan 6 years ago

Im definitely nocturnal and i find that trying to force a "normal" sleep pattern just doesn't work because even when i get up early i still struggle to sleep at night and then have to spend the whole of the next day tired. This is especially bad a weekends when i find myself going to bed at between 3:00am and 5:00am and then getting up in the afternoon, then i have to go to work on monday after having about two hours sleep.

Shame there aren't enough night jobs about : (


kc 6 years ago

i'm starting to think i am nocturnal. i have never been able to sleep at night. i go to sleep around 9 or 10am, and wake around 4pm (sometimes later if i can, but i am often woken up during the day). i can't sleep at night. i've tried multiple sleeping pills and anxiety meds, but nothing works. if i do go to sleep at night, it's basically a nap... maybe 30 minutes to an hour at best, then i am wide awake. if i try to "nap" during the day, it will turn into my full sleep session. when i had to pull dayshift at work, i was awake for 4 days straight. the only time i slept through the night was with my ex, but i was always tired around him for some reason. unfortunately my job will be requiring earlier hours (starting shifts at 3pm) so it will likely cause me to lose more and more sleep, but i could sleep for an hour, be up all day and still not be able to sleep until around 9am the next morning. i am almost 23 years old, and i've had this problem for as long as i can remember. going to school was difficult and i eventually left to get my GED because i could not handle the daytime hours.

even when i do take a nap at night, the only way i can is to leave the light on. i don't try to block out all of the light during the day when i sleep. i have curtains closed, but they are thin and i only use them for privacy.


wychic profile image

wychic 6 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming Author

That sounds very much like my experience...at one time I would even walk for hours in the middle of the night trying to get tired enough to sleep, but to no avail. I also never tried to block out the light during the day, and in fact sleep much better with full sun coming into the room...I can fall asleep easily as soon as the morning sun comes up. For the past year I have been able to stick to my husband's sleeping schedule (9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.), but now that's creeping back to my old hours again :S.


Nite owl 5 years ago

I have a fear of sleeping when it is dark. I feel vunerable to attack. Yet in the light of day I sleep like a babe. When I try to adjust to a day schedule to suddenly I find myself almost schizophrenic feeling. I know eatting a big meal in the day is a no no because I have even driven off the road after doing that.


Neferakhet 5 years ago

Most unfortunately I am also a nocturnal person.I am 30 years old and have suffered due to that for my whole life since majority of daily life activities take place during the day.I always perform and performed badly during daytime,deprived of sleep at school and then later at work.I have lost my job twice due to unable to get up and being there at the necessary time,which was impossible for me since my sleeping schedule caused me to miss it.Like many people who posted here I have tried nearly everything.What is most taxing and disturbing is by society you are marked lazy,useless and a hvy sleeper.What is even more disturbing and sad is that there is no proper diagnozisition for this nocturnal sleeping disorder problem.I just wish that Life operated at nighttime instead of daytime.I could just be like anyone else work properly,function properly.


CharlesWells profile image

CharlesWells 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

I naturally sleep mornings from 4am to 11am if my schedule permits. I don't see it as a problem. If I worked during those hours my body would adjust. I might need to supplement it by consuming a caffeine drink. I think some people are naturally nocturnal. I worked the grave yard shift for years. This may have also encouraged habit.


Jessica 5 years ago

I wake up several times at night, Even when I try and go to bed early I'm still extremely tired when I woke up for school. It affected my school work so much, every day after school I would come home and go straight to bed until 7 or 8p.m. Then I'd wake up and still be very tired and not in the best mood. During the summer though, I would go to bed about 4-7a.m


Jessica 5 years ago

then wake up at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and not be tired at all, and would usually be in a very good mood. I also suffer from depression and anxiety and have to take medication every day for it, and I am only 17 years old and have been on my medicine for two years.


lyndapringle profile image

lyndapringle 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

The problem here is that morning people run the world. Once we nocturnals brush off our passive natures and show these morning people there's a new sheriff in town - then we'll all be happy campers. Let them see what it's like not being able to conform to an arbitrary time table. As a nocturnal, time issues have been my biggest weakness at work. I am at my most productive between 10-7 or even starting at 9:30 - but - no - I have to come into work along with the rest of the sheep (who I'm sure are nocturnals in sheep's clothing) at 8:00am. That's obscene and I waste two hours of productivity because I'm too tired to do anything other than mumble. But no one says much because of the perception that if the worker is in the box, then he must be working.

Thank you so much for this wonderful article and paving the way toward normalizing us nocturnals.


wychic profile image

wychic 5 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming Author

Thank you so much for your comments, lyndapringle, Jessica, CharlesWells, and everyone else I haven't replied to in a timely manner...my apologies for the tardiness, but your comments are certainly very appreciated :).

@CharlesWells -- it sounds like you've discovered something that took me a lot of pain and anguish to finally accept...if you just go with it, life is SO much easier. I ended up creating my own job because nothing else really fit with my wacky hours.

@lyndapringle -- so true, the diurnals definitely rule, and I suppose that's the way it was meant to be in the days of the hunter/gatherers. Far fewer people were needed to protect a community than to run it, so nocturnals are a relatively small percentage of the population. This is one area where increased globalization does do us some favors -- my business and social contacts used to be all the small handful of nocturnals I could find, and life felt pretty solitary most of the time. Now I work with a lot of diurnals in China and India, as well as parts of Canada that are much further east than m'self -- I'm usually working the second half of my day by time the latter hits the office in the morning, and the former works the same hours I do, it's just day there.

I had a few more thoughts to add as well, but instead of putting it all in the comments I've decided to write another article on the subject, this one looking specifically at the closest sleep disorder I can find to nocturnal behaviors...and why I don't think it adds up to what this problem is for nocturnals.


wychic profile image

wychic 5 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming Author

And here is the link to the other article http://hubpages.com/health/Delayed-Sleep-Phase-Syn...


jaysun 5 years ago

cope with what? if you have nothing to do between 4 and 10 anyway, who cares?


oddjack 4 years ago

I've been reading the articles and comments all are interesting and I can relate to alot of them. I've been nocturnal since i can remember and that's been since i was very little. i thought i was strange. the concept that i was up and about while everybody was sleeping was unusual. i seriously thought something was wrong me. but now its normal i've been this way for 30 years now and you just don't really think about its like somebody who lives during the day. the only problem with is when your spouse wants to go to bed and generally wants you to come with her(ahem) this has a tendency to cause a little friction. i have tried taking super snooze or melatonin and it doesn't work. i'm not trying to change myself. i actually work at a job that that caters to my nocturnal nature. i'm a security officer who watches over a gated community at night-time. i found it funny when you mention about people guarding the tribes at night and kept the fire's going at night cause that's what i'm doing(laughs). so yeah it is hard to conform to a normal or diurnal schedule, especially when things you are required to do things during the day such as mow the lawn cause as far as i know they haven't invented the stealth mower yet. plus certain stores and the post office and doctors appointments and all that funstuff operate at a certain time frame. other then walmart and certain 24 hour restaurants. there really isn't much in the way of catering to the nightowl. If you are a spouse or are the nocturnal person it takes patience and understanding on both ends your significant other has to understand you and you have understand them. like anything in life its compromise and understanding.


Jade 4 years ago

This is just FASCINATING. You described me and my sleep habits down to a T.. It's almost to the point of scary. I too suffer from bipolar disorder, and depression. I even have a two year old. Weeeeird O.o I can totally sympathize with your situation. I've tried staying awake 48+ hours in COUNTLESS feeble attempts to fall asleep at the "appropriate" time. I awoke yesterday morning at 10 am. It is now 5:31 am, and I am JUST now getting tired. I've tried everything. I never considered that my ancestors could've been a bunch village guarding badasses. Thank you for your theory. VERY interesting point of view.


Daphne Shadows 4 years ago

Have you tried melatonin? It is the chemical your brain creates when its time for you to sleep, enabling you to sleep.

It works for me SOMETIMES.

This is a very interesting topic, something I'll definitely have to look into. Thanks!


Judy Schreck 3 years ago

I too am a nocturnal person. My best time to sleep starts between 12:00am and 3:am. I have battled this ever since I can remember. I can remember my mother trying to get me to shut up and go to sleep and my siblings even drifing off to sleep while I still wanted to play or talk. I love afternoon naps of about 1 to 2 hours. At one point not too long ago I worked 4pm to Midnight. It was perfect. I would go to bed around 3am and get up at around 9am. Visit with my husband and then lie down from 1pm to 2pm., get up and go back to work. My sister-in-law (a day person) asked me why I didn't just go to bed when I got home. I asked her if she goes to bed when she gets home around 4pm. No, day people have 4 to 5 hours after work to wind down and drift to their sleep time. However, they expect us to just jump into bed and sleep. Not possible. We need our wind down time too. I used to be like you with a 3am sleep trigger, but with melatonin, I have moved it to 12am. Some improvement. I, like you have tried to change and go to bed with my husband at around 8-9pm. I just wake up around 12am and can't go back to sleep and start to get sleepy around 4am, too late to go back to sleep. I lived in Las Vegas for a year and loved the fact that I could live a more normal existance in respect to shopping at 3am and eating dinner at midnight, and going to a movie form 12-3am. People think we just need to reset our internal clocks, but like you it may be ok for a day or two and then, no matter what we do, our internal clocks, don't like it. They force us to go back to our night time hours. I hope the world starts to realize that there are enough nocturnal people to have a normal nocturnal world someday. Oddly enough my son was also a nocturnal person. Thank you for your input wychic. Oh, just so you know I am 64 years old, and have battled this all of my life. I have lived about 90% or my life with sleep deprivation due to being a nocturnal person. Maybe in your lifetime the world will aknowledge that there are nocturnal people and positons will request such people instead of trying to force day people to work nichts and night people to work days. We really do live in a world where there are a lot of things that must be done at night wo the majority of people who are day folks have access to what they need. Give us those jobs and let us sleep during the day. We will all be better off.


LiteElest 3 years ago

My partner and i employed to get on top of existence although lately I've established the opposition.


joyanda 3 years ago

So true, so true. My dad was nocturnal and now that he's been gone 7 years, my early-bird mom and siblings keep telling me to retrain myself to be day-like. So frustrating. The subject came up recently as I have been constantly sick, one thing after another. Dr. found out I'm nocturnal, said it will continue if my best sleep is always compromised...I'm a teacher, silly me...at least until I retire. And yes, the anxiety heightens greatly when these sleep patterns are toyed with. I so agree, 5 hours of the right time of sleep is better than 10 of the forced sleep hours!!!!


wychic profile image

wychic 11 months ago from Sheridan, Wyoming Author

Wow -- I wrote this article quite a few years ago now, and had TONS of friends and family tell me, basically, "Oh, it's a phase, you'll grow out of it and learn to keep a normal schedule." Here I am with an update...rounding 30, have three kids and a (very diurnal) husband, and still haven't "grown out of" a nocturnal schedule. I can try for short periods of time, but it always drifts back to the one described above. The only exception, strangely, is that I find I'm more productive on even less sleep than I used to be -- side effect of parenthood?

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