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Did You Know There Is A Diagnosis For Night Owls

Updated on March 13, 2011

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

  • Have you ever been referred to as a "night owl" or "night person"?
  • Is it difficult for you to fall asleep before 12 a.m. to 4 a.m.?
  • Is it difficult for you to wake in the mornings?
  • Have you ever complained of insomnia or excessive sleepiness?
  • Do you feel more awake or more creative during the evenings or late hours?

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, you may have what is referred to as Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), also known as Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD).


DSPS is a chronic disorder of the timing of sleep. It is also one of the most prevalent of all circadian rhythm sleeping disorders such as jet lag, advanced sleep phase, and shift work disorder. People with DSPS general do not go to sleep until after midnight hours (usually between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m.) and can generally sleep soundly unlike those with sleep apnea or insomnia. DSPS is not a problem until it interferes with an individual's daily routine like work or school. Someone with DSPS may fail courses or lose jobs because of their inability to function during early hours. This may result in depression because an individual is seen as unmotivated, lazy, or undisciplined.Almost half of the people that suffer from DSPS also suffer from depression. It is believed that DSPS has a major role in causing depression because it is such a stressful and misunderstood disorder. Extreme stress, anxiety, sleep onset insomnia, fatigue, and altered eating habits can develop as a result of living with DSPS and trying to live up to our society's "normal" schedule.

DSPS usually develops in early adolescence and can be a life long condition. Childhood cases have been reported. It is rare for onset to begin after age 30. It is more common in men. It is responsible for almost 10% of insomnia complaints, however, DSPS usually goes misdiagnosed and ends up not being treated at all or treated as insomnia or a psychiatric illness.

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Causes for DSPS are unknown, but it is known that the persons circadian rhythms seems to be "out of tune" with societies normal 9 to 5 schedule. Head trauma or serious illness may disrupt a person's circadian rhythm and cause a person to be diagnosed with DSPS.

If you think you have DSPS talk to your doctor or a therapist and ask if they can preform an actigraphy. It is also a good idea to start keeping a sleep diary for at least a 2 week period.


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    • profile image

      early bird 

      6 years ago

      Most everyone in my family has dsps except me. I feel left out, alone and they make me feel like the weirdo. Becoming depressed. But thank you for the explanation. Seeking other housing situation in hopes of better life not living with dsps. Sorry, but this is hard on all of us.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am married to a man who suffers with this but he doesn't think its an issue. We don't have what I would call a normal sex life as we are never in the bedroom at the same time.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My live in boyfriend of 7 years suffers from this problem. I love him dearly. He provides for the family and is truly amazing. The alarms drive me crazy! I have tried explaining I hate being responsible for waking him up. There are times he has to conform to societies norms and it drives me crazy when I feel like it is my fault that he won't get up when he needs too. If he can sleep on his schedule life is good, but as soon as he has to be somewhere the alarms are going off every five minutes and he can't hear them. I try to wake him up, but it is miserable for me. He does not budge and then is frustrated when he sleeps too late.

      Does anyone have advice? I am aware his body clock is different than mine and I usually just ignore his weird schedule. It is those rare times he must conform that are a challenge for both of us.

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      DSPS is caused by skewed melatonin levels. Melatonin induces sleepiness. Many people have had success resetting their sleeping schedules with wakeup light. By using a gradually, intensifying light prior to awakening for 30 minutes, they help people awaken more easily and refreshed. Even if you don't have a circadian rhythm sleeping disorder, many people enjoy being awakened by light rather than a blaring alarm. Great hub! Keep up the good work!

    • ErinElise profile image


      7 years ago from Near Sacramento, California

      Hi, I just came across your hub and wanted to thank you for the information. Now I know that there is a name for it and a reason behind it.

    • retrobandit profile image

      William Johnson 

      8 years ago from Texas

      I never knew there was a name for it. I thought I was just abnormal. Even if I force myself to wake up early, I still can't get to sleep til well after midnight. Brilliant hub. Good job.

    • lalesu profile image


      8 years ago from south of the Mason-Dixon

      I am definitely a night owl and living in the world of mockingbirds leaves me stranded on the ground when it comes to job and family. Even with availability to medication, I find I still prefer the solitary loveliness of the middle of the night. ahh, well...

    • TheGlassSpider profile image


      8 years ago from On The Web

      OMG! Thank you! I had no idea this was a diagnosis. I've NEVER been able to sleep early, and I always felt so undisciplined, but once it's finally late I can sleep soundly, just like you said. It is difficult to function early in the day. I'm going to have to look into this more.

    • figment profile imageAUTHOR

      Karli Duran 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Thank you

    • robbyism profile image


      8 years ago

      Rated you up, and voted. I have a medical background, well done on the hub.

    • Niteriter profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      It looks like you got a whole fan club with this one Hub! I'm one of your tribe... I've been a night person since at least age 12, maybe earlier. I fought it for years but recently I've started adjusting my life to my natural sleep patterns. I feel much better. Good work here!

    • mod2vint profile image


      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This used to be me, Then I became a small business owner and am asleep by 8:30 every night from pure exhaustion.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      It's 4am, my circadian rhythm is right on Q. Today I will go to sleep when the sun comes up. Tomorrow I will go to sleep at after the garbage man emties the trash cans. (If I remember to put them out).

      Needless to say, I'm tired and probably not making sense. one sheep, two sheep, three sheep, four sh... fiv... s ZZZZ

    • profile image

      Jared in Vegas 

      8 years ago

      Oh thank god. Turns out that I sleep until one in the afternoon because I have a disorder, not because I'm lazy. I'm not sure if that's better though.

    • MyWebs profile image

      Anthony Goodley 

      8 years ago from Sheridan, WY

      I've been a night owl for as long as I can remember, so I can sure relate to this hub. This is definitely me. I constantly struggle to sleep 'normal hours'. My body always tries to revert back to staying up all night and sleeping all day. It is nice to know what is probably the cause of this and to be able to put a name to it.

      Thanks for taking the time to research this subject. Well done. Bookmarked for future reference

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      I've been off an on with "night-owlism". Thanks Figment.

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 

      8 years ago

      Great hub and I didn't know this but I do know people who are night owls. In my working career I had to work the late night shift on a couple of occasions for 1 to 1 1/2 years each time. I never got used to sleeping in the daytime and was always tired....and cranky.

    • Freya Cesare profile image

      Freya Cesare 

      8 years ago from Borneo Island, Indonesia

      I'm night owl almost whole life until last year. Since Child, if I wake more than 11 pm, I will not able to sleep until 3 or 4 am. And I don't need to sleep as much as others. 4 hours a day is enough. But everything good now, as long as I keep my stress away. Indeed stress and mostly depression is the reason of it. Nice hub. Thank you. ^_^

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      8 years ago from India

      Thanks for giving it a name! I've always known my body clock was set differently and that I work best between 12 and 3 at night. Maybe working online has been helpful to people like us because it keeps working hours flexible. Rather than being treated, maybe people should have different work schedules according to their body clocks?

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Figment I have been this way most of my life, started after my dad passed away. I did not know any of this thank you. My whole family suffers from sleep disorders, I never made that connection, just thought it was a bad habit hard to break. Thank you, again.

    • Sara Tonyn profile image

      Sara Tonyn 

      8 years ago from Ohio, the Buckeye State

      How cool is this hub? Answer: Very! I think we briefly mentioned the possible connection between night owls and circadian rhythms when we were all posting to a wonderful thread you created in the forums. It turns out you took the time to research things further and decided to share your findings with everyone. Excellent! Thanks for writing this very informative hub. :) (Now we can all add another diagnosis to our lists. LOL )

    • rmcrayne profile image


      8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Great job figment. Glad I could turn you on to this. Makes a big difference knowing this, vs all the crap you've gotten your whole life doesn't it? Stuff like lack of willpower, 'just get up when the alarm goes off' and other nonsense. I've been meaning to write a hub for months, so good on you.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      I am of the night owl variety, I've heard of the melatonin thing but haven't pursued it. Good choice for an article!

    • Ghost Whisper 77 profile image

      The IGNITER vs Corrupted Governments 

      8 years ago from The U.S. Government protects Nazi War Criminals

      Interesting hub.

      I have been a night owl forever, even as a child. I used to stay up and read books under my blankets with a flashlight until very late up for third grade just fine! hehehe.

      I am in my late 40's and still, I love the peacefulness of the evenings, I enjoy working at night, I am at my best at these times, I think better, feel better. If I have to go to bed early and wake very early, I lose the peacefulness of my internal clock-that has been ticking for many years.

      Intersting twist of irony of your hub to my realities. ;)


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