xxix. Guest Blogger, not a morning person

15 October 2006 at 20:14 | Posted in Circadian rhythm | 5 Comments
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With the author’s permission, here’s a particularly insightful post to a DSPS support group. Thanks, V., for letting me use this!
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It’s interesting to me when someone comes on and talks about a “cure” to see the reaction. I think there’s way more to this than just biology. I switched to an early wake time to take a class I needed to take to finish my degree. I noticed the same thing that some of you have mentioned. I got a lot of sleep at the “socially acceptable” times but waking up early everyday left me feeling weird. Like something wasn’t quite right. By the end of the academic term I was sick, fatigued and run down.
 
There was another thing I noticed, though, that was completely separate from the physical symptoms I was having. I felt like I moved to another city or something. Culturally, everything shifted slightly. I woke up and walked to the bus, the streets were filled with busy people, the world seemed way more crowded and the pace was so different from what I was used to. People’s attitudes were different. They were aggressive, everyone had to get to where they were going and you better not get in their way.
 
It was weird seing everything illuminated from the opposite side. I wasn’t used to seeing how things looked in the morning sun.
 
All the people I was used to seeing in my neighbourhood were gone as I was now going shopping, getting a coffee, doing my laundry at different times with all these different people.
 
I had trouble getting together with my friends because our schedules clashed and getting stuff done was hard because I didn’t have my uninterrupted night hours to be alone and work.
 
Even watching TV was annoying, all my favourite shows don’t come on till after 11pm (although that was easily solved by taping them but I couldn’t watch them with my friends).
 
After the course was over, aside from feeling like crap physically I think I was kind of homesick. I wanted to get some sleep, when my body wanted it rather than when it was “socially acceptable”, and then get back to my life. I wondered if looking for a “cure” was what I needed. I’m a night owl, always have been. I was the only 10 year old in my school who knew who Johnny Carson and John Belushi were. I grew up star gazing out my bedroom window because I couldn’t get to sleep until 4am and wasn’t allowed out of bed or to turn on the lights. I didn’t care about Saturday morning cartoons or getting up early to open my presents at Christmas, then or now.
 
It made me realize that I’m part of a culture of night people, people who have gone against some of the traditional norms when it comes to being an “early bird” and I really felt out of place in my new morning world.
 
I don’t think I’m up for being a guinea pig for another “cure”. So far all the drug, light, cycle therapies, special teas, white noise machines, relaxation tapes, etc. seem to focus on one aspect of the problem and ignore the rest; biological, social, psychological. And when one more thing doesn’t work I feel like even more of a defect. I’m tired of devoting so much energy to fitting in. Maybe it would be better spent trying to set up a life that works for me.

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Next:  xxx. Light Therapy, Practice Parameters, 1999

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  1. I totally agree with you. The New York Times had an article about a year ago about “night owls”. Our ancestors guarded the caves at night and that was passed down to us. Because it doesn’t “fit” with society, it is called a “disorder”. I think it is more of a genetic predisposition, the cave men needed someone to guard the cave. We were essential and for some reason that gene has lived on. We are all still here. Guarding the cave and being able to stay up all night seems to still be something essential or we wouldn’t still be around.

    My only problem is meeting people for “lunch” before I’ve even had breakfast.

  2. I like this notion of a separate “culture”. It really is true – nocturnal people do things differently – they have to – and they share a common identity, common values, and common interests. If people with DSPS were viewed as belonging to a culture instead of a disorder, would we be able to get the same social political considerations as other minority groups? It’s easy to dismiss the “sick,” especially when they won’t accept a “cure,” but not so easy to dismiss an entire culture.

    The deaf culture is going through a similar debate. Medicine wants to provide ways of “curing” deafness, but many in the deaf culture LIKE the uniqueness of their language and way of life and identity, and all the things that uniqueness gives birth to. They see it as a difference, not a disability. Maybe these two groups, deaf and DSPS people, could give each other political credibility by recognizing and supporting each other’s parallel struggles.

  3. …as other minority groups. Interesting thoughts, thank you.

  4. I also do not consider DSP a disorder. I learned decades ago to let my body “be”. I have lived a life where I adjusted my lifestyle to the needs of my body. The only exception occurred when it came to my children’s schedules. (I was that mom that poured the OJ on my kids’ cereal) Even then, I’d get them off to school and go back to sleep. I quickly discovered in my 20’s that I was never going to be happy working a 9-5 job. I simply accepted that and sought employment that was more accommodating.

    As no 2 people are the same, I’ve always insisted on being allowed to be me. I just had to dare to be different. This is just the way I am, and, much to the dismay of my parents, have been since childhood. I’m almost defiant in my insistence to be allowed to follow the needs of my body, and believe that compromise with the demands of society are sometimes necessary, but possible. No apologies.

    The need for treatment or change has never even occurred to me. However, I never knew that my “night owl” lifestyle had a name or was considered a “disorder”. The only “disorder” I see is caused by not being allowed to follow my own inner clock without judgement by others. I learned to put my foot down on this subject.

    I am just learning that this thing called DSPD exists. Like I said, I never considered my different sleep pattern to be a problem, let alone a disorder. I just accepted that I was different in this way from most other people and adjusted my life accordingly. It doesn’t feel like a “disorder” to me, any more than having red hair would be considered a disorder.

    I too feel like the world has “shifted” when I’m forced to function too early in the day for too long. I will ultimately become depressed. It just doesn’t feel natural to me. Following my inner clock has allowed me to be happy and prosper.

  5. I don’t know why I didn’t make that decision early on. Trying too hard to please, probably. I’d surely have been physically healthier for it, and likely mentally as well. You go, girl!


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