52. 2010: sleep logs

23 May 2010 at 15:02 | Posted in Circadian rhythm | 30 Comments

By popular demand (at least two people), here’s my blank sleep log form.  I drew it in Paint and saved it as a .gif file.  The yellow lines show the nighttime that I try to sleep within.

Four week sleep diary

January 2010.  Short days with brilliant sunshine.  Looks like I was determined to sleep during the day and sparsely.  However the average sleep per 24 hours was my usual 8.6 hours.

February 2010.  Better!

March and April 2010.  However did I manage to get on such a regular, normal sleep schedule?  I travelled nine timezones to the west, and the effect lasted for weeks!

But I came back home, and immediately took up my usual bad habits.  Does anyone have an explanation for this?!

WordPress won’t (apparently) let me add more images to this post.   I’ll have to do a new 2010/2011 one some day.

Posted by “D”    


Next post: #53.  Light therapy: white, blue or maybe green?  _________________________________________________________


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  1. I recently traveled 7 timezones west and had the same experience. I guess it also depends in the purpose of the trip. Mine was a business trip and I “had” to have more discipline with the sleeping hours to avoid trouble.

    Additionally the way east is much harder in terms of jet leg.

  2. Hi Yaron, thanks for commenting. I expected to be ‘normal’ for up to 2 weeks – I usually keep the early schedule for about that long. But 7 weeks? I wouldn’t have thought it possible. I wasn’t consciously trying, either, just observing and wondering.

    Your first name is the same as that of one of my favorite sleep researchers, Y. Dagan. He takes circadian rhythm disorders more seriously than most, allowing that they sometimes are an intractable disability!

  3. Another thing that helped me when I visited GMT+5 recently is that my state of mind was still somehow GMT-2. Since I am used to sleep way after everyone else does and all of my local websites update, I could do the same but in a reasonable hour.

    Y. Dagan actually manages one of the local clinks here in Israel.

  4. Hello, co-blogger! This is quite interesting. You have several things going on, and it’s tricky to separate them.

    1. There is the time-zone shift. As you say one might expect that effect to last only a short time (that’s the case with me), but there could be a longer-lasting effect. For example, what if your main problem was inability to phase-advance? The you might maintain a new phase angle for quite a long time — but one late night would put you back in trouble. Over the course of years any small delays could not be compensated for by advances and you would develop DSPS.

    2. There is the aspect of being on vacation and reduced stress.

    3. There is aspect of being a guest in someone’s house.

    4. There is the fact that the person you were staying with is your sister. Maybe the presence of another person who is emotionally and genetically closely linked could have a zeitgeber effect for reasons both psychological and physiological (even pheremones?)

    5. There is perhaps some change in light exposure as well.

    If the time zone change is a major factor, next time you should follow this up by spending 2 months in Japan before going back home. Kind of international chronotherapy. Not seriously suggesting this, but it’s interesting to think about. As it happened in actuality your return required a major phase advance, which by itself could have messed up your rhythms.

    As for the other factors:

    What if you went on vacation in Italy? No time zone change, but also reduced stress perhaps.

    What if your sister came to visit you? Would her presence stabilize your rhythms. Or would you “infect” her with DSPS?

    On the other hand, you’ve said you had DSPS as a child, so whatever psychological or familial effects are active now did not seem to help you then.

    Maybe it was a combination of the phase shift (chronotherapy almost), with the other factors serving to prolong its effects.

    The other big question, which relates to something I have mentioned to you before, is whether your temperature and sleep rhythms are in sync. It could be that this visit stabilized your sleep-wake cycle but not your temperature cycle. The sleep-wake (process S) cycle may be a bit more susceptible to exogenous effects than is the temperature cycle (process C), especially if the two are desynchronized. Or maybe even the two became synced up during your vacation but again became desynchronized following the big phase advance required by your return.


  5. Hi LivingwithN24

    Can you elaborate on the temperature cycle (process C), and how it may be related to DSPS?

  6. Thank you for your thoughts, LwN24! I’m way ahead of you on “international chronotherapy”. I’ve said the ideal job must be as some kind of messenger, whether for diplomats or more shady characters: a good week in London, a week in NYC, then Honolulu and Delhi. Repeat.

    Inability to phase advance sounds so reasonable that it should be part of the definition, no?

    Then there is the question of temperature and sleep rhythms out of sync. I’ve tried to get my head around that before, without much success. How could that be, since sleep rhythm normally is attached to body temperature rhythm? How would one check it out, without being kept in controlled conditions? And, if verified, how would one correct it or deal with it?

    Thanks again!

  7. Hi Yaron. Thanks for the question.

    There are two processes that determine when one is sleepy. The first one is process S (S for sleep). Roughly speaking, when you sleep you recharge your brain, like a battery charging up with energy. The longer you are awake the more this brain battery runs down. (You understand of course that I am using an analogy — it’s not really a battery.) If process S was the only factor everyone would get up full of energy and then slowly run down over the course of the day.

    But the body compensates for this energy drain with another process called process C (for circadian). Process C gradually makes you more energetic as the day goes on, particularly in the evening. In a perfect world process S and process C would balance each other and a person would have the same energy level all day long.

    One theory of DSPS (and N24) is that our process S is not very strong, so we don’t wind down much over the course of the day. On the other hand our process C is too strong, which causes us to be excessively alert in the evening. This makes it hard for us to go to sleep at the end of the day.

    The way temperature works into this is that the process C is closely tied to our body temperature rhythm. Early in the morning our core body temperature is relatively low. During the day it gradually rises and then peaks late in the day before falling again before sleep. Those of us with delayed sleep or N24 also often have a delayed temperature rhythm as well. When your body temperature is at its peak it makes it hard to get to sleep.

    I hope that’s clear. It’s a complex balance. It might be worth a blog post someday to discuss it in more detail.


  8. @delayed2sleep:
    It would seem that inability to phase advance is a key component of DSPS. One can end up delayed by some process that actively causes a delay or just because there is no ability to advance (ever!) to compensate for delays that happen from time to time.

    The sleep and temperature rhythm are linked but not inextricably. Technically they are what is called coupled oscillators, but the coupling is only partial.

    The main thing that keeps them coupled is that our body temperature tends to affect our ability to sleep. A high or rising core body temperature tends to prevent sleep so we are more likely to fall asleep on the falling limb of our temperature cycle.

    (Interestingly the coupling is weaker in the other direction. The act of sleeping in itself does not shift our underlying temperature rhythm much.)

    But there are certain situations in which the two rhythms can disconnect (known as internal desynchronization). One of these occurs in isolation experiments. After a period in isolation people often develop very long sleep-wake cycles that no longer keep time with the temperature cycle.

    What I wonder is if you are internally desynchronized despite being in a normal environment.

    It would be hard to verify but one place to start would be to keep a record of your body temperature. Now it is true that strictly speaking the temperature cycle is only valid when measured as core temperature in so-called constant routine conditions. But that’s if you are running a scientific study. For our purposes a simple oral temperature might be a clue. I know my oral temperature tends to have a daily cycle, peaking late at night. It would require some work — taking your temperature every waking hour for several days for example. The results won’t be a neat graph that you could publish in a journal, but there might be enough of a pattern to at least suggest what your rhythm is like.

    It would particularly be interesting to see what your temperature rhythm is like when you have one of your ultra-long days (what you call the “36-hour trick.”)

    As to what to do about it, well, most of the putative treatments for DSPS (e.g. lights, melatonin) act on the temperature rhythm. In other words for these treatments to work they need to be timed to your temperature rhythm. It’s possible that the reason these don’t work for you is that they are not timed properly. If your temperature rhythm is known they might be more effective (or they might not… no guarantees).

  9. Wow, this exchange is turning into a great forum; thank you both. (Only problem being that terms in blog posts are searchable while terms in comments are not.)
    As to the terminology, I translate in my head Process S to “Sleep debt”, then to “the homeostatic regulation of sleep”, which is the phrase I feel I understand. It means that we accrue sleep debt all day long, as I wrote way back when (post #xiii). And in post xxxviii I quoted Uchiyama et al: “…DSPS may involve problems related to the homeostatic regulation of sleep…” I may be getting closer to understanding that, now.
    Process C, then, if I am reading you right, is the temperature cycle? Circadian rhythm is then equal to the temperature rhythm. But temperature is just one of the markers of circadian rhythm; DLMO, melatonin midpoint and melatonin offset are also used…
    You point out that “After a period in isolation people often develop very long sleep-wake cycles that no longer keep time with the temperature cycle.” I’ve never coupled that with my 36-hour-trick, but they may be the same thing, I guess. I did graph my temperature for a few days once; I’ll find that and see if it makes any sense now!
    In normal, efficient nighttime sleep, the order of things is 1) dim light melatonin onset (DLMO), 2) sleep onset, 3) melatonin maximum, 4) temperature minimum. 5)wake. Is it possible that these things happen in the wrong order in some of us?

  10. @LivingwithN24 – thanks for the explanation. Actually when I go to sleep in “normal” hours I feel relatively hot and do not use cover. Usually I wake up in the morning feeling very cold which I think reduces my sleep quality. I always thought it is the outside temperature which gets colder but it suddenly makes sense if my Process C is delayed. Or does it?

  11. @Delayed2Sleep – Yes, I agree that the temperature rhythm is only one marker — albeit the most prominent — of the underlying process C.

    As for the order of the phenomena listed in your last paragraph, I also agree that they may occur out of order in some of us, or, if not out of order, that the time between different events may differ in DSPS and N24 people as compared to “normal” sleepers. Studies on the subject do not all agree. Some studies show that sleep in DSPS/N24 is delayed relative to the temperature rhythm, while others show no difference in the relative timing. Much of this may depend on whether the person is sleeping according to their own clock or not. Certainly if someone who has DSPS suddenly tried to go to sleep earlier than usual they will be trying to sleep when their body and brain are too alert and too hot to sleep. So they will be trying to sleep too early relative to process C.

    My own suspicion is that there are many types of DSPS/N24, some caused by process C, some by process S, some by abnormalities in response to light, and some by other factors.

  12. @Yaron – Yes, what you say would be consistent with trying to sleep too early relative to your process C (temperature) rhythm. If you are used to going to bed late and suddenly try to go to bed early you will be trying to sleep when your brain and body are too alert and too hot to get to sleep easily. That could mean that you would put on fewer covers than otherwise and thus might wake up cold later on. I have noticed this happens to me at times as well. (I also tend to crave ice-water at bedtime — again possibly because my body is too warm — especially if I am trying to get to sleep earlier than usual).

    Two qualifications that I would make are (1) that someone’s subjective feeling of heat or cold may not always correspond to their actual body temperature and (2) not all DSPS/N24 cases may be caused by delayed process C. So I would not want to make a blanket statement (pun intended) about feelings of being hot or cold and sleep and all cases of DSPS/N24. But it sounds like this may apply to your case (and mine, too perhaps).

  13. Thanks LWN24, great info!

  14. My understanding is that there are a number of organs or body systems that have circadian rhythms. (I recall the graphic statement that “my brain is in Paris, but my liver is somewhere over the mid-Atlantic.”) So I’m thinking that more of your systems got into sync when you were 9 hours further west. Which suggests the thought: is it possible that there are some systems so precisely 24-hour that they “remember” where you were born? Hard to believe, but I’ll throw out the thought anyway.

  15. VERY hard to believe, Peter. And I’ve done the same 9 hours back and forth before without the same reaction. The distance south may have something to do with it; there were still short, dark days here and I went first to a very sunny clime.
    The liver, I’ve read, is the last organ to adjust after jet lag — it can take up to a month! Thanks for commenting!

  16. Well i´m Javier from argentina, i know a little english, but i will try to be clear. Well you can see that other countries have different schedules. I think that if i go to live another country that have 6 hours different to my country… i will going in this hypothetical country, sleeping at 4:00 am to 12:00 am, like in my country? Well i dont know if you understand…in other way i will trat to put more clearly. For exampe no? here in argentina when i go to sleep at 4:00 am, in another country the hour is 10 pm… if i go to live to this country, i will going to sleep at 4:00 am? or i will start to sleep at 10pm? Here are my doubts…

  17. Hi Javier. Welcome. You are talking about Jet Lag, actually. If you usually go to sleep at 4:00 AM at home and move to another time zone, it will take you about a week to be normal again. And normal for you is sleepy at 4 AM, right?
    That 10 PM effect you are looking for will usually only last a few days, in other words.
    My reaction in April above was very strange, and I cannot explain it.

  18. well i have a cousin that live in england, and he in this country, sleep like in argentina, never get used at schedule of this country.I have dsps and never can change my parameters of sleep/wake. Well i think that the body have as “memory” and in all countrys it will go to sleep/wake at the same hour like in my country. This is my theory. Well i apologize of my little english. I want you to analize my point of view. Thanks Javier.

  19. Hi Peter and Javier. You may have a point. People in general, and especially people with a tendency to DSPS, are often able to delay their sleep cycle, but find it difficult to advance the time of their sleep.

    So if you travel from Argentina to England that would require you advance the time of your sleep by 4 hours. Some people will find that impossible to do, and, as Javier said, will remain sleeping on Argentina time. Instead of falling asleep at midnight they will now fall asleep at 4 a.m. British time, as if their body remembered Argentine time.

    However, if someone were to travel West from Argentina, for example to California (which is North but also 4 hours West), that would require delaying your sleep by 4 hours. For someone with DSPS tendencies, delaying sleep by 4 hours is easy. So an Argentinian living in California would most likely adapt to the time zone of California.

    So I think the theory of the body having a “memory” of your original time zone would apply to people traveling East (especially if they are prone to DSPS) but would not necessarily apply to those traveling West.

    Even traveling East, one might eventually adapt, but the process would take much longer.

    I don’t think it’s a memory of the time zone you were born in necessarily, just a memory of the time zone in which you had lived for an extended period.

    (It can get a bit more complicated as some people traveling East, instead of advancing their sleep by say 4 hours, will instead find their circadian rhythms delay by 20 hours. That’s what happened to me traveling from the US to the UK many years ago — instead of a 6 hour advance I’m pretty sure my body did an 18 hour delay.)

  20. well livingwhitn24, i like your point of view is very interesting… but in some way these go me to think that our problem is about night… the darkness weak up to us…? if i go for example to live to australia no? and there i start to for example go to sleep about 8 pm, to 4 am, and then i used to these schedule about 3 months, no… if i go to a disco for example… and stay all the night wake up… in the next day i will start to delay for more sleep/wake, and then i will start to sleep 4, 5 am to 12pm 1pm… like my country? well if these is all right, the problem is not the time zone… is the darkness?
    well here are my doubts…Thanks javier

  21. Oh, I agree light and dark has a great effect. When you change time zones you are also changing the time of light and dark exposure relative to your own body clock. And, yes, staying up one night will be enough to cause a delay in your sleep wake cycle. So I think we agree.

  22. WOW! This is amazing to have stumbled upon. While I have not been formally diagnosed, I truly have no doubt this is what I suffer from. I have been reading all day on it and seem to fit it to a T. I even recently went to Australia from where I live in CA to visit family, I noticed while there I had a somewhat “normal” pattern. i was also born there and moved here when I was 2, (I am now 29) I used to always joke that my sleeping pattern remained on Aussie time. Feels so good to know I am not alone, and best yet not some lazy freak that I tend to be viewed as.

    My main part in writing besides expressing my sheer joy in not being alone with this is how was it that you were diagnosed and any suggestions on wether I look for a sleep study or just try to find a regular GP to talk to in regards to this. I just received health insurance and currently have no doctors and really good use any help in any matters on this.

  23. Welcome Jessica! I am so glad this blog is doing what it’s meant to do: informing people about the same affliction I struggled with, undiagnosed, for so many years.
    May I suggest that you click on the Table of Contents tab above and read the posts: xi. My diagnosis!, xv. Why don’t doctors know?, xxiv. A sleep diary and xxvi. Getting a diagnosis. Then start keeping a sleep diary (log) in whatever form seems logical to you. It’s worth more than a sleep study in getting the diagnosis, as a sleep study is only useful for ruling out other sleep disorders. It probably will save time, as otherwise you’ll just be asked to keep a sleep diary for some weeks.
    Then there’s the search for a doctor in the know. If you are lucky it shouldn’t take too many years :-(. This site might be of help: http://www.sleepcenters.org/ But before getting an appointment or a referral, I’d advise phoning to inquire if they have expertise in and experience with diagnosing and treating Circadian Rhythm Disorders. Good luck!

  24. Thanks for the advice! It was amazing to finally stumble upon this, I am so thankful for it. I have read all the info I can find to my boyfriend and forwarded it to my mother….they both said it described me perfect lol. I even found the body temperature part interesting. I am always am too hot when I go to bed, I have had a fan by my bedside since I was a teenager as well as a pillow between my legs and feet since I find them too hot to touch each other! Today was the first time I woke up for work and finally understood why I find it to be the hardest thing in the world to do. I have often taken showers at night and prepared my outfits for the next day just so I can get that little extra sleep that seems so golden. My boyfriend has never understood why I hit snooze for an hour and can go right back to sleep and can’t seem to know what 2 + 2 is until I have been up and about for at least 2 hours. I have always referred to my morning status a being a zombie on auto pilot. Thanks for all this new info I again finally feel like I am not alone!

  25. This was very interesting. I have heard of people being colder because of sleep deprivation. My problem is I feel a helluvalot warmer. Often sweating for no apparent reason. But the time when it is worst is between 2pm to 4pm. And my usual wake up time of about 11am to 13pm?! I have played with the thought of different body parts being on different schedules. Unfortunately if thats the case the desynchronization hinders me from having energy to try to correct anything (if possible) and working for that matter. I now feel obliged to buy a thermometer 🙂 I also have to figure out how to make something nice in spreadsheets for overlaying all info I could collect. It’s bad it takes so long to experiment. Weeks just for testing one thing.

  26. Me too, Tobias. I’m usually too warm (t-shirts & sandals all winter, at LEAST indoors). But if I stay up 3-4 hours past my latest good bedtime, I’ll suddenly discover that I am freezing. If that made sense.
    It’s good you recognize “weeks for testing one thing”. Many people think they can talk about results, or lack of, after a week or less. They are cheating themselves.

  27. Question to blogger, have yo done any research with alternative medicine, like homeopatic or alopathic….

  28. No, I haven’t.

  29. Well, could be interesting, to investigate another way, with other alternatives. Really i´m honest, it´s very frustrating to live in this way. Well i have recently a very good proposal in a job, with 8 to 5pm, but to me is insane. Now i´m working in a call center , 5pm to 11:30pm, and this is a good hour to me, but the work is very exhausting and routinary. I think that if i could live like ordinary people, getting up in morning, in my life, especially in job, i will progress a lot more, than in the situation that i´m now. To this aggregate that i have symptoms very similar of social phobia, in me now can be a lot of shyness, and in epochs i have depression. All this things make me bad, and in some times very depressed.
    Well i remember, the most bad epoch was in my last two years in the secondary, when it´s started all this. All days i hate to go to the school, and i always sleep the two first hours. I remember that i was always irritated and when i could it, i escaped to the home of my sister, and sleep there. In those days, started in my face something very disgusting like acne. My peers make me jokes, and it was a lot of hits to my self-esteem. Now the remember of this, are the scars that are in my face. well thanks with this blog, it´s remember that i´m not alone.

  30. No, you are not alone! You might be interested in joining the mail list: see Circadian Disorders in the list of links to the right. That is where people like us talk about the problems of DSPS and Non-24. Welcome.

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