xxi. Is it life-long?

17 December 2005 at 04:48 | Posted in Circadian rhythm | 5 Comments
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When does Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome start?  Does it get “better” / “worse”? 

I don’t think definitive answers are to be found.  I’ll offer here my impressions, based on reading and contact with other sufferers. 

Adolescent DSPS seems to be a special case.  The hormone surge at puberty gives some people all the symptoms of DSPS, even though they didn’t have it before and won’t have it after adolescence.  There are activist groups in the USA working for later starting times for high school classes because of this, and they have no trouble finding expert support for their struggles.  I’ve even read that teenagers with this problem most often return to their original diurnal preference:  cheerful early riser or grumpy late riser.  More systematic study would be in order here.

DSPS does not start later than in adolescence except in very unusual cases.  Certain brain injuries, tumors or cysts can cause it.  I’ve read of one case where acquired hydrocephalus created pressure which caused DSPS.  Onset after about age 20 requires a search for a physical cause, if the tumor or injury hasn’t manifested itself already.

In retrospect, the parents of many DSPS sufferers remember that there “always” was something strange about their sleeping patterns.  And what infant doesn’t have strange sleeping patterns?  Parental memories are colored by knowledge of how their children “turned out”, so any remotely scientific study of those memories sounds to be out of the question.  Perhaps it might be possible to search the journals of early childhood clinic visits for mention of sleep problems and compare with later diagnoses of sleep disorders.

A newborn has no circadian rhythm.  It is first established at the age of about 4 months.

Usually DSPS appears in early childhood.  My intuition would say that it always does, but I’ve discussed this with reliable people who are quite sure that they slept normally pre-puberty.

In sum, the disorder starts in early adolescence or earlier.  An adolescent variety may end as adulthood begins.  DSPS which hasn’t gone away by one’s mid-20s, is not going to go away.  Its nature is not going to change through the years.  Its effects on the sufferer will vary according to work schedule, other societal demands, coping strategies and diagnosis/treatment.

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Next post:  xxii. How to tackle DSPS

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iv. “Just resting!”

20 November 2005 at 07:41 | Posted in Circadian rhythm | Leave a comment
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My wise grandmother lived with us (or vice versa) on a farm.  All the animals slept, not just the people.  Some seemed to sleep just barely – they’d look at you with one eye.  Grandma and I studied them all.  They (we) all needed rest to grow and be healthy, she said.  I’m sure she decided to use the word “rest” and not sleep, as we all knew that I spent hours in bed not sleeping. We developed the agreement “Just resting”.  When Mom would look in on me at 1 or 2 a.m., I’d chirrup “I’m just resting, Mama!”.  She’d look so ridiculously sleepy.
 
I’d try to grow and be healthy.  I was tall for my age, which proved that it worked!
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Next post:  v. Our 25-hour day?
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ii. “Yes, I am awake”

19 November 2005 at 11:45 | Posted in Circadian rhythm | 7 Comments
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 The life-long night-owlism.

This story tells a good deal.  Mom, Dad or Grandma would get me up, as in standing on the cold floor in little bare feet, and make me assure them “Yes, I am awake.”  Before going back to bed, I’d promise to do some chore or errand.  Later, they’d all but call me a liar when the chore hadn’t gotten done and I claimed that I remembered nothing of the morning conversation.  They were in doubt, because if I made a promise in the afternoon or evening, I was pretty reliable.
 
Solution.  It finally occured to all of us that I had, in fact, learned to read.  Early morning conversation followed by a written “reminder” of what I’d promised, was effective.  A note without the worthless exercise on the cold floor would have been just as good, but they apparently thought they should ask me to do them a favor rather than giving me orders. . .
 
My siblings remember that their very least favorite chore was being sent in to wake me.  Even at noon or one or two.  (Poor kids.  The task was not only near impossible, I was often nasty.  They say.)
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Next post:  iii. Circadian rhythms
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