Question: I was formally diagnosed with “Circadian Rhythm Disorder, Delayed Sleep Phase” last year at age 43. I had an overnight sleep study, extensive analysis and interviews with a Neurologist/Sleep Specialist. I’ve heard Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is the name for the adolescent version described on this page.
I am also Bipolar, and regular sleep is key to preventing manic episodes. I like the analogy between sleeping pills and a fire extinguisher. The common misconception that sleep deprivation is better than taking a pill is baloney. I see that as part of the cultural judgement that “good, clean living will make you an early bird.” Throughout my working life, I believed shame from bosses, co-workers and myself for not being able to wake early. Even in a workplace that offered flexible scheduling, I was allowed to begin my day at 9:30, but faced regular insults from people who chose to arrive hours earlier. Particularly as a manager, I was seen as setting a ‘bad example.’ I had a depressing belief that the early bird always wins.My sleep specialist’s treatment? Stop the struggle and build a life that works for me. There are many careers and jobs that don’t require early wake time torture.

Answer: Thanks for sharing such a fresh perspective in your story. I think realizing the value of this particular advice from your sleep specialist is a key liberator for people like you who have had delayed sleep phases for a long time. Other posts on this site have similar sentiments, including this one that comes to mind: My Sleep Schedule Doesn’t Fit Society’s.

Thanks for your question and good luck,