Question: My 19 year old son has “had his days and nights mixed up” since birth. His doctor kept saying that he would grow out of it. Scheduling sleep with the rest of the world has not changed Robert’s body clock.
During the week, Robert goes to bed at 10 or so but doesn’t fall asleep until 3 or 4 a.m. He gets up, and appears to go through the day normally, but has always had trouble focusing on lectures etc. He also appears somewhat sluggish throughout the day then magically comes to life around 9 pm. As I write this, Robert is sleeping.

Answer: Hey Lydia, thanks for sharing your son’s story. It’s amazing that his body clock has been mixed up since birth (or non-traditional, as it might be referred to by those who enjoy their delayed sleep phase), and I imagine it’s been taxing on him, you, and the family.You could try some serious bright light therapy, the most effective way as of now to shift a circadian clock, if you haven’t already, but with a lifetime delayed sleep phase maybe Robert has more of a natural affinity for this type of sleep phase that would be very difficult to shift. This is the case with some people with DSPS–they’re circadian rhythms just don’t respond easily to shifting.If this does seem to be the case with Robert, the best advice I can offer is to perhaps just go with it. Have him look into automating streams of income (e.g. via the Internet) or jobs with hours he prefers, so he won’t have societal pressures that are in conflict with his own sleeping schedule. If he does have these pressures, the result is often severe sleep deprivation, that can be both debilitating and dangerous to long-term health and short-term safety (e.g. risk of falling asleep at the wheel). Without these societal pressures, he can live happily and alertly on his own schedule.Hope some of this information is useful. Feel free to tell us more about your son’s story and your experience with the doctors using the comments below.

Thanks for your question and good luck,