Owls, Larks and Camels

Normal cuts a Wide Swath

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another article in the Sleep Series

“Early to bed, early to rise,
makes a man stupid and blind in the eyes”

~ Mazer Rackham (from Orson Scott Card‘s book “Ender’s game“)



Normal Circadian Rhythms

Among people with healthy circadian clocks, there are “Larks” or “morning people” who prefer to sleep and wake early, and there are “Owls” who prefer to go to sleep later each night and awaken much later each day.

But whether they are larks or owls, people with normal circadian systems:

  • can awaken in time for what they need to do in the morning, and fall asleep at night at a time that allows them to get enough sleep before they have to get up.
  • can sleep and wake up at the same time every day, if they want to.
  • will, within a few days of starting a new routine that requires their getting up earlier than usual, start to fall asleep at night earlier.

For example, someone used to sleeping at 1 a.m. and waking up at 9 a.m. begins a new job on a Monday, and must get up at 6 a.m. to get ready for work.

By the following Friday, the person has begun to fall asleep at around 10 p.m., and can wake up at 6 a.m. feeling well-rested.

This adaptation to earlier sleep/wake times is known as ‘advancing the sleep phase.’ Healthy people can advance their sleep phase by about one hour each day.

24 hours a day isn’t “normal”

Researchers have placed volunteers in caves or special apartments for several weeks without clocks or other time cues. Without those time cues, the volunteers tended to go to bed up to an hour later and to get up about an hour later each day.

These experiments demonstrated that the “free-running” circadian rhythm in humans is greater than the earth’s 24 hour cycle – anywhere from 24:15 to 25 or so a day].

To maintain a 24 hour day/night cycle, the biological clock needs regular environmental time cues, for example sunrise, sunset, and daily routine.

Time cues are what keep our body clocks aligned with the rest of the world.

Originally created by Su Laine Yeo ©1996-1998 for her often-used, rarely attributed DSPS articles, generously shared on GeoCities at a time when her information
was about ALL you could find on chronorhythm disorders
She credited the Biological Timing Tutorial
from the National Science Foundation Center for Biological Timing

Remember: links on this site are dark grey to reduce distraction potential
while you’re reading. They turn red on mouseover
Hover before clicking for more info

Beleaguered by the Morning Nazis

MorningNazi“Put no trust in the benefits to accrue from early rising,
as set forth by the infatuated Franklin …”
~ Mark Twain

Nevermind the reality that the time-structures of our planet remain set for the convenience of the dawn-to-dusk agrarian work schedules of a much earlier time, there is still a great deal of pressure to wake up EARLY.

Lark or Owl, the majority of individuals in America seem to have decided that there is something intrinsically BETTER about waking in the early morning hours, and something DARK about being awake after midnight.

Night Owls, however, with different native sleep patterns, generally find that we are at our most effective once the sun sets, and essentially worthless in the early A.M. daylight hours — some of us still struggling for cognitive efficiency well-past noon.

Still, much of the world is of the opinion that anyone still a-bed after 8:00 AM is lazy, unmotivated, or avoiding something unpleasant by escaping into sleep — even when we sleep fewer total hours than they do.

  • Larks, or “morning people”, seem to be convinced that what works for them will work for everyone — and what works for them is to put themselves to bed “at a decent hour” so that they can be alert in the morning. They seem to be of the opinion that if the rest of us would simply go to bed, we would be able to go right to sleep like good girls and boys.
  • Their opinions would probably be okay with the Night-Owl contingent if the Larks would keep those opinions to themselves — but they rarely do.
  • Not only that, they seem to believe that those snarky comments slung our way are for our own good. And their tone of smug self-confidence is REALLY annoying!

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some information about sleep-realities, in the hope that it might knock a few preacher-larks off their perches.

“In my experience, the only difference between morning people
and evening people is that those people who get up
in the morning early are just horribly smug.”
~ Russell Foster, noted circadian neuroscientist.

Evidence to the contrary?

Research indicates that those who are early to bed and early to rise do not necessarily have the upper hand. There are studies that indicate that Owls tend to have the upper hand, actually.

University of Madrid researchers tested nearly 1,000 teenagers, examining habits and body clocks to determine whether the teens were Owls, who prefer to stay up late and sleep in later, or Larks, who go to bed early and are at their peak cognitive levels in the morning. (Most teens are neurologically “wired” toward the Owl side of the scale, by the way, which seems to “advance” in their twenties).

School performance and problem solving (inductive intelligence) were measured, and grades in major subjects were tallied.

The results showed that Owls scored higher than Larks on inductive reasoning — historically, a good estimate of general intelligence and a strong indicator of academic performance.

According to Wikipedia:

Unlike deductive arguments, inductive reasoning allows for the possibility that the conclusion is false, even if all of the premises are true.

Instead of being valid or invalid, inductive arguments are either strong or weak, which describes how probable it is that the conclusion is true.”

Owls also demonstrated a greater capacity to think conceptually as well as analytically — abilities that have been linked to more innovative thinking, and the kind of intelligence associated with more prestigious occupations and higher incomes.

A previous study of US Air Force recruits found that Owls were much better at solving complex problems, aided by a superiority of lateral thinking abilities.

Jim Horne, professor of psychophysiology at Loughborough University, said: “Evening types tend to be the more extrovert creative types, the poets, artists and inventors, while the morning types are the deducers, as often seen with civil servants and accountants.’

Larks, however, tended to get higher grades, scoring better on exams — possibly, the theory goes, because school is held at the wrong time of day for the Night Owls to function without sleep-related impairment.

Oh Please!

Let’s not join the battle.

I make reference to those studies ONLY to point out that the only real correlation between lack of success and sleep/wake timing is found when an individual is forced to dance to a tune that doesn’t suit his or her internal rhythms, so s/he doesn’t get enough high-quality sleep to perform effectively.

More important than when you go to sleep and what time you get up is your ability to REGULATE your sleep cycle so that you get enough high-quality sleep to avoid sleep-debt.

Which means that you are able to go to sleep at, basically, the same time every night, early enough to get the amount of sleep your body needs before you awaken — at, basically, the same time every day, even on weekends.

Sleep Debt?

Without going into a great deal of detail until the next article in the series, sleep debt is essentially the accumulation of hours you didn‘t sleep that you needed to.

Getting too little sleep creates a “sleep debt,” not unlike overdrawing your bank account: you might be able to get away with it for a little while, but eventually there will be a demand that the debt be repaid – probably with penalties and interest.

Citing the work of “the father of sleep medicine” William C. Dement, there are two opposing “driving forces” in the human body – one to remain alert and awake (“clock dependent alerting”), and the other to wind down and sleep (“the homeostatic drive toward sleep”).

The drive for sleep increases every single hour you are awake. A “sleep-normal” individual is able to remain  awake and alert throughout the day thanks to the counteraction of “clock dependent alerting.”

When your body is chronologically balanced, the two processes operate in a manner rather like a see-saw: as one goes up, the other goes down.

Sleep researcher Derk-Jan Dijk puts it this way,

“… by providing a drive for wakefulness which becomes progressively stronger in the course of the waking day, the circadian pacemaker counteracts the progressive drive for sleep associated with sustained wakefulness”

“The progressive increase in the circadian drive for sleep in the course of the nocturnal sleep episode counteracts the dissipation of the sleep drive associated with consolidated sleep.”
(Dijk, 1996) – taken from Rhythms of Life, Russell G. Foster & Leon Kreitzman, 2004

Problems begin when you don’t get enough sleep, so the processes are increasingly unbalanced as time goes on — negatively affecting alertness, emotional resilience, reaction time, decision making prowess and powers of assessment, along with a great many other bodily and cognitive functions.

  • For most adults, 7 to 8 hours a night appears, on average, to be the best amount of sleep.
  • The amount of sleep you need increases if you have been deprived of sleep in previous days, so your sleep-debt mounts faster.
  • Humans don’t seem to adapt to getting less sleep than we need; we may get used to functioning sleep-deprived, but we are still impaired by it.

The bias toward early morning hours for work and school adversely affects every single person whose body simply does not want to fall asleep earlier in the evening, adolescents and young adults in particular.

Are You A Sleep Camel?

SleepCamelSleep Camel is a term referring to a person who gets little sleep during the week, then attempts to make up for it by sleeping in on the weekend.

The term compares that particular sleep-style to the way that a camel goes without water for long stretches of the desert, drinking his fill (and attempting to store as much as he can) the moment he has the opportunity.

While it might work for camels and water, it doesn’t really work for humans and sleep. Attempting to live on a schedule with wildly fluctuating sleep-wake cycles will leave you jet-lagged at the beginning and end of every week, as surely as if you had taken a long round-trip flight crossing several time-zones each weekend.

The Sleep Camel Club

In essence, every individual whose body clock is set to a later time of sleep-onset is being required to wake up several hours earlier than is natural or healthy, and has no choice but to attempt to resolve his or her sleep debt every weekend.

Adolescents and young adults in particular

Studies have demonstrated that changes to the endocrine (hormonal) system during puberty combine to push the natural time of awakening later in the morning. On top of that, the amount of sleep they require increases at this time (on average, to around 9 hours a night).

As long as they don’t throw their chronorhythms in a tailspin attempting to burn the candle at both ends during the week and making like a sleep camel every weekend, most teens gradually advance their sleep cycle as they approach their mid-twenties (meaning they naturally awaken earlier, and feel the drive toward sleep earlier as well.)[4]

Until then, the biological processes of teens and young adults are most decidedly Owlish. [3]

Enforcing early start times for school and college can have a negative cognitive impact on mood, grades, and the development of effective social skills[5][6] that will, for some, domino into the rest of their lives as bona-fide chronorhythm disorders.

Ironically, it is the “go-getters” who are at the greatest risk of chronic destabilization.

According to the Stanford Sleep and Dreams website article on DSPS (Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome) available HERE

Many DSPS patients report that their difficulties began after a period of late night studying or partying, or after employment on the evening or night shift.

Following these activities, they found it impossible to sleep on a normal schedule even when they resumed normal work or school hours.

Adolescence appears to be the most common period of life for the onset of DSPS, but childhood cases have been reported. It [has been officially reported to be] rare for it to begin after age 30.

The DSPS patients are usually perplexed that they cannot find a way to fall asleep more quickly. Their efforts to advance the timing of sleep onset such as going to bed early, having a friend or family member get them up in the morning, trying relaxation techniques or using sleeping pills is not permanently successful.

And, from personal experience, DSPS only gets worse as you age! ~mgh

Three Questions Worth Considering

  1. Does it make ANY sense, in our current 24/7 mobile-equipped society, to enforce educational or work start times that carry health risks?
  2. What will it take to change out-dated policies and procedures so that they are more human-being friendly to ALL of our workforce, and healthier for high-school and college students?
  3. Are we willing – are YOU willing – to put our collective shoulder to the wheel of getting it DONE?

Upcoming Articles will continue to explore sleep basics — like the cycling of the sleep stageswhich will underscore the importance of allowing yourself enough time to cycle through them all (which will help to explain WHY some amounts of sleep make it harder to wake up at a certain time, and how to tweak to make it easier). 

We’ll also take a closer look at some of the symptoms when chronorhythms destabilize — along with some of the disorders that result.  SO STAY TUNED.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

33 Responses to Owls, Larks and Camels

  1. Bernadette says:

    I have been all three types of sleepers at different periods of my life. I have found personally that what is happening in my life determines how I will sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a lark and so is my husband, but I know a couple who have different circadian rhythms; he doesn’t go to bed until 4am, and she goes to bed early and gets up at 5am, but they’ve been married a long time so it works for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I grew up thinking I was an owl but I have metamorphosed into a lark! My need for sleep has greatly diminished with age but insomnia plagued me for a good number of years. A multi faceted approach to good sleep works for me.
    May we celebrate our differences and may owls get new working hours that suit them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. paulandruss says:

    You mentions the fact circadian rhythms are not tied to the 24 hour day…And I got to wondering if this might be because life has been evolving for something like 3 billion years and in that time the planet’s rotation has slowed so the day is becoming infinitesimally longer – a few hundred million years ago I think it was around 20 hours.

    Our genetics are very conservative with new adaptations over growing previous adaptations rather than replacing them, which is why in crude terms during gestation feotuses go through stages resembling fish amphibians so much so it is hard to tell different species apart until the late stages of development. So perhaps over the billions of years successful life forms were those that had the capacity to adapt to changing day length?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No doubt, Paul. However, like many differences and disorders (our terms for outliers from some statistical “normal”), it’s something that is set by the inter-workings of the brain and our hormonal system. Adaptations take the quickest/easiest path to get the job done – lol.

      Science is FINALLY researching the implications of the impact of chronorhythms more seriously, thanks to NASA’s preparations for the upcoming Mars mission. Not only is the day length different, the light is in the red spectrum (vs. blue spectrum light here – and primarily yellow spectrum artificial lights, accept for halogens). Science needs to know what that will do to the health and functional abilities of humans who come from earth.

      I sometimes wonder about the overlap between Irlen syndrome (recent post on struggles reading longer articles) and sleep disorders for that very reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I’m an Owl and a Camel. Right now I blame everything on Menopause! LOL!! Plus I heard as you get older you need less sleep. Is that correct?

    I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to regulate my Circadian rhythms and my job requires me to work weird hours. My new work schedule is 4:30 pm to 12:30 am but in order to make more money I will work the overtime until 8:30 am (that’s a Double Shift) come home, sleep or maybe 2 or 3 hours then do it again.

    I don’t think my sleep will be regular until I retire in 2020. However my cat Sylvester is happy to accommodate me whenever I do get home and hit the hay!! Meow!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • WOW – you read quickly! Menopause effects the estrogen delivery system – it CAN be blamed for a ton of things that happen as we age.

      Since I am a work at home “entrepreneur” (lol), I have a bit more flexibility about when and how long I sleep (not that I awaken to alarms in any case!). I try to make sure I get at least 8 hours as a general rule.

      SOME people find they need less sleep as they age – but it’s not as wide-spread as has been reported (and some need more). What changes is the sleep pattern – frequent awakenings for a number of reasons become more “normal” – naps supplement lack of straight-thru sleeping (even if the “nap” occurs in the same nite, after an hour or two up and about).

      When you DO retire (3+ years, yay!), remember this conversation and do your best to regulate – even if what’s “regular” for you turns out to be crazy according to anyone else. 🙂


      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Whose Daylight were they Saving? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  7. Pingback: A thorn in the side of ADD/EFD-ignorance | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  8. Random thoughts

    “Early to bed, early to rise,
    makes a man stupid and blind in the eyes” Yup.

    Here’s my version:
    “Early to bed and early to rise
    will surely lead to an early demise.”

    So nice of you to credit Su Laine Yeo near the top of this page! Her site was the only help I got, early on.

    You have a LOT of great quotes on this page. Here’s another one for you (It may be obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me before I heard him say it):

    ” …we’re the only animal that volunteers for sleep deprivation… ”
    — David Dinges in a video from Salk Institute, 10 February 2007

    BTW, it is not (any longer) necessary to “sign up for free membership for full article” (quoting you above) to read the long article about Non-24 on NORD’s site. One may now read up to two full articles a day for free and without signing up. (And you can link directly to the full article if you like.)

    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for ringing in – nice to see you again.

      Re: Su Laine – she saved my sanity! I didn’t know WHAT to think until found her articles. She also was generous enough to speak at one of my early ADD Hours – very nice woman.

      It makes me crazy that I see her words on the net sans credit (even on Wikipedia, btw – which I edited & hope it stayed there).

      lol re: Dinges quote. My fav will always be “The only difference between night people and morning people is that morning people are just horribly smug.” – Russell Foster. I think the original source was a TED talk he gave. I quote it as often as I can.

      I will edit the article to incorporate the “two free/day” info shortly. Still scrambling, so my planning is more than a bit off these days – and my chronos are in free-fall!! Tough year!

      Hope all is wond-der-ful with you.


  9. Hi! I want to inform you of some out-of-date information you present. And I quote:

    “Researchers have placed volunteers in caves or special apartments for several weeks without clocks or other time cues. Without time cues, the volunteers tended to go to bed an hour later and to get up about an hour later each day.”

    For years that was considered to be true, and, of course, it will never be corrected everywhere. Actually, every word of what you wrote is true — as far as it goes. At that time (first half of the 20th century) it was thought that low light levels do not affect circadian rhythms in humans — that bright light is required to do that. That misunderstanding messed up a lot of studies over the years, studies which later have had to be discounted. Later Research (1990s) has shown that light levels well below normal living room lighting does affect our “body clock”.

    A google search on “czeisler 24.18” gives several results (from, among others, New York Times and Harvard) for the fact that the average normal human has a daily rhythm of 24.18 hours (about 24 hours and 11 minutes) which is reset daily to exactly 24 hours, primarily by daylight.

    So the consideration left out of your explanation quoted above is that the volunteers were allowed to turn on electric light on getting up and turn off the lights when they got around to going to bed. On average that was every 25+ hours. But the light level in the evening delayed their circadian rhythms, while the morning light was too-little-too-late to advance them.

    I hope I explained that clearly enough. Dr. Charles Czeisler is one of the world’s most respected experts on the “body clock”; there is a Wikipedia article about him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Missed this one – so sorry! It must have come in when I had no i-net access — during my unexpected forced move right after my cast came off (before I got hit by a bunch of crazy spammers and felt I had to set everything to “manual approve,” despite the extra work.)

      I’m still organizing, “unpacking,” putting things back in place, etc. (moving always takes all my systems off-line, so it takes forever for me to do the simplest thing – or so it seems). ANYWAY – its “on my list” to go through all of the sleep posts and edit.

      I MUCH appreciate your corrections and addendums – please don’t ever be shy about telling me of *anything* you pick up that is misleading, inaccurate or out of date. The last thing I want is to spread misinformation! (It also helps me to prioritize which posts need editing most – and helps me FIND where I said what.)

      I did run into the “cave experiment/time-cues” updated info (in Foster’s book?? – maybe Dement’s website?) – but “edit sleep & complete drafts of next few posts in series” is still about half-way down a VERY long list.

      Czeisler’s findings make A LOT more sense than the earlier info, yes? An hour off is quite an extreme adjustment to have to rephase daily, when you think about it applying universally. It also makes it all the sadder that so many of us don’t rephase – and underscores how “off” an hour (or more) really IS! (and thanks for letting me know about the Wiki’ article – I’m adding it to my list!!)

      Thanks again for all YOU have done – your site is an AMAZING resource.

      Onward and upward!


  10. MindBody says:

    I think that the sleep specialists have a horribly primitive idea of this whole issue of sleep disturbance.

    They are obsessed with melatonin- but melatonin does not work for most of us.
    Increasingly I am coming around to the idea being floated by chiropractors of “sympathetic dominance” that is probably posturally related is the key issue.

    The melatonin issue is a secondary effect related to the disturbance in cortisol profile caused by the sympathetic dominance(which is more pronounced when upright).

    For the sympathetic dominant, high energy type, the quiet of the night is actually a good time to get things done.

    However- computers accentuate that postural problem- so I am typing this in bed, with my knees bent to reduce lumbar lordosis and hence minimise sympathetic drive– and I bet I will be asleep within 20 minutes of finishing this post (12:05am local time)


    • How EXCITING – brand new info I haven’t tripped across before! (I seem to be able to count on you for that, A., and I SO appreciated it).

      It makes sense to me that there would be changes in hormonal response in human beings that would be driven by posture – after all, many things changed physiologically when we began to walk upright on two legs — including, eventually, neurology — since our developmental trajectory (through the ages) branched away from most other mammals at that point.

      Since I have recently been dipping my toes into some of the Bonobo research, I am reading your comment from a place I might not have before. Bonobos are unusual among chimps in affect as well as posture, and science has been intrigued with some of the overlap between their developmental trajectory (baby to adolescent) and our own.

      In any case, I’m highly intrigued by what you shared here. Fascinating implications. As I am putting the finishing touches on Part II on the “laws of photobiology” (which says MORE about melatonin 😀 ), there is also a linkage to what you share introduced by a brief comment on Reflection due to eye shape — i.e., that effective illuminance changes in response to POSTURE (in essence – different whether lying down or sitting, etc.)

      Would you be willing to contribute a guest post introducing some of the ideas you have been exploring (with links and full attribution, OF COURSE) – especially the link to sleep onset, hormonal release and posture?

      If you don’t have time, I GET it — but maybe you could share a few sources readers & I could follow up on, in that case?????

      Thanks ALWAYS for ringing in – I so enjoy the way you think.
      (see PS comment below too)


      • MindBody says:

        Hi Madelyn,
        I would love to- but I do need to lock in a few more hard references first.
        The information is there, but one has to document anything slightly novel very well as there is a real problem with what is called “malignant skepticism’ from some of the medical old guard.


        • Do I get that one! lol re: “malignant skepticism’ <===link to MindBody post re: Skeptics

          I have a bit more leeway than you do, since I'm not a doctor, but I'm frequently conflicted over "how much documentation does this need to be credible?" vs. "how much documentation can my readers wade through before their eyes glaze over?"

          I tend to skate on the thin ice of language: ie., "’recent research’ would seem to imply" or "suggests"

          Re YOUR article – I could "front-end" with a comment that I have edited OUT a few references for readability – if you have questions, post them for the author in the comments section – NICELY, please.

          WHENEVER you're ready, I'll be thrilled to feature you.



    • @MindBody

      Second thought re: melatonin – science has been going down the exogenous melatonin path as the result of an assumption that I have not seen stated: that exogenous and endogenous supply would function in similar ways – as long as it makes it IN (i.e., blood-brain barrier, cell membrane, etc.)

      That would seem to make sense, except it skips right over what happens IN ORDER TO produce melatonin within the body – and could lead to assuming the cortisol connection is a result of endogenous melatonin production, when it might be causal.

      Just a thought!

      Too bad my high school science teachers didn’t light my fire (and my chem & biology teachers were so boring!) – I probably would have loved a career in science — especially neuro-cognitive — but I was never intrigued enough to even explored these areas in university, sticking carefully to the humanities path. ::sigh::



      • MindBody says:

        there is nothing wrong with trying to “hack the system” with exogenous melatonin to correct a situation causing sleep debt.
        Sleep debt certainly worsens ADD, and needs to be attended to.
        However, Melatonin supplements fail as often as they work, probably more often.
        The same can be said with ordinary sleep hygiene for many- and certainly for me.

        We are dealing with a problem that almost certainly has layers of negatively interacting loops at the biochemical, the autonomic / neurohormonal and at the conscious – psychological levels.

        Liked by 1 person

        • @ MindBody

          I am aware of the fact that melatonin supplementation is a bust for MANY (me, for one) – no matter how carefully timing is titrated. Nor have I had lasting success with “ordinary sleep hygiene” or light therapies. ONE nite where somebody forces me up “early” (for me), and I’m back to go.

          I’m right with you on the “layers” idea – which complicates solutions considerably.

          HOWEVER – some people DO get relief from one or two tweaks, so they’re ALL worth trying until you get a “fix” for your problem with sleep.

          My argument is primarily with the “works for me – so it SHOULD work for you – what are you doing wrong” folks! They make me CRAZY!!! [er]



          • Madelyn wrote: ‘My argument is primarily with the “works for me – so it SHOULD work for you – what are you doing wrong” folks!’

            I am, to a degree, one of those. Doctor (or someone else) says, “take 3 mg melatonin an hour before you should be getting to sleep.” And people do and it often does nothing for them. So my gripe is primarily with the “it doesn’t work for me, so you needn’t bother trying it” folks. 🙂

            Number 1: Getting the TIMING exactly right is essential.

            Number 1a: It is not going to work (as a hypnotic/sedative) if you take it hours before your body/brain wants to sleep. You need a good idea of what time that is, so you can start there and try to coax your schedule a bit earlier day by day or week by week.

            Number 1b: Some people get sleepy 30 minutes, some 1 1/2 hours, after taking it. Experimentation (keep a log!) is necessary. (And for gosh sake, get in bed immediately you get sleepy – that sleepiness wears off quickly and then you’re up to all hours again.)

            Number 2: Getting the DOSAGE right is important.

            Some time back, 5 mg was the gold standard. Now, they seem to be recommending 3 mg melatonin. For me, somewhat less than 1/2 mg works exactly the same as 3 mg; others have experienced that a small amount works better than a larger one. A. J. Lewy, working with blind people with Non-24, has patients perfectly entrained on less than 0.5 mg. See also: http://delayed2sleep.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/melatonin-less-is-sometimes-more/ (I did not author that post. 🙂 )

            Here, I’ve only considered using melatonin as a hypnotic. There is some evidence that taking a very small amount several hours earlier will work as a chronobiotic. The studies I’ve seen suggest that using melatonin as a chronobiotic has much less effect than bright light therapy in the morning does and getting the timing right is very tricky. Such studies have, as usual, been done with only healthy subjects who have normal circadian rhythms. A few “healthy young men” is the usual in such studies, and we’re not all young nor men nor healthy. So I have not attempted this. (Besides, I’m neither so well-organized nor well-disciplined that I could give it a really good try — outside of a laboratory.)

            However, Madelyn, I do not claim that using melatonin will help everyone! Just that the old college try is a good idea before dismissing it.


            • I’m with you on the “try it and see” bandwagon for just about anything – hope I didn’t seem to imply otherwise re: melatonin.

              My main quarrel is with the “just take melatonin” folks, as if those of us who struggle are the source of our own problem “since there is a simple fix” (yeah, right – like there’s a *simple* fix for much of anything!)

              AND there is info that seems scientifically valid that melatonin can have some nasty side-effects in some folks (more later on this – once I can fact-check a few resources).

              I don’t have side-effects, but I also don’t experience the drowsiness reported by others, so I’m not motivated to sherlock and log, given all else I have to deal with.

              THIS comment needs to be an article of its own! (wanna’ write it?)

              Thanks again for being willing to take some of the minutes of YOUR life and put them to work over here.


    • An interesting hypothesis, about posture, thank you.

      But what I wanted to react to was this: “I think that the sleep specialists have a horribly primitive idea of this whole issue of sleep disturbance.”

      I’ve decided that there is a world of difference between “sleep specialists” and “sleep researchers”, the latter including researchers of circadian (and other) rhythms. With some exceptions, I suppose.

      It all sounds pretty simple when described by a sleep specialist (including mine, tho I do have a good deal of respect for him), even the ones who’ve actually heard of the “body clock”. If what I prescribe doesn’t work, you’re not following instructions – you’re non-compliant!

      There are probably few researchers capable of explaining what they know so that a layman can understand, but the few very capable ones I’ve read and heard are worth their weight in gold.

      Liked by 1 person

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