Delayed Sleep Dis-What?

January 4, 2016

Three weeks of Christmas break are a blessing and a curse for someone like me. As I’ve written before, I am a night owl. My job requires me to be at work at 7:10 a.m., but since I generally don’t feel tired at night until 3 or 4 a.m., my internal clock is eternally wonky. I break the cardinal rule of sleep every weekend, holiday, or extended break. I deprive myself of sleep during the work week, then “catch up” over the weekend, my holidays becoming sleep marathons saving up Zs for the sleep scarcity to come. Extended winter vacation times result in never seeing the sun nor leaving my couch. Summer vacation works out until August when I have to change back into a normal human again and get up early.


This is an annoyance for me and everyone who knows me. People know not to call Dina before noon on a weekend. This is limiting. So last year, I decided to do something about it.

I called Kaiser to set up a sleep study. I have no idea what a sleep study is, but they said I had to do one in order to get an appointment with a neurologist. Another motivating issue for the sleep study is my decade long dependence on Clonazepam.  I began taking this to curb my night terrors which I’ve experienced as long as I can remember. I’ve read several articles that claim Clonazepam decreases creativity, and if you are reading this article, you know that’s true. I’d like to kick the habit, but if I don’t take the drugs, I get up in the middle of the night in a panic thinking I have to take a shower or go to work. So, I completed the sleep study.

I showed up at Kaiser Fontana at 8 p.m. where my case manager, Jason, hooked me up to countless wires. He told me to take the drugs and go to sleep. How they will determine my night terror issue while I’m on the medication to stop the night terrors, I have no clue, but I did as told.

Nine weeks later, Kaiser called me to let me know that I don’t have sleep apnea. No shit. Then they referred me to an insomnia class. At this point, I was sure that I would be taking the Clonazepam and sleeping into the late afternoon for the rest of my life. I attended the class anyway.

In June, I attended the 4-hour class. Random people of all ages filled the room–all insomniacs. The sleep specialist introduced herself and explained how sleep works. Then I learned more about sleep than I ever thought possible. She taught an in-depth lesson about how sleep works and how insomniacs can alleviate their disorder without drugs. This was great information, but it didn’t help me, so I spoke to her during the break.

It turns out I have Delayed Sleep Disorder, or Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). The moment I described my symptoms,her face lit up and shoved a stack of pamphlets at me. Then for the rest of the class, she called me “vampire girl.” Apparently, my disorder is akin to constant jet-lag. That makes sense.

When I mentioned tapering off the Clonazepam, she widened her eyes and gave me the “uh, sorry” look.  While she wasn’t optimistic about kicking the drug habit, she was very optimistic about altering my sleep disorder. This included changing my behavior a few hours before bedtime with the following modifications: wearing blue-blocker sunglasses, not using any screens, and not eating food or drinking alcohol. The biggest rule, to which she demanded everyone’s compliance, was to take any and all clocks out of the bedroom. Some of these are done easily, some not so much. But this was all moot anyway since I had no intention of waking up early during my summer vacation.

When I revealed to the instructor my working hours and profession, she laughed and asked why I didn’t have a night job. Now that I have all of this information, what will I do with it? Nothing. My summer was spent staying up until 3 and sleeping until noon. My work weeks are still sleep-deprived and angry. My winter break has, once again, resulted in sleeping through the day while staying up all night.

I experimented with tapering off of Clonazepam, dropping my dosage by 25% once a week, then twice a week. Yeah, that lasted a few weeks. I’m back on full-strength. Do I want to change? Yes. Do I plan on changing? I don’t know. I do know that I go back to work in a week, and I would love to make the smooth transition to waking up in the morning, refreshed and well-rested. Who am I kidding. I’ll be reenacting my “back to work” ritual of Sunday night Clonazepam and a Simply Sleep to ensure I get that 5 hours I need to stay awake while driving to work and teaching rhetorical analysis to the future minds of America.

William Blake said: “Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”

Clearly, William Blake was an asshole who never experienced night terrors or a sleep disorder.




After attempting to alter my life and become diurnal rather than nocturnal, I’ve learned a few things.

  • Diurnal people are annoying when they brag about how much they get done before YOU get out of bed.
  • I act like an 8-year-old when it comes to bedtime.
  • Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on work performance.
  • This experiment is more challenging than I thought.

This was a rough summer for a number of reasons, and I didn’t get to fully realize my goal of being a diurnal person when the chains of work broke.  I HAVE to get up at 5:30 and be at work by 7, so this requires me to wake every morning whether I like it or not.  I was curious to see if I could wake up at 7 or 8, like many diurnals do, without the crutch of an alarm clock.  I wanted to see if I could get up, refreshed, revived, and ready to take on the day like in a breakfast food commercial.   I didn’t get to experiment.

I was up at all times this summer hanging at a rest home, planning a funeral, planning an anniversary party, attending Comic-Con, flying to New York City and Philadelphia.  I set my alarm for almost every morning.  What a drag.  Not only did I neglect the experiment this summer, but I also didn’t really enjoy my time off.  It was functional, as in, “I’m glad I had this time off so I could take care of all of this stuff.”  But sleep still taunts me night after night.  I still fantasize about going to sleep immediately after returning each night from work.  I still drag my corpulent body out of bed in the morning and depend on the shower to bring me to life.

I just read that nocturnal people are actually more evolved than diurnal people since the world is a now a global community working 24 hours a day.  The article also said that nocturnal people are typically more intelligent…but also die younger, tend to not procreate, and have bad eating habits.  Yep, more evolved.  That’s me.  The experiment/torture continues.

The experiment began in January.  It has epically failed.  I tried to become a diurnal, but have come up short…by countless hours and dark circles surrounding my bloodshot eyes.  Yes, I am waking up earlier on school days.  Yes, I am getting to work on time.  Yes, I am getting more done in the morning.  But this doesn’t negate my infinite power burst just after 4 in the afternoon, causing me to stay working at school until seven. 

I am now teaching at a high school.  I have to learn a new curriculum.  New staff.  New demographic.  But I still desperately fight going to sleep at a decent time.  Why are others able to function on so much less sleep than I am?  Why can others go to events on the weekends and  not feel as if they are being ripped off of time they could spend sleeping in, laying on the couch, catching up on “Trueblood,” “The Daily Show,” and “White Collar”?  How do people maintain a social life AND get enough sleep? 

I am mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and physically exhausted from my first two weeks teaching at high school, and yet, I feel compelled to write this blog rather than go to sleep.  I’ve had two glasses of wine and two Clonozopams, and I am still motivated to stay up past midnight.  In my current mindset, I am thinking, “suck it diurnals.”  I plan on sleeping until at least 2 pm, and watching TV all day.  Damn, aren’t I the intellectual?


Long Time, No Sleep

June 4, 2012

Ah, Summer vacation. Time to catch up on some sleep. One of the major disadvantages of being a teacher is having to change my identity throughout the year. From August to May, I am a teacher “first, last, and always.” Up at 5:45, home by 6 in time to go running, yoga-ing, pilates-ing, etc. But then there’s the summer. Now, I’m not complaining by any means. For those who are not teachers, we do NOT get paid for vacation days. Our checks are spread throughout the year, but we are only paid for 182 days, no more, no less. But I’m not bothered by that either. What disturbs me is the change in identity.

Come summertime, I am “The Incredible Sleeping Woman.” I begin by steadily increasing my bedtime from 10 pm to 10:30, to 11 and so on until it becomes dawn before my head hits the pillow. I am very productive at night–if you call watching Star Trek reruns and scrapbooking productive that is. But this ruins all the work I’ve done over the last 5 months trying to become diurnal like the rest of the “normal” people out there. Remember, dirurnals think nocturnals are lazy, weak, and never get anything done. So, I’m changing my clock. Only, I’m not. Sure, I dragged my ass out of bed at 5:45 each weekday morning, but the dragging was a component. Diurnals leap out of bed several hours before having to get to work. They smile and soak in the fragrance of their shampoo. They read the paper, watch morning TV, and enjoy a balanced breakfast that has to be cooked or fried or grilled. They may even run some errands before arriving at work. For me? Dragging. Sagging. Limping. Dozing. Unwrapping breakfast in the form of a Fiber One Brownie–100 calories and chugging a Diet Pepsi hoping the cold on my throat will sting me to life.

So, now I’ve been on vacation for a week, but I was working in my classroom until Thursday. I got up at 8, and was at work by 9 dusting, sweeping, throwing stuff out, rearranging other stuff. So, really I’ve been on vacation since Friday. Each day I’ve gotten up before noon, but I haven’t managed to shower before noon, and so I go downstairs and sit on the couch, remote in hand, glued to the screen…

Thinking of how I’m going to get up earlier tomorrow and do–stuff. What will my identity be this vacation? Perhaps writer?

Snoozing and Losing

January 29, 2012

Remember the saying, “You snooze, you lose?”  I do.  This cutesy phrase is really just a slur against nocturnals.  People who say this in reference to actually sleeping or snoozing are saying that if you sleep late, you’ll miss out on all the fabulous bounty offered by the morning.  You know, coffee, breakfast, sunrises, morning television….all the things I don’t give a crap about.    Let’s see, coffee?  I’ve never had a sip.  Breakfast?  Take it or leave it.  Sunrises?  Sunsets are much more spectacular.  Jesus freaks love sunrises since they are reminded of churches built in the 1960’s that have those cheesy Christ paintings with sunrise shooting out in every direction.  Not interested.  Morning television?  Those people should be drawn and quartered for their a.m. happiness.

This project is becoming more difficult than I had previously imagined for the following reasons:

  • Falling in love with mornings will take a lot longer than getting over my long-standing relationship with the night.
  • I’m finding it nearly impossible to force myself to go to sleep at a decent hour.
  • My husband still goes to sleep after midnight on work nights making me jealous.
  • If my husband went to sleep at the same time as me, I would feel like he was “humoring” me, and I would get claustrophobic.
  • There’s way too much fantastic television to watch.

I love the night.  I love the moon.  I love the dark.  I love running at night.  Vampirism would not crimp my lifestyle one bit…except for maybe the blood issue and the killing…..but not the nights.

I’m like a ten-year old with bedtimes.  I can hear the whining in my head when it’s time to turn in, “But I just wanna watch one more show mom!”

Sean goes to bed sometime around midnight or a little after, but he gets up when he wants.  He also eats lunch when he wants, and goes to the bathroom when he wants.  Teachers don’t get these luxuries.  I am extremely envious of his schedule.  I want to have a two-hour lunch with some friends.  But then again, he has the willpower to go BACK to work, when I would make that two-hour lunch into a four-hour lunch/dinner/drinks.  So I suppose my schedule is working in my favor.

Sean humors me sometimes by going to sleep at the same time as me.  That seems so Mike and Carol Brady to me.  Like we should be wearing robes that match our pajamas and discuss our kids weekly issues with phony boyfriends, big men on campus, and possible recording contracts.  We have cats.

Television.  This is my drug of choice.  I am completely addicted to that fabulous box of fictitious characters I call friends.  Our DVR has fifty series scheduled to record.  Fifty.  That’s the most allowed.  If it would allow more, I would record more.  But it’s not just current television.  We also have Netflix streaming every television show I’ve ever loved.  I recently watched twelve straight hours of Star Trek, the original series season one since Sean was out-of-town, and I was on vacation.  I stayed up until 5 one morning on a Vampire Diaries bender.  And then there are movies on HBO…. It’s almost physically painful to push the power button on the remote control.

Why can’t I DVR sleep?

Today was a wash.  I got up before noon, but I didn’t go to bed until 2 the night before.  I really enjoyed that snooze, but I didn’t go running like I wanted to and needed to after eating my weight in pulled pork the night previous.

To those diurnals who hate us nocturnals for our snoozing in the morning…the only thing we’re losing is the overly cheerful faces of people who have never experienced the euphoria of a marriage to the night….or have grown up too much and can’t get back to Neverland….my Neverland, where it’s always night.

I’m experiencing some lifestyle change backlash.

I eradicated the snooze alarm disease last week.  I met my 5:45 am goal each morning.  It was miserable, and painful, but I did it.  First stop was the refrigerator downstairs.  The moment my feet hit the carpet, I felt the desperate need for a Diet Pepsi.  I normally don’t drink soda at home, but the caffeine was a welcome addition to my morning routine.  I can’t bring myself to drink coffee (I’ll tackle my issues with coffee later), but the soda was perfect.  Crackly carbonation gets the day on its way.

Thanks to my mother, I have a new ihome, which enabled me to listen to my new playlist, “O’dark Hundred.”  At our old house, a pair of saloon doors separated our bathroom and master bedroom.  This makes it difficult to blast music and sing along in the shower while my husband tries to sleep ten feet away.  Our new house has a door between the master and the bath.  A door!  Sure, there’s a fireplace that shows through, so the bath isn’t totally sound proof, but at this point, I don’t care anymore.  I have to wake up at night, so I get to have some enjoyment as I put on make-up to continue the illusion that I’m awake at dawn when I should be snuggled up in my warm bed with my warm cats snoozing away….like my husband.

Okay, so that got a little bitter.  Now for the sweet.  The work week was not miserable.  New semester, new students.  So far, things are placid.  I even went running three times.  Monday was yoga, and Tuesday, Pilates.  Exercise, check.  The downside of this week’s running was the article I read in The New York Times.  The article was about running with perfect form based on the fact that humans ran for millions of years before the invention of the running shoe, and they did it with little to no injury, so why do we need the shoes now?  No, I didn’t run barefoot, but I did try changing my foot strike.  Rather than running heel to toe, I ran on the balls of my feet.  I could feel the soreness in my calves by the first mile, but I didn’t stop.  The five-mile run finished, and my calves ached.  But that was insignificant compared to the pain I felt the next morning.  This compounded with turning the ocean sounds alarm off  and immediately getting out of bed, made waking up that much more difficult.  But I did it.

School began on Monday, returning from a three-week vacation, only to have a three-day weekend immediately after the first week back.  Really?  I suppose it was a welcome extra day off, but I had the challenge getting out of bed before three each of the days. So I set my alarm for 9:45.  I didn’t know what I was going to do at 9:45, but that was the time I set.  Up and running several hours before noon on a Saturday is something with which I am not familiar.  So I ran, and I did stuff.  Something I didn’t think about when I decided to become a diurnal, was how long the day is.  When I’m working, the day is split into two.  I go to work for ten hours, and then I’m at home catching up on my DVR.  On the weekend, the day isn’t split up unless you’re one of those people who likes to “do stuff” and “go places.  I’m not one of those people.  Nocturnals get used to being reclusive.  We know the world works on a diurnal clock, so most places close when we are active.  This “being awake and showered (well, kind of) when stores are open” is new and unfamiliar territory.  The day is long.  Really long.  Somehow, the garage at the old place got emptied (mostly due to Sean’s unwavering dedication), and the patio furniture Rustoleumed a clean, bright white, and moved.  This, by no means, is validation of the diurnal mantra, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  That is still a load of crap.  With the exception of stores being slaves to the diurnal societal pattern, all the things I did this weekend could have been done in the middle of the night.  And I doubt that this transformation will make me healthier, wealthier, nor wiser.

Sunday and Monday the alarm sounded, and I dutifully pressed the “off” and not the snooze button, but rather than getting up immediately, I dozed.  In and out of a dream I tread until I forced myself up shortly after ten.  Yes, I slept passed the set goal, but I was up in the a.m. hours, so diurnals everywhere don’t be disappointed in me.  Conformity wins!

Tomorrow brings another opportunity to resist the allure of the snooze button, and getting dolled up for the middle school set.  Of course “dolled up” is relative since a new teacher at our school last week commented about how the teachers at middle school “dress much more casually than elementary school teachers.”  Really?  No offense to elementary school teachers, but I’ve never really considered denim jumpers with panty hose and open toed sandals  “dressed up.”  Perhaps it’s the holiday themed jewelry?  I don’t know, but I stuff my middle school educator’s ass in dry-cleaned trousers and jackets almost everyday.  Casual for me is a sweater.   One of the benefits to being a teacher is the freedom to dress up or down.  It’s our choice.  I just found it odd that a teacher new to our school would find us so sloppy and unkempt.  Hm.  Either way, she successfully made me think that I look like crap each day at work and question my attempts at early morning beautification.  You go girl!

One week in, and I’m not dead tired.  One week in, and I’m not dead.  This is good.  One week in, and I feel like a sell-out to nocturnals everywhere.  One week in, and I’m still fantasizing about sleeping while showering before dawn.  I know I won’t magically transform from Rip Van Winkle into Thomas Edison overnight, and I don’t know if I want to, but the experiment thus far is giving me pause for thought…as if I need more to think about.

Waking up for work before the sun is insulting.  Speaking of the sun, why do we work during the day anyway?  I understand people waking with the sun, or just before back in the days of hunting and gathering.  When the light of day arrived, it was annoying, and people began their work for the day.  However, why haven’t we changed?  Electricity and a global economy should enable the world to work on whatever clock it wants.  Earth is becoming customized.  Pretty soon, we’ll see sparkly Hello Kitties adorning the continents from satellite images.  The moon will eventually be sold off, piece by piece, tattooed with advertisements for sport drinks and diamonds.  Why is the world, or at least the US addicted to a diurnal work schedule?

People are afraid of change.  I know I am, thus my fear of losing my individuality by conforming to this diurnal lifestyle.  I’ve swum against the stream since my birth, and I’m exhausted.  In my baby book, my mother wrote, “1/8/73 For the first 2 weeks, Dina was turned around– slept days and awake nights.  Just horrible!  Mom and I turned her around, but she is still awake from 10pm-2am.  Last night I let her cry and she went to sleep after about 3 minutes of crying.  I had not let her cry before.”  She went on to write about her success in converting me to the diurnal world.  “5/30/73- [Dina] slept after 7pm feeding.  Finally off the 10pm.”  I find it interesting that my mother forced me to be diurnal when she vehemently decries parents who force their children to become right-handed when they are clearly lefties.  Being sinistrad is unusual, just as being nocturnal (although I asked several coworkers today if they were nocturnal or diurnal, and the room was almost split).  Sinstrad children receive left-handed scissors–you remember, the green ones?–so why aren’t nocturnal children provided with a schedule that suits their needs?

Last night I set a goal.  I was going to wake up with the tide.  At 5:45, the non-soothing sounds of the ocean began, and I immediately stood up in my slippers, walked into the bathroom, and brushed my teeth in one fluid motion.  I was in agony.  I slept fitfully, awakened by dreams of driftwood carved into tablets that I couldn’t read, a contestant on a game show I couldn’t win.  The nighttime is definitely the right time, but seeing it from the other side, waking up in the night, in the dark is depressing and spirit crushing.  Plus, I didn’t have an appropriately upbeat playlist on my phone to inspire me to carry on.  So I listened to the mellow sounds of “Landslide” and “Tangerine” while washing the despair right out of my hair, but it clung.  Rinsing and repeating offered no solace.

Thank the stars for Diet Pepsi.  Ice to the top, in a curvy Rainforest Cafe’ bar glass housed my cola of the gods.  Sure the caffeine helps, but the sharp bubbles remind me I’m alive.  Work was miserable, as usual.  The morning is unkind to middle school children who are supposed to get at least 10 hours of sleep, but they never do.  Beginning the day at 7:30 for them is diametrically opposed to their nature.  They barely hold their heads above the wave of sleep rolling through the classroom, cresting over the desks, and crashing in their empty eyes.  Huh?  Exactly.

The next major hurdle will be to continue the snooze boycott until the unthinkable–setting my alarm for a Saturday when I have nothing planned, nowhere to be.  I wonder if Star Trek will feel the same in the pre-noon hours?

Abandoning the Land of Nod

January 9, 2012

For most, the new year begins on January 1st.  For teachers, it begins in August or September.  My new year is going to begin on January 9th at 5:45 a.m.  This is the time I will wake up to begin the process of getting ready for work.  My husband complains incessantly about the abuse of my alarm clock.  I have one of those nature sounds alarms that I thought would give a less “alarming” wake up call, so Sean could sleep while I drag my sorry nocturnal carcass our of a warm bed to begin a drowsy day of pretending to be a normal person.  Yes, a normal person.  The rest of the world welcomes the day with bright eyes.  They all leap out of bed exclaiming, “What a great day!”(I imagine sunshine streaming through their windows and birds chirping on the birch trees just outside) or “How can I be the best me that I can today!” as they joyously leap into the shower, singing, and then effortlessly don their work attire, eat a balanced breakfast of cartoon looking bacon, eggs (sunny side up), toast, fruit, and orange juice out of a glass pitcher, and watch the morning news.  This is how grown-ups start their work day.  Then they start their commute with at least 20 minutes to spare, and bounce into their jobs ready to take on the world.

This is not how I begin my day.  First, I am rudely awakened by those damned waves.  Whoever said ocean sounds were soothing was an idiot.  I hit the snooze bar at least 3 times before I absolutely have to get up, or Sean, my husband, complains about the snooze.  I roll out of bed, into the bathroom Sean rolls over to enjoy another few hours of blissful sleep with three warm, cuddly kitties there to keep him warm.   I stand in the shower, freezing, while fantasizing about how early I’m going to go to sleep tonight.  “I’m going to go to bed at 7, so I can get almost 11 hours of sleep.  Yes, that’s what I’ll do.”  I wash my hair to the music in my mind of climbing into bed at the hour of 7-year-olds to “catch-up” on my sleep.  This never happens of course since by the time 7 o’clock rolls around, I’m watching an o’ so important show on TV, and I completely forget about my former promise to myself.  Or I remember, but am guilted into a late dinner with Sean.  He doesn’t eat lunch until 3, so my 11:10 lunch is forgotten about, and he cooks meals when it’s dinner time for him.  I get it.  If I cooked, then I could make dinner earlier.  But since my cooking consists of Kraft macaroni and cheese or Caesar salad, he doesn’t want to partake.  I’m a bad wife, so I try to at least eat with my husband when he wants to eat.

So I’m stuck.  My vacation self naturally conforms to a nocturnal pattern of going to bed at dawn, and waking up just before sunset, while my work self has me up before dawn, and hopefully in bed at a “reasonable hour.”  My vacation self sleeps too late for my husband, but gives me alone time to watch endless hours of Star Trek and Vampire Diaries on Netflix after he goes to bed at 1.  My work self wakes up at the same time as the smug diurnals of the world who insist on normal bedtimes, but forces me to go to sleep when my husband wants to eat dinner.  According to most studies, adults only  need 6-8 hours of sleep each night.  I don’t feel rested until I’ve slept at least 11 hours.  My sleep schedule is like that of a teenager.

The diurnals win.  I am almost 40 and am going to attempt something I never thought possible.  I am going to be normal…sleepwise.  I am going to grow up, and acknowledge that sleep is just a part of my day, not something to fantasize about in the shower.  Sleep is only a period of rest for my body and mind, not a coveted treat akin to chocolate cake.  People everywhere seem to get on with their lives and not give a second thought to sleep, so I will too.  Naturally, I will be writing about my progress, and thereby giving an inordinate amount of thought to the subject, but I’m going to use this outlet to eventually let go of my addiction, my dysfunctional relationship with the Land of Nod–the Jonathan Swift reference, not the Bible.  I am hoping to maintain my uniqueness in other respects, and not let my nocturnal-ness define me.  It’s scary to let go, and I’m sure they’ll be setbacks, just like any diet in the beginning.  I’m sure Sean will find this annoying and inconvenient, but I am sick of being so miserable in the morning and having to pretend to get through the day.

I will begin with the snooze alarm.  Let’s see what happens.  It’s almost midnight now.  If the studies are correct, I won’t need any more sleep than I get tonight.  I should feel refreshed, awake and ready to educate the future leaders of the world.  Here we go.