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.