I know how it feels to be the one who over-sleeps. The one who sets four alarm clocks, yet manages to hit snooze on every single one of them. The one who runs late into the first meeting of the day with no reasonable excuse. The one who can’t seem to consistently set the alarm clock for A.M. and not P.M. I know how it feels to be the undependable one.
I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.
I’ve had it my whole life. It’s not substantially different than what many teenagers go through, except for me, it didn’t go away with college. And for long-time readers of my blog, you’ll know that I successfully found the way to beat Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. It’s all about managing your intake of blue light at night and getting more bright light in the morning. If you haven’t read that post, I highly suggest you do. I have now over 150,000 people who have read it, and by the responses I keep getting to this day, many have finally found relief and understanding.
But this post is not about tips for waking up in the morning or falling asleep at night. I just wanted to spend a few minutes here and recognize that a lot of us carry guilt for not fitting in to the normal way that people sleep.
I was talking with a friend of mine who has pretty significant sleep issues. I have known for awhile that it’s Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. It’s no big shocker to me, but I was patiently waiting for her to want to talk about it. As I went into my usual spiel about eliminating blue light at night and getting more bright light in the morning, I recommended a couple of products.
She wasn’t ready for solutions yet though. She teared up just hearing me talk about it. She was so relieved simply to know that she didn’t have a problem; or more specifically, she was relieved to know that her problem was real. For she had gone all these years thinking that she was just lazy.
Everyone has a tough time getting up in the morning. Hating your alarm clock is not unique, but most people don’t have to hit snooze six times. Most people aren’t chronically late to morning meetings. Most aren’t total train wrecks before their first cup of coffee.
All this time, she thought of herself as someone who simply lacked either willpower or determination. She thought she just wasn’t quite as good as other people. And that’s sad.
And it’s incorrect.
For people with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), it’s more than just the normal struggle to wake up in the morning. The struggle to wake up at a normal time is similar to how it feels for someone without DSPS to have to wake up at 3:00 a.m. I don’t care how motivated you are, waking up at 3:00 a.m. sucks. And when it feels that way morning after morning, most of your life, it’s a real problem.
But feeling bad about yourself doesn’t help at all. And there is something particularly dangerous about identifying yourself as lazy. It isn’t healthy.
For all of those of you out there suffering under the weight of your inability to wake up early each morning, consider this one giant pardon. Yes, you probably eat too much sugar. Yes, you should exercise more often. You could probably afford to call your mother a few more times a month. But you’re not to blame for the sleep issue. You can hand that one over to your genes and relieve your shoulders of that weight.
Of course, now that I’ve spelled out exactly how to handle Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, it is on you to decide to do something about it.
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