To make things simple, scientists have classified people’s sleep schedules into two overarching groups: the owls and the larks. Owls, as you may have guessed, are apt to wake up later in the morning (or even afternoon) and go to bed in the wee hours of the night. Larks, on the other hand, are the early birds who prefer waking up and falling asleep earlier than their late-night counterparts
However, there is another category that should be mentioned: hummingbirds. The hummingbird fits somewhere in between the owl and the lark’s sleep schedule. While everyone’s routine is unique, the vast majority of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between these three birds.
Often those who identify as night owls have delayed sleep phase syndrome. According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), “People with delayed sleep phase have a natural inclination to go to bed later (1:00 am to 6:00 am) and wake up later (10:00 am to 2:00 pm) than what is typically considered normal.” To that end, many night owls may beg the question, “What is normal?”
This is a good question. What does a normal sleep schedule look like? According to the ASA, delayed sleep phase syndrome is the most prevalent of all sleep disorders. Workaholics, shift workers, and even nighttime socialites are at a much higher risk for this circadian abnormality.
But here’s the deal: “normal” sleep is more about quality and quantity of sleep hours than it is about the time of day in which you’re sleeping or awake. Furthermore, the amount of sleep you need, how long it takes you to fall asleep, and when you’re falling asleep changes with age.
If your sleep routine is maintained via a healthy lifestyle and good work/life balance, and not as a result of comorbidity (simultaneous presence of two or more disorders/diseases), chances are you’ll not be at risk for the battery of health problems that can be caused by chronic sleep loss. In fact, the quality and quantity of sleep for night owls can be equivalent to those who maintain a “normal” schedule.
As such, delayed phase sleep disorder may not be harmful as long as it’s not disrupting a healthy daily routine. If you’re consistently late for work due to oversleeping, chronically exhausted, and/or your memory is shot, then it may be time to see a doctor.
Night owls should also be warned—as their schedules will differ from the majority of people holding a typical nine to five—that the quality and quantity of sleep can be significantly impacted by sunlight and daytime noise. For this reason, it’s helpful to invest in a pair of SleepPhones® to limit sleep disturbances caused by intrusive light and sound.
On the completely other side of the sleep spectrum lie the larks. Often times, these early birds have, or are at risk of, advanced sleep phase syndrome. While this circadian rhythm disorder doesn’t necessarily impact quantity or quality of sleep, it can cause people to wake up excessively early (4:00 am to 5:00 am) and have an inconveniently earlier bedtime (8:00 pm to 9:00 pm).
According to the ASA, advanced sleep phase syndrome is more common in older adults. Unfortunately, because of this sleep schedule, many social activities, family events, and networking opportunities are missed. Without adequate time to socialize, feelings of isolation, sadness, and depression are common.
Again, if this sleep schedule is a product of a lifestyle or career choice, than this routine may be perfectly safe. On the other hand, if this sleep schedule is inconveniencing you, causing disruptions to your family life, and/or you’re showing symptoms of sleep deprivation, then it’s time to change our routine and/or seek medical attention.
If you’re suffering from advanced sleep phase syndrome, you can try to slowly adjust your sleep schedule naturally before making a beeline for sleep medication. Use relaxation sounds and/or a sleep mask to help you sleep later into the morning. AcousticSheep’s sleep CDs have relaxing soundscapes, music, and hypnosis practices to help you sleep better, longer.
While often times “hummingbirds” are left out of the sleep conversation, they actually make up about 70-80% of people, according to research by the New York Times. Some of us are more comfortable leaning toward late nights, while others prefer taking their time over a cup of coffee.
That being said, if you fall into a hummingbird category, it doesn’t mean the quality and quantity of your sleep can’t be affected or that you’re immune to sleep disorders. If you’re looking for ways to improve the quality and quantity of your shuteye, be it by minimizing noises or listening to relaxing music, learn more about the clinically-proven sound technology from AcousticSheep to see if SleepPhones® are right for you.