Out-of-phase Circadian Rhythms

  • #1
DaveC426913
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TL;DR Summary
Is it possible to induce through habit a Circadian Rhythm that's 24 hours long - but out-of-phase with the day-night cycle?
In other words are "Night Owls" a real thing? And, more to the point: can it be permanently "burned in" to one's metabolism?
It's silly even as I write it, but there's no harm in asking, right?

Disclaimer: yes I am seeing my GP specialists, and getting sleep tests done. My queries here are not a substitute for medical care or a request for medical advice. I'd just like to see if there's any further reading I can do on my own.

For a very long time now (decades), I have had a huge amount of difficulty staying awake before noon. Granted, I have a sedentary desk job, and there's no question it's related to under-stimulation. If I am stimulated, I can keep out of the sleepiness zone, but let that stimulation lag for even a short time, and my eyes cannot stay focused and my lids get heavy.

At the same time, I often have a lot of difficulty falling asleep. I go to bed between 11 and 11:30 but I can easily lie awake for two or three hours or more, unable to stop thinking. (Yes, I have techniques for dealing with that too.)

I don't think the two things are directly correlated. It is normal to fall asleep on my keyboard even after a good nights rest without any insomnia. (i.e. I don't think I'm tired in the morning simply because I didn't sleep well.)

I've always been a night owl. I am most creative at night, no question, and even more so when I try to go to sleep. I used to work as a security guard in my twenties and formed a habit of staying up doing my projects until 4 or 5AM in front of the TV.

TL;DR:

After switching from a Night Owl daily rhythm to an office hour daily rhythm, followed by decades of battling morning drowsiness and late night creativity, I can't help but wonder if it's possible to permanently stamp the Night Owl cycle onto one's metabolism.

Any precedent or medical literature on such a thing?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
BillTre
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I used to work next door to a big circadian lab in grad school. A lot of what follows is from what I learned from hanging out with them.
In fish labs, we would also manipulate and use the fish's circadian cycles to manipulate their breeding activity. There are a lot of circadan breeding interactions. Yearly cycle length changes signal seasonal changes which control breeding in some animals (and plants).

Yes, it is possible to have a circadian cycle out of phase with the local light cycle.
Its done all the time in lab experiments with animals.
There are bright lights (usually emphasizing shorter wavelengths) that are sold for waking people up in the morning. You might want to try one of these in the morning (I use coffee!).

If you want to reduce your late night staying awake, you can reduce light intensity and the shorter wavelengths which reduces the lights on signal to your circadian system. There is usually a lot of blue light in computer screens, etc. I have a thing on my computer in which i can set a schedule for the screen light to us less blue wavelengths at night.

Weird fact: Its also possible to use a flash of light at a particular time during the dark period to throw the an animal into a "chaotic" wake-sleep cycle. Not done with people, to my knowledge.

There are also mutant animals with different natural lengths of cycles. There are probably similar human mutants.
If you have a cycle greater than 24 hours, interacting with a natural light cycle (brght blue light on at wake-up and off at bedtime) can reset your mutant length cycle to better match up with the ongoing light cycle you experience. This happens through light sensors in the retina, pineal, and perhaps other areas that operate together to regulate the wake-sleep cycle.
I suspect night owls are people with longer than normal cycles, extending their wakefulness to later hours. (maybe I'm like that.)

I've always been a night owl. I am most creative at night, no question
Me too.
My son is also a night owl.
When he was a baby, he was very difficult to get to go to sleep before mid-night. Probably another mutant.
 
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berkeman
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Disclaimer: yes I am seeing my GP specialists, and getting sleep tests done. My queries here are not a substitute for medical care or a request for medical advice.
Well it's obvious to me that your attending night school to get your law degree has had an effect... :wink:
 
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DaveC426913
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I suspect night owls are people with longer than normal cycles, extending their wakefulness to later hours. (maybe I'm like that.)
Yeah, I had hypothesized the same thing.

And the companion conjecture, of course, that morning people have shorter cycles. My wife starts fading around 9 or 10PM.
 

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