Not Lazy, Just Strange: Living with Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome

For more than a decade I thought I sucked as a person and failed at life. I was met with confusion and anger by my parents on a constant basis who could not understand why I would waste the day sleeping as late as 11am. In university, I got half my sleep during daylight hours in the middle of class or on the science lounge couch. I’m sure it contributed to my low grades and eventual dropping out.

As an adult the situation got worse, and my natural sleep cycle developed to mean going to bed at 4-6am, and getting up past three. Mornings have even been known to make me nauseous. Delayed sleep-phase syndrome is a sleep disorder characterized by having a different circadian rhythm, one often completely backwards from that of most people and leading to a more or less nocturnal lifestyle. I’ve only worked one day job, and I was often late coming in. It lasted for less than three months before I quit. Since then I’ve worked second and third shifts at a hotel, online moderation company, personal care home for the mentally disabled, and now I work in a call center for a large bank. Late shifts are unpopular, so I’ve not only gotten these shifts easily, but often couldn’t have escaped them if I tried. Although, considering the health issues associated with living contrary to your internal clock, why would I? Living on a day schedule would mean facing the same health risks that most people face when being forced to work nights. Depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and generally poor performance are just some of many. Industrial and traffic accidents are often caused by sleep-deprivation.

This doesn’t mean that life has been particularly easy. Many people have great difficulty finding a job that works for them. Then there’s still the issue of trying to navigate relationships and a social life when everybody else is asleep. It’s lonely. And running errands and going to doctor or dentist appointments often means getting up relatively “early” to rush out before businesses close. Thank science and the flying spaghetti monster for 24-hour Walmarts.

Despite the frustrations involved, I feel way more at peace since being diagnosed with DSPS nearly a year ago. My doctor was one of few who are familiar with it, so I was lucky. Now that I know there’s a specific reason for the way I am I can be fully accepting of it. I don’t pressure myself to conform to a day schedule anymore because I realize that this is not my fault. 

But all this goes without mentioning the lack of understanding sufferers face from those around them. We’ve heard it all; “You’ll eventually adjust like everybody else,” “Just go to bed and you’ll fall asleep,” “It can’t be that hard, why would you want to waste the whole day sleeping?” We don’t! And yes, it is that hard. It just doesn’t work, and we’re much better off when we don’t have to constantly fight it, when we can be good to our bodies and live according to our natural rhythms. For many years now, if work doesn’t mean having to get up to make it in for my evening shift, I find myself eating breakfast at four or five pm in front of my very expensive photo-therapy lamp. In the winter this sometimes means going days at a time not getting any real sunlight at all. And you know what? It sucks. What we don’t need is a barrage of ineffective advice from well-meaning but ignorant friends and family. There is no cure for delayed sleep-phase syndrome. All we need is some understanding, and maybe a shift-working friend or two to keep us company during the long, lonely nights.

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Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty

Ever wonder why babies are cute, why gentlemen prefer blondes, or why the human ballsack is the size that it is? Hmmm, ok maybe not that last one, but the answers are pretty interesting.

The subject of beauty is far from only skin deep, and it strikes me how very perfect the book’s title is. Beauty isn’t just incidental, and the source of frivolous fun or petty envy. It’s deeply tied into our instincts as living things, something we share with even the flowers, and goes back virtually as far as we do. This book leaves no stone unturned, and encompasses science, sociology, and of course biology in a way that’s truly fun to read. Not only that, but Nancy Etcoff’s own personal touch is extremely compelling, and this alone makes the book worth a read. This combined with the huge amount of learning inside is likely to leave you with a whole new perspective on a subject you once held strong and long-lived opinions about.

What’s interesting here is the particular way that this information offers up new meaning to the subject of beauty. To understand how beauty has transformed us biologically and culturally into the creatures that we are, it becomes both more important and yet less important all at once. Without beauty, we simple would not be, but who we have become also gives us the power to appreciate it in the most enlightening way possible. This isn’t a book so much about sitting in front of the mirror, putting on makeup and poking at your belly as it is about humanity itself. It strikes me as extremely valuable, and it can and should be read by people of all genders and ages. This book is awesome, and as it meets both my demands of educational and entertaining, I can’t recommend it enough.

Rather just see the movie? Well, there isn’t one exactly, but you might want to check out The Human Face.

Other recommended reads:  The History of Beauty, Sex in History.