Are you one of those people that seem to just naturally stay up late and consequently get up late? Have you ever wondered why you may be that way?
For years, we were told that it was the way you were raised. I know with me it was. I grew up having to do chores before school, so I had to get up early in order to do chores, have breakfast, fix my lunch and get to school on time. My chores usually consisted of taking care of animals – feeding and watering them and making sure they have everything they need. As I made it to college, I preferred early classes over later classes, so again, I was up early. I spent 12 years working for a utility. During the winter, we started work at 7am and in the summer, since Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, we started work at 5am and were able to head home at the peak heat of the day.
These days, I’m 65 years old and I still habitually get up early, even if I don’t have to. I always thought that since I got up early most of my life that it’s a habit that I still have.
Our two daughters, born 16 months apart are as different as night and day. As a child, our oldest daughter would disappear between 8pm and 9pm. When we went looking for her, we always found her in bed, sound asleep. Rarely did we ever have to tell her to go to bed.
On the flip side, our youngest daughter always fought going to bed and when we put her to bed, she would be awake for hours. During her school days, we often found her with a light on at midnight reading a book and we would have to tell her to turn the light off and go to bed. In the morning, she never wanted to get up. She is 39-years-old now and still cannot go to sleep early or at normal times but stays up late and doesn’t like to get up early.
As parents, we could never figure out why such a difference between the two girls. A new study may finally give us the answer we’ve sought all these years.
Researchers at the Laboratory of Genetics at The Rockefeller University just authored a study on a sleep disorder called ‘delayed sleep phase disorder’ (DSPD). People with this sleep disorder tend to do some of the best work late at night and struggle to wake up and get going in the morning.
Researchers studied 70 people from six families and found that those individuals with DSPD had a mutation on a gene known as CRY1. Members of the same families that did not exhibit the DSPD sleep disorder did not have the mutation on the CRY1 gene.
The researchers reported that this is the first time a gene mutation has been identified as a cause of DSPD. The mutation disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, also known by some people as their internal clock. Our natural circadian rhythm is hardwired into our genetics and it is programmed to operate in 24-hour cycles. However at least 10% of people with DSPD operate on an internal clock that operates in a longer than a 24-hour loop.
Alina Patke, lead author of the study, commented, saying:
“Carriers of the mutation have longer days than the planet gives them, so they are essentially playing catch-up for their entire lives.”
“A person like a bartender, for example, might not experience any problem with the delayed sleep cycle. but someone like a surgeon who has to be in the OR in the early morning – that’s not compatible.”
Their discovery was first made when a 46-year-old woman came to a sleep clinic for help after years of struggling with her late sleep cycle. They placed her in an apartment for two-weeks. The apartment had no windows or connections to the outside world. No television, internet; nothing that might hint as to the time of day.
Under the study conditions, they discovered the woman’s sleep cycle operated on about a 25-hour clock instead of 24-hour. Consequently, her sleep was often fragmented, leaving her constantly feeling tired. It was after this two-week testing that the researcher sequenced her genes and discovered the CRY1 genetic mutation.
To test their theory, they then contacted the 70 family members in the 6 families in Turkey and were able to conduct genetic sequencing on them and interviewed all of them concerning their sleep habits. Of the 70 test subjects, 39 contained the CRY1 mutation and 31 did not. Those that had the mutation had a later sleep cycle than those without the mutation.
If you are one of those night owl people who seem to naturally be wide awake late at night and struggle to get up in the morning for work or school, it may be that you are cursed with the CRY1 mutation. I wonder how many employers or teachers will buy that excuse for being late when you drop it on them?
This describes me perfectly I came to the conclusion years ago I need about 26-28 hour days. So now the real question how do we fix it????
Debra Anderson says
I think I must have the CRY1 mutation, along with my daughter and her daughter …. we have trouble falling asleep at night and don’t want to get up in the morning. My ideal sleep pattern would be 1:00am to 9:00am but in the real world this is not possible so stay tired. Every few months my system will have enough sleep deprivation and will shut me down and I will sleep soundly for about 10 hours and I feel more rested for awhile but the cycle starts over. Have to take sleeping pill when I know I have to get up real early on a certain morning so I force myself to go to sleep that way. Your research is very interesting.
So… taking Melatonin (which now causes nightmare dreams) or Magnesium isn’t really a help at all?
Is there nothing to help either with sleep or with being more awake when getting up in the morning?
J. D. says
I worked 27 years on night shift and this worked well until i retired. At least i now know I’m not weird !!!!!
As a child I was always sneaking out of bed at night to lie on the floor peeking my head around the corner to see the TV…..especially Sunday nights when Ed Sullivan was on and of course it was always a struggle to get up in the morning.
I am 68 years old and still love being up late at night. I so dislike getting up early but I do see the benefits of being an early riser when I simply must get up. The day is different early; you hear sounds you don’t at 9:00 am or later. I like to say the only time I get up early is to go fishing or travel.
Now, being retired it is not such a hindrance to life..
Denise Crompper says
WOW! This is me. I function better in the evening and can be up until 2-3 a.m. before I even feel tired. Even when getting plenty of rest I hate getting up in the morning. Even if I don’t catch a nap during the day I’m still up late. My sister has always gone to be earlier and can wake up before anyone else in the family. Different as night and day.
Vivian Pons says
And? Don’t leave us hanging. Can anything be done about it?
That’s me! I’m glad to know there’s a good reason for me being a “night owl.”
Marcia Luhman says
I got this , I am 65 years old and always felt that the day was to short, I never knew there was a physical reason for why I was always one step out of line with the rest of the world.
Kerry Ogden says
I can relate to this article because as a child and threw most of my life I found it next to impossible to fall asleep at night, I always requested night shifts where ever I worked and I found it easy to sleep during the day. I believe my daughter suffers from the same problem too!
Cindy B says
I have always believed I had something like this — and now it has a name AND a cause! Hooray! When I am fully retired, I plan to experiment with a 26 to 28 hour day cycle. I think this will make it easier to explain to my 24-hour family and friends 🙂
Richard Stewart says
Wow, does this ever sound like me. None of my family has this problem, but I, since infancy, have had this sleep disorder. I was the kid put to bed would sleep for a little while but wake up and be wake most of the night. This was always a problem, concerning going to school , and staying awake in classes. If only there were a school in the afternoon and evening I would have accelled. As a young adult, I found opportunities that allowed me to work at night. This was great. Sometimes I drove tractor trailer trucks and would drive all night and get many more miles down the road, and stop right before the morning traffic rush. I wish I could be tested for this CRY1 gene. My mother is Rhesis RH- blood type and she took DES in order to stay pregnant instead of having another miscarriage after she had 3.
Robert L Olson says
I am 64 years old now & have always felt that I was on a longer than 24 hour cycle. It seems for me that when the sun went down, I would get my 2nd wind & keep going regardless of when I was supposed to get up. I seldom go to sleep before midnight, even though in the summers, I have to be at work at 6 AM & work until 8 PM, 6 days a week. Once I am asleep though, I do NOT like to get up, so my life has always been a struggle. Maybe now I know a possible reason why.
Debby Owen says
Oh my gosh, this explains what’s been wrong with me my whole life. I have fragmented sleep, thought it was due to my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I’m naturally more awake late at night, struggle like the dickens to get up early. One reason I retired when I did was so I could get more sleep when I needed it. I’ve always called myself a night owl, now I know why. My typical hours of being awake are anywhere from 12:30 noon–1:30 pm to 2-3 am. I try to get to bed by 3:30 am or 4:00 am, if possible. LOL, all the good movies are on late at night, but I have no problem staying awake to watch them.
I can’t believe there is valid science now to back what I have always felt!!!! I knew I just am much more productive at night and into the wee hours of the morning;)
Sandra Lee Smith says
Now they find this out: school was torture for me, getting up early for classes! I worked graveyard shifts happily for years! Even as a young kid, I could stay awake for the Late, Late Show at 0300 much easier than get up for school at o700 or before. I don’t know about a gene mutation, but I take after my mother on that.
Lou Wilson says
Now that the reason for the sleep disorder has been discovered, what is the cure?
I have always been a night owl. While I was working, third shift was very compatible for me. I resent that you refer to having this gene a curse. I like being a night owl.. But, beyond that, this world needs people who find doing their best work at night or third shift a good fit. The one benefit of being a night owl is, I found my sleep pattern could be very flexible, as needed and periodically I did well with less than 8 hours sleep. I did not have a problem with being tired all the time.
That may be part of the “chronic fatigue syndrome”
Larry W James, MD says
I must be one of those with the CRY1. I have tried going to bed at 9-10 PM. I can go to sleep then, but I wake up around midnight and can’t get to sleep until after midnight. Just last PM, I was quite happily awake until 4:00 O’clock this AM. For the 30+ years that I was in the full time practice of medicine, I started my day between 9 and 10 AM. In retirement, I have tried setting my alarm at 7 AM, but I set additional alarms every 15 minutes until 9 AM. I am up early today, because I have a 10 AM appointment. I will probably be napping by noon. I had a friend, now deceased, that could not start her day before 1:00 PM, and rarely retired before 3 AM. If she needed to be somewhere at 7-8 AM, she stayed awake all night. My dad grew up on a farm and was up at 5 AM every day, and went to bed when the sun set..
Larry W James MD
John Scott says
Well if this is true what can be done about this gene disorder. I’m 65 and have struggled with this all my life.
Alice Clark says
Wow!!! This is an awesome find. I am so awake late at night. But, getting up in the morning is a struggle. This explains so very much. Do hope they continue to do more research.
My parents told me I was up late even up late as a baby This explains why my sleep pattern will cycle around too Like someone said above,my mother also took DES to prevent miscarriage. My roommate is a late nighter also, she calls it ELN, for Extreme Late Nighter.