Aspies are night owls.

Or at least I am.  I recall reading in one of the first few books on Asperger’s that I ever read that Aspies tend to take longer to fall asleep than the average NT as a general rule.  Our minds can also be seized by a new idea and our brain will not let us sleep until we’ve pursued that idea fully, either in writing or lying awake thinking about it in our minds or even having imaginary but out-loud one-sided conversations with ourselves about it.  I think the night time is comforting to autistic people…there’s less noise and distraction or other sensory input and we’re able to be alone with just our thoughts, which is how we like it.  I know personally that I relished working an over-night shift job in a call center from the late 90s to the late 2000s.  I liked existing in that other world where I worked all night and slept most of the day in a deliberately darkened room, usually waking up at sundown to get ready for work and to enjoy a little bit of free time before the start of my actual shift at midnight or so.  I worked 4 nights on, 3 nights off and I really loved it.  On my off days, I’d revert back to a “normal” schedule, though this usually meant that my first day off was mostly shot, spent getting my body adjusted back to a normal night/day cycle for the remaining 2 days.  Some nightshift workers stick to their same routine on their days off but I’m not quite that antisocial.  I did make time to visit my parents, etc, and there are things I like to do on my days off that are only possible during daylight hours.

Working a normal 8-5 job, by contrast, can be a challenge for many “Night owl” Aspies, because if we fail to get adequate sleep the night before, we can drag a bit at work.  I normally don’t get to sleep until just past midnight most work nights, and I rise promptly at 6am each workday, even if I have to slap myself awake (not literally, but some days it almost feels necessary).  I sleep in on weekends, though with age this usually means getting up around 9am or so at the latest.  Long gone are my teen years when I’d be known to sleep until noon or 1pm on most weekends.  In college as an upperclassman I always scheduled afternoon classes so I could sleep in all morning.  I hated having to rise early for college classes and so promptly put an end to that once I left the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M and became a civilian student able to fully set my own hours irrespective of formation times, inspections, and all that other quasi-military b.s. that I put up with.

These days I pretty much stay up to mess around on Facebook, write blogs like this one, or watch Anime on DVD or on Netflix streaming, or read manga, or (rarely) read more serious nonfiction works.  I have to make time to work out so I don’t blow up like a balloon, but this seriously eats into my available free time.  I also have to give my parents a reasonable modicum of “face time” to keep the domestic peace.  I’d rather dispense with it if I could, but living under their roof, it’s just part of the price I feel obliged to pay.  When I pulled off living independently (albeit never a permanent feat), I could get by with keeping in touch with my parents maybe once a week, if that.  I was quite emotionally satisfied with that level of frequency of contact.  But that wouldn’t fly with my current living arrangement and I know it.  My parents also give me grief if I have too many social activities planned back to back to back.  Sometimes I defend my choices and go anyway, but mainly I acquiesce and scale back my participation, once again to avoid conflict with my parents.  Sometimes they do have a point insofar as I misjudge my own energy levels and forget that I’m 41 and not the level of my emotional maturity, which feels more like age 19.  I will cancel plans on my own if I’m running myself ragged and feel exhausted.  Some times I do have to reach a point of exhaustion before I can properly sleep.  Frankly, I have long used satisfying masturbation as a natural sleep aid and it works well for me.  When I was once prescribed Paxil, it had negative sexual side effects–namely I could not achieve an erection, let alone reach a climax, and my ability to get adequate sleep suffered as a result, which exacerbated my anxiety levels.  I dropped Paxil like a hot rock and did not look back.  While I have a low-grade depression, it really does not respond to medication the way more severe depression can.  When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome I was also screened by a psychiatrist for my depression, but he declined to prescribe medication specifically because of how low-grade my depression is and how ineffectual medication usually is in cases like mine.  It’s just as well.  I really did not like what anti-depressant medications did to my brain while I was on those drugs.  I did not like the sensation of wanting to feel sad in response to a favorite melancholy piece of music but being physically unable to feel that emotion because of the drug. I also have rejected the idea of taking any form of sleep mediation for fear of developing a dependency on them, either physical or psychological.  I do like to sleep and dream and for the most part I get adequate if not ideal amounts of sleep daily.  Weekends are probably better for me sleep wise, though there are exceptions (like tonight).  How do the rest of you all feel about your sleep routines & experiences in light of your A.S. diagnosis?

5 thoughts on “Aspies are night owls.

  1. I don’t have an A.S. diagnosis, but I thought I’d chime in here. I fall asleep and wake up gradually, but I don’t seem to have trouble with either. It just takes a while. Once I let my mind wander, I find that it just happens automatically. The wakeup process is interesting because it often happens during a dream, so I have a long period of lucidity in which I can do basically whatever I want. Well, whatever I’ve learned to do in dreams anyway.

  2. My sleep routine leaves much to be desired, especially in the matter of it even being a “routine”. My biggest issue is having a somewhat irregular sleep schedule. I’m really good about getting enough sleep. Except when it comes to waking up prior to 9 am – 10 am. During the week, the only consistent day I’m up before those times is Sunday mornings when I have to be up for work. On those days, I have to wake up no later than 8 am – 8:30 am. It can be challenging, as most days I’m not usually up before 10 am – noon if I’ve got nothing going on the next day. This leads into my motivation, which I’ve covered in another post on this blog.

    I can relate to other Aspies in regards to falling asleep and waking up. It does takes me a bit longer to fall asleep and awaken than most (neurotypical) people. In my experience, I’ve found it to be unwise to eat too close to when I want to fall asleep. Usually, not eating within probably 3 – 4 hours of when I want to be asleep by is a good rule of thumb. Although I don’t exercise much, I’d probably say the same about not exercising too close to bedtime either. Also, giving myself some time to wind down before I climb into bed can be useful. It helps that I save a few things to do right before bed, like using the restroom, flossing, taking the dog outside to do his business, etc.

  3. i have AS…. but what is this sleep you all seem to talk about? I’m kidding of course. ~ have such difficulties falling asleep, and once I am asleep I cannot seem to wake myself. I’ve been known to unplug alarm clocks from walls and have conversations with people (who are all in attempt to stir me awake) and have no absolute recolection of doing so. Quit funny I think. Some times my internal clock is soo off that I can stay awake for up to 48 hours at a time. Of course then my body crashes and I need a little less then a day to recover. Though I have come to the conclusion that my age and my special interest play a large role. I am 20 year old artist and my creativity pours out into various things such as music, writing and drawing. most of my ideas, thoughts and creative juices flow at night and i cannot seem to silence it what so ever i become much to excited and i cannot rest until i have written them down.

  4. Yeah, I’ve been living an over-night worker’s life for 11 years now. Personally, I don’t change my schedule for days off or vacations, I just adapt to the life full time. But yeah, I feel better about my sleeping problems now that I know it’s a common problem.

    Great post!

  5. Wow man. You just wrote my life story. I have only just realised that I may have been suffering with asperger all my life and I’m 41.

    Everything you have wrote reflects my experience so far as well as having researched the subject to death.

    Thank you for this post 🙂

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