Sleep. For some, it seems like a distant relative they only see every once in a while. You’ll often hear people say they have insomnia while others claim to be a night owl. So, that leaves the question, what is the difference between being a night owl and having insomnia?
First, let’s dive into what makes a night owl, a night owl. Those who call themselves night owls often have what’s called delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). They tend to function great or even be at their prime late into the night while they struggle to wake up and often feel drowsy and lethargic during the day. Our bodies have a natural clock that’s on a 24-hour cycle called a circadian rhythm. This rhythm is in charge of keeping our body alert when it’s daylight outside, and helping our body to relax and fall asleep at nightfall. When someone suffers from DSPS, their circadian rhythm runs on a later schedule than others. So that means night owls just have a different internal schedule than everyone else, oftentimes one that’s not likely to change.
Insomnia is a little more complicated to explain. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes people to have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. It may last for 1 night or a few weeks, or even be a chronic issue lasting months or years. There are two different types of insomnia; primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is insomnia related to stress, changes in your sleep schedule (new shift at work, jet lag), and your environment (noise, light, and temperature). Secondary insomnia on the other hand, is related to medications, health issues, and things such as caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol use.
It’s important to note that both night owls and insomnia sufferers have similar symptoms so you may have to dig a little deeper, analyzing your natural sleepiness and wakefulness, testing out lifestyle changes, and the like to figure out which one you may be dealing with. Either way, if the problem is persistent, it’s important to talk with your doctor and make any necessary changes that may help you get more restful sleep on a regular basis. A lack of sleep isn’t just a matter of being sleepy through the day. There are many major health problems that can occur when this sleeplessness (regardless of the original cause) is a chronic issue.