How can my son normalize his sleep cycle?

This question was asked in Mooresville, Indiana on 03/05/2013.
My son is now 20 years old and has never been able to sleep well. No matter how long he has been awake, he cannot fall asleep until between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m. We/he have tried numerous sleep aids (although nothing a prescription was needed for) over the years like chamomile with valerian tea, Tylenol pm, straight over the counter sleeping pills, helping him out of bed in the morning and then filling him with strong coffee (which did not help him to be fully awake) only to see him not come "awake" until between 3 and 4 p.m. and then still not be able to fall asleep any earlier. This pattern has made school a nightmare. He is a great young man and I am proud to be his parent. Now in college, he makes A's and B's in upper math and science along with tutoring inner city high school kids and is planning on chemical engineering or medical research as his career field if he can get up and stay awake for his job. I know this is not just a problem from habitually staying up late and then not wanting to get up at a normal hour. Does this even have a name and what can he do? Thank you for help.

Doctors Answers (5)

Jana P. Kaimal, MD, FCCP
Answered on: 4/5/2013 7

Your best bet is to seek the help of a qualified sleep specialist through an initial consultation. With the information below and complete history and physical examination, we can begin to get a clear picture of what is going on and proceed ahead with additional tests if needed and design a course of treatment.

Daron Scherr, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 4/5/2013 1

Getting, "A's and B's in upper math and science along with tutoring inner city high school kids " sounds like he is functioning pretty well with any sleep disorder he may have.

As you've already proven, any disorder your son may have is a little more complex and is going to require a more extensive history. I recommend that he contact a local Board Certified Sleep Specialist in an AASM accredited facility.

Courtney Whitney, DO
Answered on: 3/6/2013 2

Your son has chronic insomnia. It is likely due in part or in full to a circadian phase delay. The best place to start would be an evaluation by a behavioral sleep specialist. If one is not available in your area an board certified sleep specialist can also help. Good luck.

Robert C. Jones, M.D.
Answered on: 3/6/2013 2

What you are describing could be a number of things contributing to his sleeping issues. One possibility is Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. It would be a good idea for him to be evaluated by a sleep disorder specialist.

Jeannine Louise Gingras, MD
Answered on: 3/6/2013 2

He has a common sleep disorder known as Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. He needs to be seen by a sleep physician to treat.