Ask The Sleep Doctor – Night Owls

Sleep doctor ready to answer questions

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

What time would you recommend night owls get up and go to bed, if they’re not stretching the envelope? 


Night owls should go to bed when they are sleepy. Advising a night owl to go to bed at a certain time that conflicts with their inherent circadian rhythms will not work. They need to discover what time they actually get sleepy when all electronics are off. Sometimes a vacation is the best time to reacquaint ourselves with our natural circadian rhythms. However, they need to take into account when they need to be up in the morning and try to guarantee themselves at least 6 ½ to 7 ½ hours of sleep. Night owls tend to drift to later and later bedtimes, so once established, stick to a set sleep/wake schedule.



Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

Is there an optimal time for night owls to perform cognitive tasks — say, writing, or diagnosing a patient? In addition, how about morning people?


As a rule, night owls are more alert later in the day and perform better in the evening. Most morning people do not do well after 10 p.m. A night owl who regularly goes to bed at 2 a.m. will probably be most alert after 10 p.m. The problem is that night owls attempt to do more and more later and later and thus progressively delay their bedtime until it may be out of control. In either case, electronics, televisions, etc., should be shut down 60 minutes before bedtime.


Dr. Robert Rosenberg, D.O., FCCP, DABSM

Robert S. Rosenberg, DO, FCCP, is the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, Arizona and sleep medicine consultant for Mountain Heart Health Services in Flagstaff, Arizona. Dr. Rosenberg is board certified in sleep medicine, pulmonary medicine, and internal medicine. He is a contributing sleep expert blogger and his advice has appeared in Women’s Health, Prevention, Ladies’ Home Journal, Parenting, and O Magazine, among others. Dr Rosenberg is a weekly newspaper columnist addressing sleep Q&As. Dr. Rosenberg appears on TV and radio and lectures throughout the country on Sleep Medicine. His book Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day  is a best seller. Dr Rosenberg’s latest book is The Doctor’s Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress & Anxiety. Visit Dr Rosenberg’s website which is a wealth of information on sleep topics.

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5 thoughts on “Ask The Sleep Doctor – Night Owls

  1. kait Reply

    I was wondering on why the sleep testings to see why you can’t sleep and what are so expensive? Like what if you need to get one done but don’t have enough for it? Why aren’t they cheaper?

  2. Robert Rosenberg Reply

    This could be either nocturnal panic attacks or sleep apnea. Keep in mind if it is sleep apnea, then the lorazepam could make it worse because it weakens the throat muscles. I would strongly recommend you see a sleep specialist to help you sort this through. I would be careful about self-medicating on the assumption that you are dealing with anxiety.

  3. Brad Reply

    So at night the back of my neck gets tents so I take a lorazepam for anxiety. Then when I am feeling tiered and I try to sleep a crazy, scary thing happens to me. Like I start to or at least try to drift off to sleep then I have like a dream about something it varies but I’m not even sleep yet. So I jump up and gasp for air. Then I have to stay awake until I’m over tiered and I just fall asleep doing whatever I’m doing. It is very frustrating and very scary. Wish I had the answer to what it is, why it’s happening, and what I could do to stop this. Also after waking up and going to work I start feeling sleepy and yet sometimes I get then dream things or whatever until I’m fully awake.

  4. Jacob Davenport Reply

    Hi I have been researching and I can’t find what I have. I was sleeping maybe a good 2 to 3 hours I awoke to a very high pitch frequency and I saw flashes of what to appear to be bright white orbs of light spinning and I felt pain in my head and I couldn’t move or scream but only stare at the orbs and listen to the high pitch noises

    • Robert Rosenberg Reply

      What you are describing could be anything, from what we call complex nocturnal visual hallucinations, nocturnal epilepsy, or nocturnal migraines to name just a few. If this is a recurrent problem, you need to consult either with a sleep specialist or a neurologist soon.

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