About the Author

Honey's main interests are online dating, long distance dating, and long term relationships. She met her boyfriend on MySpace and they have been exclusive since their first date over three years ago. Currently they live in Tempe, Arizona. Honey graduated with her PhD in Composition and Rhetoric in May 2009. You can contact Honey via email here or online here.

Work, Circadian Rhythms, and Sex Drive

I just finished my second week at a new job (though it won’t feel official until my first paycheck next Friday, when I can finally stop living off my savings).  My job is 25 freeway miles away from my house, so I have to get up pretty early in order to be there by eight.  This has had several ripple effects in my sleep pattern and my sex drive, and also gotten me thinking a lot more about the BF’s sleep pattern and his sex drive, and I’m starting to realize just how huge a deal these sorts of things can become.

My Circadian Rhythm

I have what most doctors would probably consider a “normal” circadian rhythm.  If left to my own devices (that is, when I’m not required to get up at a particular time the next day) I will probably get tired and go to bed by 11:30.  Sometimes it’s a little earlier, sometimes a little later.  I will wake up on my own generally by 9, though if I’m woken up at 8 (which happened when I wasn’t working because that’s when the BF left for work) then I will usually just get up.  If there’s something fun going on (a party, a night out at a club/bar, a night of hot sex with the BF), I can stay up quite late, but I can’t sleep in much past 10–sometimes 11 if I wear a sleep mask once it’s light outside.

Now that I’m working, I have to get up by 6 in order to leave by 7:15 and get to work at 8 (once the semester starts and students are parking on campus, I will probably have to get up between 5:30 and 5:45).  Accordingly, my clock has readjusted within the first two weeks of this job.  I start to think longingly of bed around 9:30 and usually go lay down around 10, although I usually read a book for about half an hour to an hour after that.

What This Has to Do With My Sex Drive

When I was unemployed this summer, I would have told you that the minimum number of times I wanted to have sex was 4 times per week, ideally on four different days.  In an ideal world I’d have sex twice on each of those four days for a total of 8 times.  I also prefer morning sex because no matter what time I go to bed, it’s because I’m exhausted, and tougher to get “in the mood” (though not impossible).

Now I’m going to bed just as exhausted but much earlier, and waking up just as exhausted because it’s so early (though I usually shake it off within half an hour–and that’s without coffee, so be impressed).  So during the week it is much harder to imagine having sex.  Again, not impossible, but I’d really have to decide to have sex and then get myself in the mood as opposed to already being in the mood and deciding to have sex.

However, I maintain that my minimum number of times per week is 4, which means that I want to try and get those 4 times in between Friday night and Sunday night.  And my ideal 8 has become el dorado because, while it might happen sometimes, it’s unlikely that I’d have sex 8 times over 2.5 days every single weekend.

The BF’s Circadian Rhythm

I have long been aware that the BF has anything but a “normal” circadian rhythm.  I have known since our first date that he was an “insomniac,” though it didn’t matter so much when we were both in school because he could grab sleep during odd hours and still be functional at what are generally considered “normal” times.  However, about a year ago when he started working it seemed to me that it was taking him longer than normal to adjust to getting up early.  He started with the goal of being to work by 8 and it wasn’t workable at all for him, and even a year later he struggles to get in before 9.  Like, really struggles.  He didn’t get in until almost 10 today.

I was researching this online and discovered that he has something called delayed sleep phase syndrome, which is a type of circadian rhythm sleep disorder.  Basically what this means is that he’s not an “insomniac” because his body craves a “normal” amount of sleep; however, his internal body clock is not set to the times that the majority of people sleep.  If left to his own devices, he’d stay up until 4 or 6 a.m. and sleep until noon or 2 p.m.  Unfortunately it is little known and often misdiagnosed; additionally, it is not only “incurable” but not even able to be treated effectively.  Despite getting up at 6:30 or so on the weekdays, he doesn’t get tired until at least 2 a.m. each weeknight–and he still has to take sleeping pills every night to get to bed at that time.

The BF’s Sex Drive

When we first started dating it seemed apparent to me that the BF and I had very similar and compatible sex drives (by which I mean desired frequency), which is half the battle (the other half being chemistry and compatibility when you’re actually having sex).  However, while I still believe that’s the case, now that we both have “regular” jobs the differences in our sleep patterns have really begun to interfere with that.

During the week, I go lay down around 10 or 10:30 while he doesn’t come upstairs until after midnight and sometimes later.  Because he’s so sleep deprived during the week (after getting significantly less than 6 hours per night for 5 days), he reverts to his “preferred” sleep schedule on the weekend.  Right now, even if I go to bed at 1 a.m. that means he doesn’t go to bed until 5 hours later, and when I wake up around 10 (and often earlier), he’s not even going to be conscious until 1 or 2.  So we’re never actually both awake in the bed at the same time.

This leaves only daytime sex, which, while fabulous, isn’t always feasible because the weekend is also really our only time to run errands or hang out with friends.  And it certainly hasn’t been adding up to my ideal, and quite frankly not even my minimum.  I am starting to feel the lack a little.

The Big Questions

The question, of course, is what can be done about this?  There’s not much I can do to avoid being tired much sooner than he is at night, whether we’re talking the weekday or the weekend.  I’m trying to think of some creative ways to work some more sex into our week in a way that won’t seem forced or a chore for either of us, and could really use any suggestions that you all have.  There are some things that I’ve tried (shaking things up a bit with the digital camera and the outdoor sex, for example), but I would appreciate any advice or insight you all have to offer.

So what have you got?

  • NewWrldYankee

    My suggestion to BF is to get some melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by our bodies and regulates our circadian clock. I end up taking at the beginning of every school year, because I spent my summers in the states, and the rest of the year in Europe, 6 hours ahead of home. In order for me to re set my sleep schedule quicker, I take melatonin tablets, to beat the jet lag, and to get quickly on CET instead of EST. You can find it the vitamin aisle of any pharmacy. Hope this helps!

  • http://20-forty.com/ lisaq

    I think this is an issue a lot of couples struggle with. I can certainly relate to the change/adjustment of returning to work and trying to get your body clock to cooperate with a new schedule. Mine is fried at the moment after returning to work this week.

    I always look forward to Friday not just because it’s the last work day of the week, but because I know I can go home from work and take a nap without it interfering with my sleep/work schedule. Why not go home on Friday and take a little nap so you can stay up late with him on Friday night? I know it’s the beginning of the weekend, but still technically a week night. You could spice it up by sending flirty, suggestive texts back & forth during the day to give you both something to look forward to.

    lisaqs last blog post..Are You Setting Yourself Up For Heartache With Unrealistic Dating Expectations?

  • http://honeyandlance.com/contact Lance

    Fantastic post. This is a highly relevant issue that doesn’t get talked about enough. Also, welcome to normal person life. Imagine doing the same schedule for the next 10 years and see where your sex drive is, oops I mean being married.

    Tips: Exercise is quite helpful for regulating my own sleep schedule. In fact, if I don’t work out, and work out HARD, in a day, then I will sleep like shit that night. Guaranteed. I’ve done melotonin and it’s fairly effective, and from what I understand a natural alternative to sleep aids. In a pinch, I’ll pound Tylenol PM, but only if it’s an emergency. If you’re BF doesn’t work out, tell him to force himself to get in a hard workout M – F.

    My natural cycle is to stay awake until 2:00 am, wake at 7:30 and start my day. I’m at my most creative from 7:30 to noon, and again from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am. I’ve always been like this and I just accept it. Looking at my numbers, you’ll see I only sleep 5.5 hours per night, which is pretty much true. Ideally, I would take a 1-2 hour nap sometime in the afternoon, preferably around 2:00 pm. This is my ideal day, and of course it’s not feasible at all with a 8 – 5 job. The 8-5 absolutely KILLS my sex drive, like cuts it in half.

    My solution is to engineer my life so that I work for myself and can sleep when I want, ie my natural rhythm. I’m probably a couple of years away from doing that.

    I had this job recently where I worked 12-13 hour days, six days per week, under an intense amount of stress, with a bitch for a boss. I turned into an insomniac and basically couldn’t fall into a deep sleep until Saturday night. Memory sucked, judgment was impaired, yada yada. My sex drive evaporated for THREE MONTHS, like I couldn’t even be bothered to spank it. Absolutely zero interest in poon. I also had a permanent cold for the stretch and felt like total shit, mentally and physically. I ended up leaving that job in June.

  • http://thedateabledork.typepad.com The Dateable Dork

    Sorry Honey, I don’t have any good advice on this one! But I will say this: I’ve definitely been in a similar situation, and it totally sucks. A BF from a few years ago had a sleep pattern like your BF – up all night, and sleeping really late in the morning. He wanted to have sex at 3:00 am (when I was asleep), and I wanted it in the morning (when he was alseep). I wound up trying to stay up late to accommodate his schedule, which just left me cranky and feeling like shit in the mornings. Eventually we started having sex earlier in the evenings (around 8 or 9) because it was the only time we were both awake and home at the same time. But honestly, this didn’t work all that well because neither of us really wanted to be having sex at that time.

    Anyway, good luck! Let us know if you find something that works. : )

    The Dateable Dorks last blog post..A long-awaited escape

  • http://www.worklovelife.com Holly Hoffman

    I have one word for you: Saturday. My BF is the same, except he requires ridiculous amounts of sleep. He’ll go to bed around 11:30 when left to his own devices, and wake around 10. Weekday alarms have earned him the morning-time nickname Grumpus. He never makes it to work before 9. I have to be to work at 8 a.m., nearly impossible for me (I habitually walk in at 8:15). My optimal sleep time is 9-10 hours. Impossible during the week, so I’m the sleep-deprived one with a packed schedule who’s so happy to see the bed at the end of the day that I have zero libido.

    In short, we do it maybe once during the weekdays. Then, we marathon it out after sleeping in on Saturday. We didn’t leave the bed until 5 pm this past Saturday (oh so glorious. It seems to do the trick when you add in Sunday morning. But that’s us. You’ll figure out your rhythm if you’re committed to it. And I’m sure you are ;)

    Holly Hoffmans last blog post..The public library: A lesson in resourcefulness

  • http://www.worklovelife.com Holly Hoffman

    BTW, imagine having kids on top of that… Eek.

    Holly Hoffmans last blog post..The public library: A lesson in resourcefulness

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    I think it would be worse to be single and on a “normal person” schedule because at least if you’re in a LTR you can squeeze that quickie in with someone you already know you like, and it’s easy access because you’re both home. I can’t imagine dating on this schedule. It would be misery.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    @NewWrldYankee–Thanks for the suggestions! Unfortunately the BF’s tried melatonin and it doesn’t work at all for him. He also has some prescription pills that are apparently the best for this type of sleep disorder, but they don’t work either. He takes Tylenol SimplySleep on an almost-daily basis and also smokes pot, though neither of those really work great.

    @Lisaq–I like the idea of a nap and also sexy text messages! I have access to modify his Yahoo calendar and could probably add a few things to his itinerary and wait for him to notice ;-)

    @DD–The evenings (but not bedtime) seem to be the most workable time for us, too. He “tucked me in” last night, and it worked out great!

    @Holly–Yes, we’re committed to finding a time to work it in, pun intended. We did have ourselves a fine little Saturday afternoon this week. It’s just good to know we’re not the only couple out there with this sort of issue because it’s so easy to feel that way, you know?

    Honeys last blog post..Work, Circadian Rhythms, and Sex Drive

  • http://honeyandlance.com/contact Lance

    Had to add my own sleep update. I’m on my second week of a new 8-5 job and my sleep schedule is royally fucked up. Not only am I sleeping less, but now I can’t fall asleep just like with what you’re describing with your BF. Ugh. I started Monday morning under the gun and was ready to pass out at 10:00, but the second I laid down I couldn’t pass out!

    In my case, I believe the issue is almost entirely psychological, ie the second I stop moving, my brain takes over and starts spinning over and over about whatever is going on…work stress, personal projects that I’m behind on, dating crap, etc etc. It’s a dangerous thing to stop and think. I had the same issue to a larger degree at my last job.

    A girl I met recently suggested meditation, which I’m not sure I know how to do. Will investigate.

  • http://www.cathouseteri.blogspot.com Cathouse Teri

    I had a clock like yours when I was 21. Then all was interrupted with a newborn baby. I dreamt of sleep CONSTANTLY. Being in the mood for sex was out of the question. It wasn’t until I realized I would not be getting any more sleep EVER AGAIN that I was able to conquer this need. I really did it by making the choice to live happily on less sleep. And making a decision to stop wanting things to be different. It worked for me. I have no idea why.

    Lance’s tip for daily exercise, I feel, is crucial. It makes you more energetic when you are awake and makes your rest more effective.

    A fifteen to twenty minute cat-nap can do wonders. Any longer and you will wind up feeling groggy.

    In my life, I get to sleep around 1 or 2. BF can’t sleep until around 4. But he’s always welcome to wake me up. We both get up at 7 and head to work. He works as a carpenter and I have an office job. On weekends, I still get up at 7 and he sleeps until at least noon. That’s just how he catches up.

    I’m 48 and he’s 36 and we are never too tired for sex. We have sex no less than 7 times a week. I can only advise you that healthy eating habits, a daily exercise routine, and strategic rest patterns are really what make all the difference.

    The other thing is… stress? Are either of you having stress issues?

    Cathouse Teris last blog post..Pineapple Express

  • http://www.cathouseteri.blogspot.com Cathouse Teri

    One quick note, after reading Lance’s new comment. I swim every morning, and with concentrated breathing patterns and definitive strokes. This accomplishes both exhilarating exercise and meditation for me. It’s AMAZING. When I miss a day, I can totally tell the difference.

    Another thing ~ when I was around thirty, I started noticing some afternoon fatigue was plaguing me. I started taking MSM. Two capsules with each meal. It was like a miracle. Worth a try!

    Cathouse Teris last blog post..Pineapple Express

  • http://www.worklovelife.com Holly Hoffman

    I had to learn this the hard way, but you don’t get to just switch your body off at the end of the day and drop into bed. You can’t go and go and go, then expect your body to sleep on demand.

    You’ve got to give yourself a downslope into sleep. For me, it’s reading or a crossword puzzle. It could be a mindless TV show, appreciating a good low-key album, or yes, meditation. (Meditation works for me in the morning, but not at night – like you, I’m too distracted by thoughts of what I didn’t get done to just sit there. I need something distracting, yet slightly boring.)

    In short, you’ve got to give yourself a mental break .5-1 hr. before intended sleep. And by that, I mean also giving yourself a break – don’t beat yourself up or push yourself right before sleep. Try making a did-it list or gratitude list. It always helps me.

    Holly Hoffmans last blog post..The public library: A lesson in resourcefulness

  • http://dadshouseblog.com dadshouse

    Spoon at night!!
    Phone sex during the day!!
    Go at it like wild monkeys as soon as you’re both in the house!!

    Plus, eat right, exercise, sleep. And make sex a friggin’ priority, even if it’s a midnight booty call in your own place.

    dadshouses last blog post..A Great Child Custody Schedule for Divorced Parents

  • http://tsquest.blogspot.com T

    This is an interesting post because I have a girlfriend in the same position. Her hubby is the night owl. She would go to bed, sleep and then wake up when he came to bed. Then she’d have to get up early to take care of the kids. I think they had sex when he came to bed. It always baffled me.

    I agree with everyone on the exercise bit. It has made a huge difference with my sleep. I tend to require 8 hours/night but often get less being a single mommy. I take whole food vitamins, cycle and do yoga. I try to meditate as well. Its amazing what it does for your energy levels.

    Good luck with this. Remember that you guys don’t have children so you in effect, still have the time. Work with what you got girl!

    Ts last blog post..I’m turned on

  • http://link Miss12

    I just wanted to be famous. ,