This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

How Will My Life Change With Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder?

Many people initially try to cope with Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder (Non-24) by forcing themselves to keep a normal sleep schedules like their 24-hour peers. Previous cases examining sleep-wake patterns of affected individuals show that their sleep tends to occur most during the night, reflecting their general attempt to live a 24-hour social day. As a result, Non-24 is often misdiagnosed as primary insomnia and prescribed inappropriate sleep medication. Treating the sleep issue only is addressing a symptom and it not treating the underlying disorder that is the misalignment of the master body clock.

Non-24 can also be misinterpreted as a psychological disorder. This is not the case, however; while it can cause psychological problems as a result of difficulty coping with the symptoms, it is professionally classified as a neurological sleep disorder. More often than not, there is a lack of understanding from family, friends, employers, and even some doctors because it is difficult for them to grasp the overwhelming desire to sleep at the ‘wrong’ time for some patients and that the symptoms are not resolved by other typical sleepiness countermeasures. For example, even though Non-24 patients may feel extremely fatigued due to the disorder, how they are unable to fall asleep earlier in the night is difficult to understand. Not surprisingly, Non-24 sufferers may feel undermined in their personal and professional relationships due to lack of acceptance and understanding from their peer groups.

Non-24 sufferers may also find themselves napping or feeling very sleepy during the daytime, leading to problems with performance in work or school. They may find it difficult to wake up on time when required and keep to a schedule, especially if they are already sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation may lead to difficulties with concentration and memory, increasing risk of errors and accidents.

Strategies for Coping

The following tips can help you to better cope with Non 24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder (Non-24), a circadian rhythm disorder:

  • Help your family and friends understand about Non-24 and how it may affect your relationships.
  • Follow your doctor’s treatment regimen and tell your doctor how the treatment is working out for you.
  • If you are suffering from Non-24 and depression, be sure to seek treatment for both.
  • Ask your employer for flexibility in your work hours and opportunities to work from home periodically.
  • Keep up your social life with friends and family via email and social media, which you can do anytime.
  • Join an online support group for people with circadian rhythm disorders.
  • Drink moderate amounts of caffeine. Too much of it can actually increase fatigue by causing anxiety or withdrawal symptoms.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which can cause fatigue.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Not only is alcohol a depressant, but it can disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling more fatigued.

Maintaining a Social/Work Life

Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for Non-24. Phototherapy for the sighted and melatonin are currently used by many patients suffering from Non24. In 2014 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the medication tasimelteon (brand name Hetlioz) for the treatment of Non-24.

One of the most difficult aspects of Non 24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder (Non-24) is trying to maintain employment and some semblance of a normal social life. Here are some strategies that can help you do both.

Non-24 and Your Social Life

  • Explain Non-24 to your family and friends so that they understand how it may affect your relationships. Let them know that you may need to wait until the last minute to accept or extend invitations for get-togethers and that you may not always be able to attend special events. Direct your family and friends to learn more about Non-24 at
  • Make friends with people who work different hours. If your group of friends includes shift workers who work both day and night shifts, you will have a better chance of finding someone available to get together at a time when you are alert.
  • Maintain contact via email. Email is a great way to keep in touch with people close to you during the times that you are awake but family and friends are sleeping or when you’re sleeping when they are awake. Send emails asking how they are doing and let them know that you are thinking about them.
  • Conserve energy for special events. If you have a special event that you would like to attend, try to sleep as much as possible during the hours your body wants to sleep for several days preceding the event. This will help prepare you for the “big” event.
  • Join an online support group. There are some options available. Find one that fits you best.

Non-24 and Your Work Life

Look for a job with flexible hours that you can do from home. Just a few examples include:

  • Virtual assistant
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • Translator
  • Web developer/designer
  • Customer support
  • Freelance writer or editor

If you are already employed, ask your employer for:

  • Flexibility in your work hours
  • Opportunity to work from home as needed periodically
  • Consider part-time rather than full-time employment if this is feasible for you

Non-24 is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and your employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations, including a part-time or modified work schedule. If you have been treated for Non-24, talk to your employer about some options. You may also want to consult with an attorney who specializes in disability

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