Nyctophilia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Nyctophilia is the name given to a strong preference for nighttime. It isn’t classified as a pathology, but it is a problematic condition because of the effects it can have on health. Depriving oneself of sunlight and engaging in activities contrary to the norm has its consequences.
Strictly speaking, nyctophilia occurs when a person freely chooses to stay awake until late at night. This is not the case with shift workers, who don’t work shifts for pleasure, but because of the demands of the job.
When a person has nyctophilia, he or she doesn’t necessarily have to be treated. Nor is it mandatory for them to change their lifestyle.
What is nyctophilia?
Nictophilia is a condition characterized by an unusual attraction to night and darkness. It isn’t considered a disorder and isn’t included in any of the psychiatric diagnostic manuals.
As such, it can’t be considered a problem. However, this type of behavior could be due to certain problems. Perhaps it has to do with a sleep disorder or problems in adapting to social life.
Each case is different and the circumstances a person with nyctophilia lives in must be assessed. If this doesn’t cause any problems then we could speak of a simple preference.
One of the most revealing elements to evaluate nyctophilia is to look at what causes it. This behavior can have very diverse origins, which need to be cataloged in order to know if it’s a problem that needs to be solved or a lifestyle that has been freely chosen.
Circadian rhythm pattern
The circadian rhythm is a biological cycle that regulates the hours of sleep and wakefulness. People are usually more active in the mornings and inactive in the evenings, coinciding with the presence of the sun. However, for reasons unknown to science, some people have a different pattern.
People with a high IQ tend to be more active at night. The reason for this isn’t known. Similarly, introverted people find the night more attractive, as social life is much less intense at that time.
Alteration of habits
People who don’t have a structured routine often develop very flexible sleeping and eating habits. In principle, there’s a tendency to sleep late and wake up late as well. If the person doesn’t have any commitments in the mornings, then it can often lead to nyctophilia.
It’s also possible that the person feels somewhat aversive to the daytime. By being awake at night, they seek to avoid this negative stimulus.
Likewise, if the person has suffered a childhood trauma during the night, then this could create an alertness at that time. This would be an effect of post-traumatic stress.
Symptoms of nyctophilia
As it isn’t a pathology as such, we can’t speak of general symptoms as such. What can be done is to outline the features that are indicative of this condition and which are problematic:
- Vitamin D deficiency: Sun exposure is essential for the production of this vitamin. Its deficiency affects mood, but also the bone and immune systems.
- Social difficulties: When a person has little or no social contact due to the habit of staying awake at night, this is a situation that should be assessed by a professional.
- Work problems: Difficulty or impossibility to fulfill work commitments is an indicator that nictophilia is very negative for the person.
- Deprivation of rest: If the preference for nighttime leads to fewer hours of rest or poor sleep, there’s also a problem.
Treatments available for nyctophilia
Nyctophilia doesn’t require treatment if it doesn’t impair social or work performance, nor significantly affect physical health. If it does, then it’s necessary to consult a doctor to find ways to overcome this condition.
The priority would be to consult a psychotherapist. This professional will evaluate each case and will be able to detect the problems. The presence of sleep disorders or significant alterations of the circadian rhythm may lead to the prescription of drugs.
In general terms, the healthiest thing to do is to sleep at night and stay awake during the day. No matter how much attraction there is to nocturnal times, habits should be moderated. Nyctophilia is an acceptable way of life, as long as it doesn’t lead to harmful consequences.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Querales, M. I., Cruces, M. E., Rojas, S., & Sánchez, L. (2010). Deficiencia de vitamina D: ¿Factor de riesgo de síndrome metabólico? Revista médica de Chile, 138(10), 1312-1318.
- Zamarrón, J. A. (2017). El insomne contra la diurnidad. Cuadernos Fronterizos, (40).