Triple Shifter

Anyone whose description is "Normal Job By Day, Crimefighter (or other things) by Night!" probably doesn't have a lot of time to sleep.

So we'll see them doing stuff during day and night — constantly. Don't they ever need to take a nap? The actual physical consequences are rarely taken seriously, except maybe by showing a teacher or boss annoyed that the character is dozing off from time to time. Rarely anything else happens: if it is shown as a constant issue of exhaustion, it will usually be school or work that suffers, as opposed to their night-time adventures, even though being tired mean they should have a much harder time fighting. Night is naturally the time for saving the world when you Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World.

Of course, one could assume that Evil doesn't strike every night. But it sure seems that way. See also Plot-Powered Stamina.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Many a Magical Girl does this; curiously the matter of sleep is only a personality issue. One may be a Heavy Sleeper or always Late for School; but that's more about them and less about fighting monsters in the middle of the night. Her companions sleep as little as she does, and don't seem to have any problems.
    • The matter of sleep was actually addressed in the third episode of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha's first season, with Yuuno telling Nanoha to take a break since she's exhausting herself. Naturally, that led to her missing a Jewel Seed that proceeded to damage her town. Also, in the second season, the Wolkenritter go out searching for Linker Cores at night causing them to wake up late the following morning, because they spend their days with Hayate, who is not supposed to know about their nightly trips.
      • And then there's Teana, who puts herself through a rigorous training regimen (in addition to her regular training which in and of itself is very demanding) resulting in only sleeping four hours a night. At the end of it she's so exhausted her body needs 30+ hours of sleep to recover.
    • As the Sailor Moon English Expository Theme Song tells us, the titular heroine is "Fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight..." Even before becoming a warrior of love, she was having problems getting to school on time, but somehow being Sailor Moon doesn't compound it at all.
    • Played with in Cardcaptor Sakura. Though catching magical and mischievous cards shouldn't be particularly exhausting (considering she catches 52 of them over the course of roughly 15 months; it's not even a weekly occurrence), transforming them so she can become their full-blooded owner becomes quite draining to her limited magic. (As well as using the Time and Return Cards, which even knock Syaoran for a loop!) Because of this, in the third season Sakura tends to doze off during class, or immediately after said transformation. She will also occasionally fall asleep in class for the purpose of having a prophetic dream (which tends to require the dreamer to be asleep at the time).
      • Yukito/Yue plays this trope far more dramatically. While he starts as an Ordinary Highschool Student, it turns out he's the vessel of Yue, a powerful magical being who has been cut off his source of mana since his creator, Clow, is dead, and Clow's succesor Sakura is, well, a little girl with a big heart and great potential but limited magic at the moment — and she's also using the few magic she currently has to transform the Clow Cards into Sakura Cards. As such, the Big Eater and Heavy Sleeper traits that were a mere Running Gag at first become way more serious. It takes Touya willingly transferring all of his Psychic Powers to Yue/Yukito to restore his strength, and when poor Sakura finds out, she has a heartbreaking Heroic BSOD and blames herself for it for not having enough power to maintain Yue's presence.
      • In a completely mundane instance, Sakura was shown to be dozing off in class all week long. Syaoran and Tomoyo thought she was transforming cards behind their backs. She was actually rushing to knit Syaoran a scarf before the winter festival, knowing how much he hates the cold.
    • Fresh Pretty Cure! actually showed the end result of an action such as this - Love, Miki and Buki actually got themselves hospitalized because they pushed themselves between dance practice, school and being Pretty Cure.
  • Lelouch/Zero from Code Geass. In one episode, after schoolgirl/terrorist Kallen is publicly embarrassed due to nodding off in class, Rivalz suggests she take lessons from Lelouch, who's the undisputed master of sleeping through class without getting caught, napping through about half the school day on average. He still manages to pull a straight-B report card and somehow maintain his Rich Idiot with No Day Job public persona while secretly working to overthrow the government nights and weekends. Even better, he could have easily gotten a straight-A+ record, if not for the necessity to maintain low profile.
  • In an episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, Sousuke, due to the combined stresses of completing schoolwork and typing up reports for his superiors (not having slept for four days in the process) collapses with a fever.
    • In the second Full Metal Panic! novel, he falls asleep in class with his eyes open after having spent the night dealing with a Humongous Mecha rampaging through Tokyo.
    • The plot of The Second Raid is centered around the fact that Sousuke can't keep up his Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World routine as his presence is needed to pilot his organization's only Super Robot.
    • In the later novels, his sleeping habits are shown a bit more... and they're very unhealthy. Apparently, he got into the habit of always sleeping under the bed, with his eyes open, and is always holding a weapon of some sort. During the time when he sleeps, he also has nightmares of his mother dying, and actually counts himself lucky when he gets six whole whopping hours of sleep that day (after wandering around until he passed out from fatigue). It definitely doesn't bode well for his life expectancy.
  • Kekkaishi's Yoshimori is constantly falling asleep in class, since he's in school during the day and hunts Ayakashi during the night. His 'breakfast' is often coffee-flavored milk.
    • Oddly enough, Tokine seems to have the same schedule, but she's depicted as a model student.
      • That's because Yoshimori usually goes all out, exerting his energy while Tokine thinks things through and only does what she must. Yoshimori outright exhausts himself.
  • The girls get hit on both ends in Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z. When they have to fight at night they're look exhausted the next day, and they're show having to take a supplementary class. On one occasion they actually have to leave the professor to fight monsters while they take their school finals.
  • Karina "Blue Rose" Lyle from Tiger & Bunny is a sponsored superheroine, an Ordinary Highschool Student and a lounge singer. She doesn't like it.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman is the Trope Codifier. In some continuities it's explained that he doesn't sleep but rather engages in a 30-minute trance every day that "gives the equivalent of a six-hour sleep."
    • In other continuities, no one bats an eye because he occasionally makes a brief but memorable evening appearance as Millionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne, carousing the night away with beautiful women on his arms. So he's assumed to be sleeping all day thereafter, as a Rich Idiot with No Day Job.
    • After the battle seen early on in The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is seen sleeping at the table during a board meeting at Wayne Enterprises the next day.
    • On the other hand, Terry, Bruce's successor as Batman in Batman Beyond, is regularly shown struggling to balance the demands of his daytime life with his responsibilities as Batman, and frequently his daytime life suffers as a result: he falls asleep in class and has poor grades, and both his mother and his girlfriend are often on his case about his apparent lack of reliability.
    • Batman's first apprentice, Nightwing, is allowed to be a little more human, and when he's forced to go without sleep, he suffers for it.
    • In one episode of Justice League, Batman hasn't slept for three nights straight... as they fight the Villain of the Week whose power is being able to attack you in your sleep. At the end of the episode, after he and J'onn save everyone, he's seen slumped over in a chair in the Watchtower's infirmary, snoring.
      • Admittedly, in order to manage to stay awake, he'd consumed a supercaffinated beverage, proving that the Batmobile has Bat-cupholders.
      • Also gave us the priceless moment when he barges into a Starbucks to order said supercaffeinated beverage. For a moment it looks like he is going to have to wait in line but everyone gets out of his way and lets him cut to the front.
      • And cranking up the radio in the Batmobile, along with shattering the windshield to get a cool breeze going.
    • The first episode of The Batman has Bruce Wayne commenting to Alfred that even though it's been 3 years since he donned the outfit, he still can't get used to being tired during the day.
    • Of DC's holy trinity, two members could conceivably justify not needing any sleep... yet it's the third that does all his crimefighting at night.
      • In the DCAU, at least, Superman has to sleep - such as in the aforementioned episode of Justice League.
      • One novelization has Superman comment that he was able to go several days at a time without sleep back in his college days, but now that he's getting older, he just goes to pieces if he doesn't get a full one hour of sleep per night. So he does need to sleep, just, not very much. In fact, some continuities appear to use that to explain how he finished college and had time to go walk the earth. He didn't sleep and studied instead!
    • At least one issue of the Silver Age comics (or Modern Age, it was pretty close to the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths ) focused on him trying to find a time to at least nap - but being denied this by needing to be at Jason Todd's school for a meeting, a corporate thingy, a date, and then a Batman - required emergency. Eventually he falls asleep on the back of a gargoyle as the sun rises.
    • Tim Drake, the third Robin, doesn't appear to have had time to sleep in 5 years. He spent his days at school, his evenings socialising, his nights as Robin and his weekends at the Teen Titans - who train and fight supervillains and cults and hordes of their own members who've turned evil day and night. As Red Robin, he simply cut out his friends and family (most of whom had died), not to mention school, to superheroing and sleeping. And brooding. A lot of brooding, about how many people he knows who are dead (a lot) and how many of those are his fault (perhaps half).
  • Spider-Man also does this, though he isn't as lucky as Batman and is constantly harassed as Peter Parker for being sleepy.
  • Paperinik, the superhero identity of Donald Duck whose authors generally know how ridiculous they're being, gets off easy: his regular identity is a layabout loser who arouses no suspicion by catching "Z"s during the day.
  • The hero of the comic Hero By Night. He's a Legacy Character with a Magic Ring, which grants him superhuman vitality. This translates into enhanced physical abilities and toughness, but also a removal of the need to sleep. He does need to meditate, as his predecessor did, to stay sane with no ability to dream.
  • This is mentioned in Watchmen when Rorschach notes he hasn't slept in days and that he is getting too tired to think straight. He also chides himself for falling asleep without removing his mask. The guy is a bit crazy and has immersed himself in his superhero persona so deeply that he seems to forget the need to rest every now and then.

    Fan Fic 
  • Mary Jane Watson starts to suffer from this trope when she becomes increasingly unable to juggle her acting career, her waitressing job, her mother's therapy bills, her superhero career, and her failing grades. She's increasingly stressed out due to a lack of sleep, and when a particularly Unsatisfiable Customer becomes too much of a pain in the neck, Mary Jane finally snaps.

  • The Dark Knight shows that Batman's constant triple shifting are wearing him down and making him a little sloppy at the beginning of the movie. He also complains of exhaustion at least once.
    Bruce Wayne: (after Alfred has drawn the curtains back, letting sunlight in) Bats are nocturnal!
  • At one point in Men In Black, Jay actually asks Zed whether they ever sleep. Apparently, the organisation works to an alien schedule of a 37 hour day. The lack of sleep is implied to be offset by drinking copious amounts of coffee.
    Zed: You get used to it. Or suffer a psychotic episode.
    • Theoretically possible, and perhaps even preferable. A couple of studies done where people are locked in rooms with no sense of time show them adapting naturally to anything from a 20-30 hour day. It's still a little short of the Men in Black day but if they were also extending their sleep cycles or taking multiple naps(it's not saying they're awake for 37 hours, just that the day is 37 hours long) then they probably could adapt.
  • By the beginning of Spider-Man 2, Peter is falling asleep in his college classes, missing some, and turning assignments in late due to this. Dr. Connors considers Peter to be another trope, and is on the brink of failing him.

  • Averted in A Clockwork Orange when Alex skips school and stays home the day after a night out with his droogs to sleep it off. And, well, by the fact that he's a sociopath by night instead of a hero by night.
  • A common problem for the Animorphs. They often casually mention failed tests or sleeping in class due to night-time missions. Sometimes they just get the Chee to double for them when a mission requires them during odd hours. In one book Jake mentions that he's managed to get by on random power napping whenever he has twenty minutes or so free.
  • In Mistborn, Allomancers can use pewter to resist fatigue, though doing so can have unpleasant long-term consequences. Several characters in the second book note that Vin is getting unhealthily little sleep - on the order of two hours a night - between her various (often self-imposed) duties to the fledgling kingdom.
  • Pilots throughout the X-Wing Series, especially in the novels, have a nasty habit of running a full load of combat missions — often one every few days or every day — while also dealing with other, more cloak-and-dagger threats on the sly. This is particularly noticeable for Wraith Squadron, during the period where they're an active fighter unit in addition to dealing with their own particular brand of espionage, their internal prank wars, and their "insane planning and speculation sessions". In at least two instances — directly after their seizure of Night Caller, when half the squadron was performing unfamiliar duties flying said ship, and during Solo Command when they have more-than-once-daily strike missions against Zsinj for a week straight — it's noted as taking its toll on the pilots. In the latter case, they would sometimes forget which day it was, but kept soldiering on (no pun intended) because it was necessary. At least some of them catch on:
    Janson: I'm not going to get any sleep tonight, am I.
    Wedge: Sleep when you usually do. During pilot briefings. During missions.
    Janson: Oh, right.
  • Hermione does her level best to achieve this in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with her time turner, but can't quite pull it off. She receives special dispensation to use the time turner to travel in backwards in time in limited amounts in order to take more classes than there are scheduled periods in the day. Being a thirteen-year-old girl with (aside from the whole magic thing) no other special abilities, the stress of keeping up with her schoolwork takes its toll. Harry and Ron, not privy to what she had been doing all term, notice that she becomes increasingly distracted and short-tempered, culminating in a fairly minor nervous breakdown. At the end of the book, she turns in her time turner and does not use it again for the remainder of the series. Presumably, she is restricted in its use and cannot, for example, use it to extend the sleep and/or leisure time that she cuts into keeping up with her heavy workload.
  • The heroes in Relativity all suffer from this to varying degrees, and have different ways of handling it. For example, Michael has Yule to cover for him at meetings. However, Ravenswood and Melody run a business together (a coffee shop). If they're both out crimefighting, there's no one left to run the shop. In one story, "Exit Strategy", this leads to a fight between the two of them: Ravenswood is on a case and has to stay on it several nights in a row, meaning that Melody is stuck running the shop instead of crimefighting. Eventually they promote some of their employees to managerial positions so they can both be absent at the same time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Everyone on 24, it seems, mandated by the format of the show. Jack Bauer only gets to sleep between seasons. This may be more justified than other examples as it is only one long day, usually with a few year's gaps between. With caffeine and andrenaline, most people can function on one missed night of sleep and everyone aside from Jack has opportunities to stop and catch their breath at some point. Jack usually shows the toll by the end of the day.
    • In a Danish parody, Jack spends the first 12 episodes sleeping. The dramatic highlight comes along in episode 13, were he is finally awakened by the mailman's arrival, only to receive a huge telephone bill.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although she often complains about it, and it seems that most of her bad-guy-fighting is done in the evenings rather than smack in the middle of the night. It's assumed by many that "getting by with very little sleep" is a minor Slayer ability, perhaps a subset of being super-tough, except, of course, when the plot requires her to have a prophetic dream. Her friends actually do have problems matching her schedule, they mostly seem to go to bed once the club closes.
  • Dexter Morgan seems to ignore this problem entirely, with no apparent problems. By day, he's a skilled forensic scientist, and have never been shown to doze off at work. In the afternoons and evenings, he spends time with his girlfriend/wife and her kids, or go bowling with the guys from work. At night, he stalks people he suspects of being murderers, and once he is sure, abducts them, kills them, and cuts them into little pieces he can dump in the sea. Sleep? Optional.
    • It is actually lampshaded in a couple of episodes of the second season, when Dexter is considering turning himself in (which would almost certainly ensure that he spends the rest of his life in prison), he comments "It might be fun to start sleeping again." Towards the end of the arc, however, with the difficulties resolved, he just shrugs it off as he prepares for another triple-shift day. "I can't believe I was going to give up all of this for SLEEP..."
    • The fourth season starts out with him completely exhausted, to the point of dozing off while driving away from a kill. Things continue to spiral out of control from there, but the lack of sleep is noted. In this case, it's partly played for laughs, because on top of his normal routine, he has to take care of his infant son.
    • The same is true, but even more exaggerated for the Ice Truck Killer. He not only has to maintain the day job/night murder routine, but he also has to keep near perfect surveillance on Dexter himself.
  • Deconstructed in Arrow, where Oliver is trying to be a vigilante and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company simultaneously, and is entirely incapable of it. The joint-owner Isabel ends up doing everything, and when he skips out on the annual board meeting, the one meeting she insists he absolutely needs to come to, she convinces the board to remove him and make her the sole owner. While this was part of her evil plan with the season's Big Bad, it's hard to argue that his removal wasn't completely justified.

  • The narrator in Jonathan Coulton's "The Future Soon":
    Work through the daytime, spend my nights and weekends,
    Perfecting my warrior robot race, building them one laser gun at a time....

    Tabletop Games 
  • Old World of Darkness games with living protagonists (Werewolf, Mage, Hunter, Changeling, etc.) are set up like this, with the heroes balancing their supernatural lives with mundane jobs and relationships. Werewolves born as wolves don't really have this problem, but it's a wonder everyone else can get up for work after spending all last night fighting the Sabbat, Technocracy, and/or Black Spiral Dancers, let alone hiding/explaining away any wounds from such a battle. However, creative Storytellers can make this part of the challenge. On the other hand, werewolf society generally puts the money-earning burden mostly on the homid Kinfolk (werewolves' human relatives) so the Garou don't have this problem and don't have to worry about frenzying and mauling their coworkers.
  • The lack of Metaplot-mandated constant, large-scale warfare in the New World of Darkness means this is less of a problem. The danger of regular life being intruded upon by the supernatural is still a possibility, and one of the Sourcebooks notes that being more human than the other supernaturals is something that can be used against mages.
  • The Space Marines of Warhammer 40k sleep one hour per 24-hour day. They use this period to recharge, as operating for one or more consecutive 24-hour periods, while possible, can cause serious fatigue and impair their combat ability. Supersoldiers much.
    • They can also switch off a half of their brains at a time, keeping themselves awake while they sleep.
      • Though the daily rituals of a space marine as posted on the Lexicanum wiki allocate four hours for sleep, not one.
      • Presumably, 4 hours is the preferred amount, 1 hour is the minimum safe amount.
  • d20 Modern games can run into this as well. The game is meant for "cinematic action" so it openly acknowledges that there are significant Acceptable Breaks from Reality along these lines, though if you run a game where the players are directly employed by Department 7 or some other mysterious patron, it's a lot easier to justify.

    Video Games 
  • Video game example: Persona 3 features a group of (mostly) high-school students who can only fight the world-threatening evil during a slice of non-time accessed at midnight. The resulting exhaustion is a status effect that puts a massive crimp in a Tired character's performance. The status effect lasts into the next day as well, can degrade further into being Sick [even worse than tired], which further interferes with classwork for the day. Bit of an aversion compared to the usual "Doze off in class, feel 100%".
    • The Persona 3 manga adaptation nods directly to this trope as well, as Minato (the Player Character) dozes off all the time even when he's been getting a good amount of sleep otherwise. His daily life is already busy and add on the sheer stamina-draining wear of constant fighting in the Dark Hour, and he's pretty much what you get. In the game and manga both, the Player Character's endurance improves as he gets used to it all, but it still takes a toll.
    • Persona 4 has the dungeon-exploration take place during the day, avoiding this (and if you do it you can't do anything that night out of exhaustion). But the characters seem to have no trouble staying up until midnight several nights in a row to watch the Midnight Channel. They could've easily take a nap and set the timer to wake them up in time, or sleep in until the very last minute the next morning. It's also an infrequent event and a lot of reasonably healthy teens have little problem staying up until 12:05am and then getting by on 5 or 6 hours of sleep for several days every once in a while.
  • Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2. Supposing he arrives in City 17 in the late afternoon, he spends the first night fighting in Ravenholm, the next day fighting and driving, the second night fighting in Nova Prospekt, and fights again in the late afternoon of the third day (from his viewpoint). Then come the extensions, which may or may not have allowed him to sleep (or be knocked unconscious) in-between. Of course, he had just slept for twenty years, and maybe those medkits contain Food Pills. And maybe caffeine...
    • There's a one-week break (which seems like a minute to Gordon, so maybe not...) at the start of Anti-Citizen One, and he's in stasis again by the end of the story, giving him unknown hours of sleep between the end of Half-Life 2 and the start of Episode 1. The same applies to the gap between Episode 1 and 2; it appears the same again will be true of Episodes 2 and 3. He does manage to go for three whole days without sleep, but the episodes are a different affair.
  • Doesn't exactly fit with the crime fighting description, but earlier Harvest Moon games allowed you to stay up all night working, only being forced to "sleep" at the hour when you wake up every day so that you can have breakfast. Loss of stamina could be easily remedied by eating food or bathing in the hot spring, so it was common to go the whole game without sleeping for any reason other than skipping days to reach a particular event. This has been averted in later games however by the inclusion of sicknesses from going without sleep for too long and the difficulty in increasing stamina, not to mention the crippling effect that low stamina will have on your character, making it near impossible to perform any task worth staying up for.
  • Part of the game mechanics of Twilight Heroes - the justification for limiting the number of turns your character can play per day is that they have a day job; caffeine and sugar allow you to stay up later each night.
  • Spoofed with the Guildmaster in Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale; he's at the merchants' guild at all hours, and sometimes the pub, because he's avoiding his wife.
  • In Sakura Taisen V, Sagitta Weinberg is actually more like a quadruple shifter. She's a lawyer, and a stage actor, and a mecha pilot for a secret anti-demon force. And in her spare time that somehow exists, she's the leader of a Harlem biker gang.
  • Between the start of No Remorse and the start of No Regret, six months pass. Though never spelled out, this is alluded to in No Remorse by the player character being able to go to the bar to catch up with his fellow rebels, go to his footlocker (presumably at the foot of his bunk), and so on. However, there is no such downtime in No Regret. After spending 48 hours in a cramped lifepod, the Silencer then appears to go full-tilt for the next few days to a week, depending on how quick you play through each level. This understandable; he's one of those Super Soldier shooter-protagonist types. What's not so easily explained is how his entirely human Voice with an Internet Connection companions not only stay on the line the whole time but, when they trade off, also go on missions of their own (including two of them who were just in the not-so-tender care of the Lunar Mining Cartel for months...).
  • In the maze level of Watcher's Keep, the party runs into a mad elf referring to himself in the third person as Yakman. He's so paranoid about the dangers of the maze that he hasn't slept in all the time he's been there. Elves don't sleep as such in Dungeons & Dragons, but they do need to enter a meditative trance for a few hours a night (half as long as humans need to sleep, naturally). As CHARNAME can note, "You can't just not sleep for two years, you'd...go...crazy."

  • Apparently, there is an "Ancient Skifandrian Technique" that allows that in Girl Genius. Hardly ever taught to outsiders. And the Baron taught it to Gil.
  • Axe Cop only sleeps 2 minutes a night, allowing him to fight crime during the day and night.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Danny Phantom used this as a Running Gag in at least one episode.
  • The Powerpuff Girls used this as a plot point once, as the Girls started sleeping in class after fighting crime all night. Miss Keane convinced Professor Utonium to establish a curfew, which results in the City of Townsville being overrun and nearly destroyed by villains deciding to take advantage of it.
  • Darkwing Duck used to have no problems with this — he did his crimefighting thing at night and slept during the day. Now that he has to be a single dad during the day, one has to wonder when he gets to sleep. Although if you've seen seen Goslyn in action, it's obvious parental supervision is a sometimes thing.
    • In the new comics, it's revealed that SHUSH gave Darkwing a pension.
  • In An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West, Fievel doesn't get any chance to sleep in the two and half days between the time he falls off the train to the end of the movie.
  • Became a point of contention between Bruce and Terry in Batman Beyond. The original Batman doesn't seem to understand that Terry still needs to sleep, go to school, do homework, help his mother (a widow), look after his kid brother, and maintain his social life while fighting crime.
  • On Gargoyles, villain Demona is a gargoyle who magically turns into a human during the day, which means she loses the stone sleep that most gargoyles use to recharge. And rather than rest, she uses her human form to run a vast corporation. Word of God says that the magic spell compensates somewhat while she manages to get the odd couple of hours of rest in, and no, this isn't helping her general lack of mental stability.
    • Elisa comes pretty close to this at times. True, she works the night shift, but during the Avalon Voyage, she seems to be pulling day shifts as well as staying with the gargoyles at night. This is also true when Elisa is suddenly (though temporarily) shifted to the day shift.

    Real Life 
  • Polyphasic sleep cycles sleep for shorter periods more often, with the purpose of minimizing time asleep for sustained periods. Example schedules include a half-hour nap at 6-hour intervals, 20 minutes every 4 hours, or one 2 hour sleep with short naps during the day. Although popular in some athletic and professional circles, most users stop because of conflicts with other people's schedules. Can also manifest as a serious sleep disorder.