Friday, March 30, 2012

Night Owl: How to be a Day-Timer

 "The early bird catches the worm."
Photo courtesy dicktay2000

Recently, I was flipping through my stats (something I don't normally do) and I noticed that people have landed on my blog by looking for ways to live in the Day-Timer's world as a Night Owl.  Since I am a Night Owl and, over the last few years, have somewhat learned to adapt to my daytime job schedule, I thought I would share what I have learned.

Let me start by saying that, for a long time, I felt, yet again, out of place in this world knowing that I have always been a Night Owl.  Even in grade school, I liked to stay up late and sleep late.  In doing a smidge of googling on the subject, though, I find that it's not so abnormal.  What I find unfortunate for those of us who are Night Owls is that society and our jobs often dictate what kind of schedule we must maintain.

I won't go into what makes us Night Owls. Y'all can google that yourselves.  What I will tell you is what has helped me (though not "cured" me) adapt, somewhat to the Day-Timer's world.

  • Knowing how much sleep I need.  This is very important for the next bullet point.  I personally know I need a good solid 8 hours of sleep.  Even this does not make me pop out of bed like a Pop Tart, but it does help.  I have read that Night Owls tend to wake right after there peak hour of sleepiness and, thus, still have relatively high levels of melatonin in their system which leaves us (me for sure) feeling groggy when that alarm clock goes off. There's no getting around that as far as I can tell and I fight it every single morning. I hate it!

  • Go to bed at a specified time every single night. Select a time that allows you to get the amount of sleep you need.  As much as it's going to suck, you have to do it and stick with it.  For me, it's 10 pm.  And I don't mean go to be at 10:00 and read for an hour or even a half hour. Be in bed, trying to sleep at the time that you have calculated that will allow you to get enough sleep.  On the weekends, it is wise not to stray too far from your bedtime.  Midnight might be fine, but I do not allow myself to indulge in too many 2 am or later nights.  Late nights can be detrimental to the process.

  • No TV in bed. This has not been much of an issue for me in recent years because I've never been a fan of having a TV in my bedroom.  If I do, it's for daytime use only. Too much stimuli.  You're brain can't shut down with all that flashing and whatnot.  I'm prone to having weird dreams about whatever I have watched in bed so I try to eliminate it altogether.

  • Cut off the caffeine early and limit the intake.  I am a die-hard Mt Dew drinker so caffeine (and sugar) is ever-present in my life.  That being said, I typically limit myself to 1-20 oz Mt Dew per day and I finish it by 3 o'clock at the very latest on most days.  I used to be the person that would boast about how caffeine doesn't affect me.  Well, damn this 33 year old body, because it has started to affect me.

  • Leave those shades and curtains open.  For several years, I put dark blankets, sheets, towels or anything dark or heavy over my windows so I could get some freaking sleep!  That sun was a surefire disruptor to my most precious sleep hours.  I still do this from time to time when I really need some sleep, but only on rare occasion.  Letting the natural light in will help you wake up (even in the weekends people!).  As annoying as it may be, you may learn (as I have) to appreciate it...most of the time.  What I find hard living where I do, is there isn't always light at the time I need to wake up. If there were, getting out of bed wouldn't be nearly as difficult at 6 am.  I've considered buying one of the natural light/wake up clocks. I just haven't been able to justify the cost in my mind. I'd be interested to hear from people who might have them.

  • And the dreaded....exercise!  People, seriously, exercising is a pain. I know. I get it. But I swear on everything, when I'm exercising, I sleep 10 times better.  And I'm not talking a piddly thirty minute walk either. Those people that tell you that you can get fit in with a 30 minute walk make me insane.  Sure, if a person is severely heavy, 30 minutes will do a them wonders.  If you are average or even moderately overweight, you need more than a 30 minute walk. You need to tire that body out!  For light exercise, minimum of 45 minutes 4-7 days a week is what I think you need.  (I'm no personal trainer, I have no certifications. I speak solely from personal experience and research.) If you can do moderate to moderately hard exercise, you should opt for every other day or alternate some cardio days with strength-training days. Grab up some Jackie Warner DVDs or Jillian Michaels.  Grab a set of dumbbells.  If you are seriously having trouble sleeping, I really recommend wearing your body out with exercise.  

  • For me, exercise comes and goes. I do really well for a while and then I peter out.  I eventually get to a point where I don't sleep so well and I force myself back into it. It's a struggle.  I have a love/hate relationship with exercise.  I enjoy it when I do it and I feel good, but it's a hassle to schedule or find someone to commit to doing it with you. I get it. But no one will every motivate you but you. That's one thing I've learned.  So, it's up to you, but at least consider it.  Especially if you are a Night Owl and you are trying to force your body to change its natural clock. Seriously.
That's all I've got for now. None of them sound fun to the Night Owls. Trust me. I know! I hear you loud and clear.  I hate it. I hate forcing myself to go to bed at 10:00! Really??!!?!  I hate it! I am struggling with it right now because I'm in a new place and am surrounded by new people and new excitement around every bend. I'm highly distracted and would prefer to just enjoy my quiet time into the wee hours of the night.  And I have been backsliding and doing just that and it is not boding well for me or my already can't-help-but-be-tardy self at work.

These things have definitely helped me a ton in the past few years. I went from getting to work at 10:00 am or later to getting there around the time I'm really supposed to which is 8:00 am. I'm still late (that's a whole other issue, no?) and I still loathe getting up. I curse my alarm and the morning regularly. I still feel sluggish and sleepy-eyed.  I'm not saying you'll like it. I'm just saying that it helps adapt...a little the Day-Timer/Early Bird world.


  1. LOVED reading this. I can empathize, because I have to force myself to go to bed super early due to the fact that I have to get up at 5:45 AM each morning through the week (no fun). It's interesting that you mention TV, as that actually helps me fall asleep - but it's different for everyone of course. Reading is a SURE FIRE way to help me sleep as well.

    1. My mother is a night TV watcher too. For me, I use a fan. I need to white noise to help my brain shut down. :)

      Reading makes me very tired. I just try to get that in before I actually need to be sleeping.

      Getting up before the sun is a no fun at all! I agree!