A night owl is someone who is habitually very active and energetic at night, and people with this chronotype make up 20% of the population. You can count on a night owl to probably still be awake at 3:00 AM every night of the week. Nocturnal people thrive at night, and some creative-types are their most creative during these late-night hours.
Since most wild owls sleep during the day and hunt for food at night, the term ‘night owl’ was adopted for humans with similar nocturnal tendencies. (Including the part about late-night eating.)
If you’re among the 20 percent of people who are night owls rather than early birds, then your circadian rhythm (your internal biological clock) is simply set differently from the societal “norm”. If you have a late chronotype, it might be ingrained in your DNA and difficult to change.
Night owls savor the alone time that comes with being up late at night when the rest of the world is asleep and nobody is bothering them. The consequence, however, is sleeping in late the next day. Waking up late causes them to lose out on important opportunities during the daytime.
Having night-owl tendencies also comes with health-related consequences. Recent studies have discovered that people who stay up late tend to have a higher percentage of body fat (probably related to that late-night snacking), an increased risk of developing diabetes, and a higher mental health risk in terms of depression.
Generally-speaking, you’ll also have poorer sleep quality as a night owl, causing you to be groggy and more sedentary during the day. This is especially true if despite staying up late, you still have to be an adult and get up early for work.
The sleep deprivation that results from being forced to get up early despite staying up late often causes lethargy and moodiness during the day.
Your sleep ‘timetable’ depends on a host of factors and are always subject to change. It’s crucial to establish a sleep schedule that suits your lifestyle and your responsibilities. If you change careers and suddenly need to start getting to work at 8am, that’s an example of a motivating factor to sacrifice your night owl habits.
There are plenty of night owls who want to fall asleep earlier and wake up earlier, and if this is you, we’re going to give you some tips on how to start a more “normal” sleep routine while still enjoying being a night owl (the best of both worlds!)
1. Manage and Optimize your Energy Cycle
If you’re a night owl, the natural crests of your energy cycle tend to peak in the later evening. Typically, they’ll have the most energy between 8:00 PM and 1:00 AM. If you’re extra-productive when you do feel energetic at this time, you’ll be more comfortable with calling it a night a little earlier than usual. Be productive during your energetic hours by completing a creative project, working on your business, blogging, re-decorating, meal-prepping, cleaning or exercising. By optimizing your energy cycle and putting your energetic hours to good use, you’ll feel okay with going to sleep knowing that you already got a lot done.
2. Learn How To Wind Down
Learning what activities will help you wind down is worth taking note of. Let’s say, hypothetically, you’re a night owl who normally goes to sleep at around 3:00 AM and you want to start going to sleep at 1:00 AM because you’re starting to have more responsibilities in the morning that require wakefulness. If this is the case, about an hour before you want to sleep (starting at midnight) start avoiding bright lights.
Shut most of the lights off. Avoid computer screens, TV screens and your phone. Instead, read a book, write in your journal, take a bath or prep food for tomorrow’s breakfast during this hour.
3. Implement a “Bed Time” and a “Wake-Up Time”
By implementing a “bed time” and a “wake up time” that starts to get earlier and earlier each week, you’ll begin to acclimate yourself to an earlier bedtime and a more normal daytime routine.
Night owls tend to be free spirits without any sort of sleep schedule, so implementing a schedule for yourself will help regulate your sleep patterns. Your bed time is your cut-off time. That means that no matter what you’re doing, when that time of night approaches, you start transitioning into your winding down routine.
4. Try Melatonin or Sleepy Tea
An option worth trying is melatonin, which is a synthetic version of the brain’s sleep-inducing hormone. Melatonin can help nudge your sleep cycle in right direction. It’ll help you feel sleepy when you want to feel sleepy, and it’ll start to shift your internal clock. Sleepy bedtime tea helps too, and drinking this can be part of your ‘bedtime routine’ or your ‘winding down’ routine.
5. Don’t Sleep In
There really is such a thing as too much sleep. It might surprise you that oversleeping has the opposite effect from feeling rested. Instead of feeling rested, you’ll feel groggy and lethargic. Plus, sleeping in until the late afternoon wastes your whole day. If you went to bed late, forcing yourself to get up in the morning will result in you being tired all day, which should make it easier to fall asleep earlier.
Sleeping in late into the afternoon throws your body clock off out of sync. You can stay awake until 2:00 AM if you want to, but you should still wake up at 9:00 AM or 10:00 AM instead of sleeping into the afternoon. This way, you don’t jeopardize your whole day and you still get the daily recommended amount of sleep for average adults, which as the National Health Service states, is between seven and nine hours per night.