Regulating one's body clock is a challenge. Researchers long have examined the differences between early risers and their night owl counterparts. Some studies suggest morning people are more likely to be successful, and others emphasize how night owls are more creative and intelligent. As a night owl myself, I've noticed how my moods are sometimes affected the later I stay up. Nights can be exciting moments of creativity or a depressing slog into the next day. I wanted to find out -- what can I do to be a happy night owl?
In addition to having a higher probability of success behind them, early risers are also statistically more happy. In many ways, that makes sense. Night owls are more likely to have to rely on sleeping pills or alcohol to go to sleep and caffeine to wake them up. When awake late into the night, I'm probably stressing about having to go to work or school the following morning. Even waking up late on a day off can be depressing because a whole day feels wasted.
I refuse to believe, however, that my status as a night owl dooms me to an unsuccessful life of melancholy. So I stayed up late (naturally) to brainstorm some solutions.
Avoid an Over-Reliance on Sleep Aids
I count sleep aids as sleeping pills, alcohol, and technology. My rule of thumb on sleeping pills is that an Excedrin PM is okay every once in awhile at 7 p.m. if I have to be awake the next day at 7 a.m. I'll fall asleep by 11:30 p.m. and everything will be cool. Over-relying on sleeping pills can obviously be dangerous, just as abusing any narcotic is unsafe. Using sleep aids too often also makes them less effective as the body builds up a tolerance to the drug.
Just like a sleeping pill, there's nothing wrong with a night cap every once in awhile. I'm hesitant about using alcohol to fall asleep on a regular basis, though, because I don't want to start a bad habit. Drinking too much before bed can also make the night time blues even more depressing.
Technology definitely has a place in my night time routine. Whether it's catching up on my Hulu or just reading Twitter, it's difficult to turn off the iPad. I started using the "Do Not Disturb" feature on my Apple products to make sure I'm not checking my phone too much throughout the night. While watching an episode here and there on the computer can be harmless, over using technology as a sleep aid can actually make it more difficult to go to sleep.
Overall lesson about sleep aides -- moderation is key.
Pursue More Enriching Night Owl Activities
Now that we've gone through the list of things I now avoid in order to be a happy night owl, let's look at the things that are good to do.
1) Listen To An Audio Book
As opposed to just watching Internet TV all the time, falling asleep to an audio book can be a refreshing change of pace. Nothing is better than listening to a good John Grisham book before bed, and it can be a lot easier to sleep to than a TV show. If audio books don't work for you, maybe just a nice short story from the New Yorker fiction podcast will do. Listen to a 45-minute story and head on off to sleep with warm literary thoughts.
2) Go On A Creative Binge
If I have a stretch of a couple of days off work or school, there is nothing I love more than a creative binge. Whether it's reading an entire novel from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. in bed, or writing a random short story, a creative binge can be liberating. If writing isn't your thing, maybe a nocturnal knitting session is in order. Obviously it isn't practical for everyday, but your imagination might surprise you at 5 a.m. one day.
3) Have A Relaxing Pre-Nighttime Ritual
Did you just have a stressful day at work that you just want to put behind you? I know the feeling. Having a relaxation ritual or kit to help you get comfortable before bed can make all the difference. Drinking a hot cup of tea and washing your face before turning in for the night is the simplest routine I've tried.
4) Work On Your Schedule
My favorite thing about college is getting to take evening classes. Of course there will always be those days at work when I have to be somewhere at 8 a.m., but I don't have to stress about making the rest of my life revolve around those days. If you are more alert in the evening like me, then make your schedule work around that instead.
5) Work On Your Environment
The Huffington Post recently published the article "How To Turn Your Bed Into The Ultimate Haven For Sleep." Below is their infographic, and it's a helpful guide to transforming the bedroom environment into something less depressing. Night owls have to sleep at some point -- it might as well be in a nice bed.