Here’s something I would not think possible: That you can turn an evening person into a morning person. In the research I’ve done and through personal observations I’ve made over several decades, I deeply believe that each of us has a sweet spot of time in the day where we’re productive. We have other times when we’re creative . And we all have base times where we need to chill and get some sleep.
To meet work demands, many try to make a change, but it doesn’t seem to be all that successful without a lot of caffeine!
But last week I read an article in the New York Times by Harry Guinness, a writer who swears he made the switch from Night Owl to Morning Dove. I’d love a follow-up from him at some point to see how this is going, but here are his tips for how he made the switch in case you’re interested.
Get a full nights’ sleep!
If you tend to be a night owl, reduce temptation, just as you’d reduce the temptation to over-eat by having fewer tasty items at your house. Resist the urge at the end of the day to “just start ” a new Netflix series, pick up a riveting novel, or scan the Internet for things of interest. If you want to get up early and feel awake, you have to go to bed earlier. A great night’s sleep is essential no matter who you are or what hours you keep.
Guinness quotes Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of the Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine clinic to explain a bit of the science behind this. “Long days leave us tired and exhausted, but the reality is, our days would be less hard, and less exhausting, if we weren’t so tired through them. The trouble with being a night owl is that your sleep gets clipped in the morning hours, where most of the precious REM or dream sleep occurs. Instead of sleeping seven or eight hours per night, most night owls get forced to sleep five or six — with a hard start time in the morning.”
Dr. Dimitriu adds that REM sleep is key to your emotional and creative energy. I did not know that! Miss that and how can you expect to accomplish much the next day? Of course, if you can sleep in, it’s different. But if you have to get up early, go to bed early. Simple math.
Be patient making the shift
First off, take babysteps! Shift by minutes rather than hours if you want to make this a habit that sticks. And be patient. New habits take time. Seeing the effects of getting more sleep doesn’t happen overnight (hah!)
Like any new habit, it helps to track what you’re doing and note the results. If a sleep change is a goal, make a note each morning about what time you went to bed and what time you got up. At the end of the day, brainstorm about what you got done and how you felt. You should start to see a pattern over a week, and an even stronger pattern over a month.
What’s great about tracking habits is that you don’t have the “out” of thinking you’re tackling something in a new way when the data says you’re still just thinking about it. And if you track and see that something honestly isn’t working for you, you’ll know you may be a hard-core night owl and that’s just who you are. If that’s the case, you can either accept that you’ll be tired if you have a “conventional” 9-5 job – or you can find work that fits your schedule. Oprah once said that if you have to wake up with an alarm clock you have the wrong job. Is that possible for you?
Love what you’re doing
None of us love every thing we’re obligated to tackle, but if you don’t have something in the works that you love to do, why would you want to get up any earlier to get it done? If work and life bore you, make a change. You have a limited amount of time here on earth. Why not find things to do that excite you enough that you wake up filled with energy and fresh ideas?
Here’s a link to the full article in the NYTimes. Happy reading!
I am going to miss the rocky coast of Maine as I travel over the next year. This is often my first stop in the AM!
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2 thoughts on “Can you become a Morning Person?”
Okay. This is just freaky. I was literally sitting and thinking about how my work never fit the fact I’m a night owl (i.e.: being on the hospital floor seeing patients at 7:30am, or opening a gym at 6am), and working more at accepting who I am and choosing a path forward based on that… and I opened my email and there was your blog post.
I have been a night owl my entire life. It has never ever been easy to get up early. When I was hanging around with journalism types I found they tend to be night people, and I fit right in. I also find the culture comfortable at my friends’ who are graphic artists and musicians.
I don’t think traditional health care workers are my tribe. I often felt like an anomaly in my career. A creative thinker in the increasingly analytical world of health care. Someone who feels things strongly in a job that now wants passionless efficiency.
Thanks for your thought-provoking writing! Are you going to continue blogging on your travels?
We have definitely been pondering many similar issues recently!
Sent from my iPhone
Hi. I can be a night person for a few nights in a row (for theater), but man does it wipe me out. I imagine you are the same with attempts at being a morning person. I think we need more businesses that have a mix of “shifts” to suit each of us!!