As a culture, we heap a lot of praise on so-called morning people, but there’s nothing wrong with being a night owl. Many of history’s most creative people did their best work at night, finding that the quiet and solitude – and in some cases, their inability to sleep – brought out their best ideas.
If you’re someone who comes alive in the small hours, after everyone else has gone to bed, the question remains: how do you make sure all those late-night creative fireworks don’t set you up for a groggy, cranky, unproductive morning? Studies show that there are real benefits for those who follow an early to bed, early to rise schedule — they maintain a sunnier disposition, they’re more likely to be proactive and have a lower risk for depression.
If you plan on burning the midnight oil, here are steps you can take to get the most out of your night and still enjoy some of the benefits we associate with early birds.
Turn off the tech at night: As your peak creative hours arrive, shut down your laptop, turn off the TV and leave your smartphone charging in another room. By keeping technology out of your nighttime creative space, you leave your body’s natural sleep-inducing processes intact. Earlier this year, Harvard Medical School scientists found that the specific wavelengths of light emitted from your tech toys inhibit the body’s release of the hormone melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. Instead, opt for a soft yellow lighting as you work, which could help improve your quality of sleep when it’s time.
Set a shut-down time: Feel free to let those creative juices flow, but make sure to designate a time each night to put work aside. According to Kelly Glazer Baron, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Programme at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, creative people tend to get into a rhythm with their work and don’t want to stop working just because it’s getting late. “The time we fall asleep is somewhat behaviourally determined but also biologically determined,” Baron told The Huffington Post. “A lot of night owls would love to fall asleep at 10pm, but that’s not really doable for them. So start with at a time at, which you can fall asleep. If it’s 1am, you should be done working for about an hour before that to give yourself some transition time and about two hours before that time, dim the lights.”
Don’t beat yourself up when the alarm goes off: Night owls are naturally more likely to feel annoyed when the morning arrives, cursing the early hour and their lack of energy to spring out of bed. But internalising this feeling rather than trying to force a chipper mood could prove far more beneficial. “Accept that you’re not a morning person and focus on the things you can do,” said Baron. “Add some things into your morning routine that you enjoy, like listening to the radio as you get ready or sitting and drinking your coffee on the porch – things that will make your morning as pleasant as it can be.” The morning may not be the best time for you, but trying to make the most of it can go a long way.
Drink up: As you hop out of bed, head straight to the kitchen to down at least one full glass of water. The body can lose up to a pint of water through respiration and perspiration while you’re sleeping, so it’s important to start rehydrating as soon as you wake. Drinking water helps to revive the mind, support the endocrine system’s detoxifying processes, boost the immune system and jump-start the metabolism. This simple step signals to your body that a new day has begun and it’s time to prepare for it. Having a cup of coffee after hydrating can also be particularly helpful for night owls, said Baron. “It’s not true that you have to totally eliminate caffeine from your diet – a cup or two of coffee in the morning can help you wake up. And as long as it’s not too late in the afternoon, it shouldn’t affect your sleep at night.”
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