I'm a night owl and I'm not fighting it anymore
Thursday, July 09, 2020
I'm 50 and I'm gonna start sleeping when I wanna sleep, not when I'm "supposed to" sleep.
I know you're probably thinking, "Uh... do what you want, I don't care..."
LOL I know, I'm not telling you because I view you as some kind of oppressor or judge. I just wanted to declare it, once and for all, and liberate myself from these early to bed/early to rise ideas that have been drilled into me.
I have struggled since my mid-teens to live in accord with the earlybird-dominant society. Because of my parents, school, jobs, ex-husband, kids, dr. advice, etc., I have been in a constant struggle to force myself to live by the "proper bed time" and morning alarm clock.
It is a struggle that has left me sleep-deprived most days-- because no matter how much or how little I sleep the night before, I'm tired in the mornings most of the time. I'm a lump waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Even if I managed to sleep a full 8-10 hour night, come early to mid-morning, my body just wants to be laying down, cuddled up and sleeping.
No matter how little or how much I've slept the day before, it is just plain hard for me to sleep at night. Even if I haven't slept at all since the night before, when 10 pm rolls around, I'm feeling perky and awake. I want to write or create art. I want to go out, I want to socialize. I want to read a book or take a walk. My most productive hours, mentally and physically, are from about 10 pm to 3 am, my body just wants to be awake.
I've spent much time trying to force myself out of my natural night-owl pattern and to force myself into the early-bird pattern society caters to and deems more acceptable. I've tried:
-- behavioral modification, from gradually setting the clocks to get to bed/wake up earlier, to going "cold turkey" and living strictly by set nighttime sleeping/waking hours 24/7.
-- medication; from over the counter to prescription drugs.
-- supplements and natural sleep aids like melatonin and magneseum and valerian root tea.
-- limiting or giving up caffeine (which is barbaric and heretical to a coffee-lover like me).
-- a variety of naturalistic methods like guided meditations, subliminal messages, sound therapy, light therapy, aroma therapy, biofeedback, earthing, morning massages to help stimulate my circulation, etc.
Oh hell, I've tried it all. But it has been a constant struggle to keep it up, and I still spend a lot of nights tossing and turning, or in and out of sleep, waiting for the Sandman to find me... unfortunately when he finally does, I only get to sleep peacefully for a couple of hours before that alarm clock starts poking at my fuzzy brain, and I have to start dragging my weary limbs that feel full of lead out of my comfortable cocoon and into the shower so I could try to open my eyes. Some days I have to even wear my sunglasses indoors until 10 am because the light hurts my eyes.
When I'm not actively trying to be an early bird, I slip into an entirely different pattern so consistently, so effortlessly. I am wide awake, happy, engaged, inspired and full of energy between the hours of 10 pm and 3 am. And I sleep beautifully, blissfully, soundly, deeply from early morning (about 4-7 am) and into early afternoon.
I've worked all kinds of shifts. Morning shifts kill me-- the effort it takes to stick to the schedule just dominates my whole life and makes me miserable. I can do second or even third shifts easily, if I'm allowed to sleep when I get home.
Heck I even had one job that was super early-- my territory covered 5 counties so I could be driving one or two hours per morning day, and I usually had to arrive by 5 or 6 am. Funny-- waking up at 2 or even 3 am was SO much easier than waking up at 5 or 6 or 7 am. Then I'd go home just after noon and take a 3 hour nap and be up again till after midnight.
I hear all the health issues with night owls and late shift workers... increased risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. It's scary.
But I was reading studies that suggest the problem is not that these people work nights; but that they are morning people working nights.They often struggle to sleep in the day, especially if they have young or school-aged kids. They're tired and usually low-income so they tend to eat cheap convenience foods because they lack the time/energy to cook; and they look for cheap, quick energy options like drinks full of sugar and caffeine.
Basically, this is what I do to stay awake in the daytime and sleep nights! Have low energy, take short cuts and convenience options, struggle through while going against my body's natural rhythm.
There's also all this guilt and shame related to being a night owl-- like it means you are lazy. This is pure bull. When I let myself slip into my natural pattern, I'm not sleeping more than early birds; or being less productive than early birds. I'm just doing things at different times.
I'm tired of wasting my best, most productive hours trying to wind down and fall asleep. I'm tired of muddling through/being tired by trying to stay awake when I'm "supposed to" and of not letting myself enjoy a blissful sleep when my body yearns for it. It made more sense I guess when people were surviving by the sun & seasons, but it just doesn't make sense for everyone anymore.
Well, screw it. I'm 50 now. I'm not gonna do it anymore.
My kids are mostly grown and don't need me in the mornings.
I am a freelancer, I work from home and set my own hours. I can work when I want.
My local grocery stores and such are open late; and my gym is 3 blocks away and open 24/7. And it's less crowded after 11 pm.
I can tend to my garden, play with my dog, make plans with my friends or set my appointments for afternoons or even evenings.
Would I miss those beautiful early mornings that so many people seem to enjoy? Probably not so much because they feel too bright and I'm too sluggish; I much prefer to spend them cuddled up with my pillow, snoozing. Besides, I like being intimately acquainted with the moon and the stars. I love a good sunset... and if I did want to see the sun rise, I could just "stay up late" once in a while.
I don't mind rising at 1 pm, eating breakfast, or cooking a healthy dinner at 1 am; or even cooking it earlier for my kids who still live at home, but eating mine later. Family dinners or restaurant nights out with people can be like a big lunch for me.
I prefer driving at night, and I love road trips but always plan my big driving stretches for nighttime.
I prefer socializing from late afternoon into the night, and now since most of my socializing is online and 24/7 there is someone up and at 'em, I can do that.
Instead of setting an alarm to fumble with my pills at 9 am and then taking them at 9 pm, I'm gonna take them at 2 pm and 2 am.
And studies that tell us being a night owl is bad or unhealthy rarely account for the fact that they're usually tracking early-birds forced into the night-owl cycle, or night owls who are trying to live the early-bird schedule. I'm not gonna worry about the hours of day I get my sleep anymore, as long as I get enough good quality sleep.
I don't need to do it anymore, and I'm not gonna try... and if someone thinks that makes me lazy, I just don't give a flying fig anymore. I'm done with trying to be an early bird to please others.
I'm a night owl, hear me hoot. 🦉🦉🦉
Okay rant over, lol. Glad to have gotten that off my chest. Have a great day (or night) everyone :o)