Is it just me or are others envious of peppy morning people? Those who bounce out of bed in the morning, full of energy and conversation. I am totally jealous of people who can do this.
I am quite an early riser, and I do get out of bed before everyone else in my household. This is not because I enjoy early mornings, but because I need total silence for at least half and hour before any human interaction.
But rising early comes natural to many people, and usually these people tend to get to bed the night before at a reasonable hour. In social scientific terms, these people are called ‘Larks’ – as in the chirpy early rising bird. ‘Night Owls’ on the other hand, are likely to prefer evenings and tend to be alert more at night, whilst rising later in the morning. We all know who we are.
Regardless of whether you’re a night owl or a lark, we live in a larks world. A world where work, school, university and raising kids starts quite early in the day, and requires us getting out of bed as the sun rises. Too bad if you are night owl, you have to just yawn and get on with it.
But the problem I have been noticing with people is that most of us are morphing into night owls nowadays, even the natural larks. And as a result, we are becoming a more tired and sleep-deprived group of people.
Before the invention of the electric light most people were getting 10 hours of sleep a night. But now we are able to push our ‘awake time’ beyond what we are biologically wired to do. We don’t have to go to sleep when the sun goes down, because we can turn on a light and still keep doing what we are doing.
We are often engrossed in Netflixing, Facebooking & gaming past the point of tiredness.
Think about it, if you go to bed an hour later than you should, each night, over a week you have lost 7 hours of sleep. That’s a whole night of average sleep that you are losing in one week. It’s a fair amount of sleep to be losing if this has been going on for years.
So what can a night owl do when they want to be up jogging at dawn before work? What do we do, if we are morphing into a night owl when we’re not wired to be one? How do we do this so we don’t feel perpetually exhausted?
We train ourselves into a different pattern, of course. And this can happen with time and patience (which many people don’t tend to have, particularly when they are tired).
We firstly need to remember that waking up at the same time every day is most important, so an alarm needs to be set for an early rise. Having a regular wake-up time every day will eventually convince our body to shift to become more of a morning person (but it’s counting on us to actually get out of the bed).
When we wake up we need to have a set morning routine. It might involve stretching, a shower, getting dressed or eating breakfast. This needs to become a habit. This may sound obvious, but so many people don’t do it.
We need to plan our evenings so we don’t have too much to do. Evenings need to be conducive to winding down. For example, our brain and body needs it to be dark leading up to bedtime. Our sleep hormone (melatonin) is released when the lights are low. So get your PJ’s on early and turn the lights off.
I am going to make as many friends as I do when I tell people to eat more salad, but if we want to change our sleep patterns, we need to get off our computers, IPADS and smart phones before bed. Backlit devices are not conducive to winding down for sleep.
All of this is going to be quite painful at first, and that’s why people tend to hit snooze, which results in going back to an old, unwanted routine. But after a couple of weeks of sticking to a new pattern, it will become a natural habit.
So becoming a reformed night owl is possible, and with some effort, you will be jogging at dawn in no time. I, on the other hand will be sitting in silence and just waving at you from my balcony.