Confessions of a Night Owl

The Ugly Truth

2-22-13 sun and coffeeThe ugly truth hit me about 15 years ago while working as a dispatcher for a local sewer and drain company. One day, I realized that none of the service guys came through the door to the office before 10:00AM on Saturday mornings. The only exception was when I had a job for someone, but even then they just stuck their head and hand in far enough to get the slip of paper. I finally realized that my morning demeanor may have something to do with this odd behavior, since when I worked evenings the guys were always quite chatty with me while waiting to leave on a job.

I then realized that maybe my mom brought me coffee in the morning starting when I was 13 and through high school not solely because she was nice (and a great mom) but because I wasn’t so nice in the morning.

Another piece of the puzzle fell into place when I realized that my marriage was void of morning conversation for the most part. My husband, an all-day person, intelligently steered clear of me before 10:00AM.

I used to believe that people just naturally chewed louder in the morning but have come to realize that my sensitivity to just about every sound and activity sits at full throttle before 10:00AM.

I also used to believe that changing my demeanor in the morning would be a raising-the-dead type of miracle but have since come to realize that while I won’t ever be a true morning person without that miracle, mornings don’t have to be dreaded by myself as well as everyone near me.

Not Entirely My Fault2-22-13 owl

Turns out, research supports the idea that the blame for me not being a morning person lays at least partially in the way my body works. In fact, research indicates that “neuronal excitability” starts low and increases for night people. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that whatever it is that allows me to think clearly definitely increases as the day goes by.

Also turns out that our alertness tendencies fit within the descriptions of certain animals. Apparently, I am an owlish hummingbird, a night owl who has learned to function otherwise.

What the science means to me (the article I read is listed at the bottom of this post) is that my body and brain work increasingly better as the day goes on, which is why my productivity increases and my physical ease of movement improves significantly as evening approaches. In other words, I run better in the evening and my ideas flow better in the afternoon and evening.

BUT, while my physical makeup naturally works against me being a morning person, my personal habits fired the loaded gun. This means, that changing my habits held the ability to at least make me more of a morning person, which certainly fits more practically into the routines of family life.

Why Change?

Unfortunately, our culture seems to be one that requires operating in the morning. Personally, my world of school-age kids and a working husband necessitate my functioning before 10:00AM. For this reason, Monday’s post will offer some tips for navigating mornings successfully if you’re not a morning person.

But, you morning people, please don’t tune out (or even not ever tune in) on Monday. You might learn something that can help you better understand the morning people in your life. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find ways you can help make their mornings more successful. After all, that’s when you’re at your best, right?

DISCUSSION: What are your experiences either as a night owl or living or working with a night owl? Do you think understanding others perspective in this way is helpful? Why or why not?

Related Reading: Please read the excellent article entitled “Are You a Lark, an Owl, or a Hummingbird?” for fascinating reading from the book The Body Clock Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body’s Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum Health.

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16 thoughts on “Confessions of a Night Owl

  1. That explains your blogs getting sent out after 10AM! LOL… I have been for several years now an early bird and I am ready to call it a night right after 9PM. God built us with our body timing, and that does not mean we are odd one way or the other – we just are. But, we need to be sensitive to those who do not overlap with our schedule when it is important. But please do not expect an answer from me much after 9PM!

    • Actually, it doesn't. They are scheduled days in advance to post at 6AM. I think the RSS and email is scheduled to be sent out later for some reason. It's always up on the site early though! I am actually up by 6:30 weekday mornings and by 7:30 on weekends. When my son was born 14 years ago, I started the transition to earlier mornings. He didn't require a lot of sleep, so I was sort of forced to change my internal clock. Now, with that being said, I think I could easily go back to sleeping until 10AM and not going to bed until 2AM. Just doesn't fit in with life. I promise to not become disgruntled if you don't reply to me after 9AM 🙂

    • Also, most people still consider me a bit odd 🙂 but for other reasons. Yes, God made us the way we are for a reason. I am learning to live fully in how He made me. He does amazing things with that willingness.

  2. I'm not so sure how I feel about the whole morning person/ night person thing. I know there are a lot of people who I respect who stay up late – like until 2 or 3 am – to get those few hours of productivity when the world is quiet at night. They claim to just be night people.
    But then again, I'm a night person that has become a morning person.
    I was the epitome of a night person. I fought sleep as an infant and a toddler. My parents said it was a war to get me in bed as a little kid. In elementary school, I always wanted to fight bedtime. In middle school, I stayed up late. In high school, I'd stay up until 1 or 2 am and take a nap after school. In college, going to bed at 2 am was on the early side. I got a third shift job just because I was up at that time anyway. When getting married, there were plenty of times where I'd be working and come to bed as my wife was waking up.
    So if you want to talk night person cred, I've got it.
    But I started to wake up earlier just because I enjoyed those quiet moments before my wife and kids woke up. It started with wanting to have a devotional time then, and it just kinda grew. Now I enjoy getting up at 4 or 5 and getting a head start on my day.
    So I don't know if my experience is unusual or whether we can change our patterns.

    • The research also shows that we can reset our internal clocks, which is what I think you are describing. I have done the same things you describe throughout my life, but I was never able to be 100% in the mornings. No matter what my internal clock is set at, my brain still functions better in the afternoon and evening. I too enjoy the quiet, morning hours, especially when the weather is nice, and I can sit outside. I have learned to appreciate them. Just can't shake the brain fog in the morning 100% though. So, I do think we can change our patterns. But, I personally also believe that we have one that is most natural for us and that works best for us.

  3. I posted about this subject this week. I wrote my book in the summer in 3 months of nights spent writing until 2 or 3 a.m. It was great. I think the fact that it was summer made a big difference though. Since then I've started getting up early (that's 6 for me) and I love it. The time goes so fast that I've considered pushing it back to 5 or 5:30, but I've tried that and I feel too tired. I also can't seem to get to sleep before 11. Even though I consider myself a morning person, I gravitate back to late nights very easily. The key for me seems to be having time alone. As my husband has been getting up early with me, alone time has been hard to come by. Sometimes when I feel the need for that time, I will stay up late. I doubt the Lord will separate the morning people from the night owls in heaven. lol

      • LOL. I don't think I have a secret and no, I don't think we'll need sleep in heaven. One thing I did do several years ago is start exercising first thing in the morning. It's my coffee. I'm not even awake yet and my workout's half over. 😉 It really helped me to go to the gym early, too. You find that the whole world is up and running and you're not making some huge sacrifice. LOL The moving and music or sermons I listen to start my day off right. BUT lately I've not been working out as often first thing so I can exercise with the kids later. I do think I do better when I work out first.

        • I have tried working out first thing, and I hate it. Will do it once in a while if they day is going to be hot, and I want to get a run in. I just wake up very slowly. Like to sip something warm, read and journal to wake up. I am finding, however, that my body does enjoy the fresh air early in the morning, so I will sit out on my deck or porch if weather permits. So, I appreciate early morning for sure, and I wish my mind and body would get on board with that appreciation.

          • That made me laugh. I have friends the same way, who want to work out AFTER devotions–not before. I like devotion time more than working out, so I get the least favorite thing out of the way first (even though when I'm done, I always feel great). I think it's like this, Kari. When I was a kid and I told my mom I hated coffee, she said I'd get used to it. I thought that was silly. Why try to get used to something that isn't necessary? I don't think being a morning person is necessary, just because a lot of people are. Night owls are just as valuable as early birds.

          • I agree that we can get used to a lot of thingsbif we just give it time. And while I am used to getting up early, my brain still resists it. I also agree that early birds and owls both have value. God uses the strengths and His power is made perfect in the weaknesses of both.

  4. Oh the talk of 10 am makes me laugh. If he could Nate would never see a sunrise…10 would be the start of his day. 10 to 10. But it does not work that way most days. I was always an early morning person, loved the sunrise, loved beginning my day with quiet time with God. Now in the semi I tend to sleep in till about 1/2 hour before we have to be up, unless it is really late, and I don't go to sleep till after 10. I still like the quiet of morning, sometimes like today that came at 8:30..we were home…he slept in I got up…thats the perk of weekends! And as for quiet, well he just does not want to talk till he has had time to wake up, so little is said in the morning, until after 10 anyway! Isnt' it great we don't all have to be the same to get along with each other. We just have to learn to respect each other and trust God to help us when it is difficult.

  5. 🙂 I stay up late and get up early so I do not know what I am. I choose to exercise first because if I did not I would not. I do hit the wall some evenings and seem to not be able to do anything. It helps me no matter how I feel if I have my day planned. I get more accomplished with a plan regardless of how I feel. If I don't have a plan even if I feel great I can let the day slip away into nothingness and it end with me wondering how I was able to accomplish nothing. I do know the Bibles admonition about being cheerful in the morning. (Proverbs 27:14) Based on that I try to be sensitive to others.

    • Great philosophy, Mark. I like to exercise, so doing it later isn\’t a big deal for me. I know that my morning demeanor is important, which is why I push through & continue the struggle.

  6. Pingback: How to… Survive Mornings if You’re a Night Owl | Struggle to Victory

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