How to become a morning lark and maintaining your social appointments
February 10, 2012 3:38 AM   Subscribe

Have any of you with night owl tendencies successfully made the transition into becoming morning larks? How do you deal with the social aspect of that transition? Do you get up at 6 on the weekdays but stay up till 3 on the weekends? Or do you sort of have to give that up?
posted by Busoni to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Getting up early pretty much wrecks my social life. Getting up at 6 entails going to bed at 10 unless I don't mind being tired all the next day (I do). Then you end up involuntarily waking up super early on weekends as well. You can revert back on weekends but it is hell on Monday. Still pissed about it after 9 years...
posted by bquarters at 3:44 AM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Find friends with young kids. They won't mind meeting for a leisurely weekend breakfast/ 7am. (Seriously, your 'social aspect' question will become a moot point if/when you ever have kids).
posted by The Toad at 3:54 AM on February 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

I had to make that transition and if I slipped on the weekends, then I would be late for work. I've found naps right after work on Friday and on Saturday helpful. And even God rested on Sunday.
posted by Lucubrator at 3:55 AM on February 10, 2012

My last year of university, I made my schedule so I had no classes before noon. Shortly thereafter, I started my job, which had me getting to work at 630am. So that's one way of doing it.

Now I have a hard time sleeping in past 8am on weekends, which is kinda nice, cause suddenly you have a whole day to do stuff! On the other hand, Friday nights are very tough to go out, but it's totally manageable if I just take a quick nap in the afternoon/early evening before going out. Or drink lots of coffee. Saturday nights are fine, because sleeping in til 8am feels like I slept forever, and I have no problem staying out Saturdays. Definitely go for it, being a "morning person" is actually pretty great!
posted by Grither at 3:57 AM on February 10, 2012

I spent most of my twenties (now 31) as a dyed-in-the-wool night owl. Coding til dawn. Partying til dawn. If nothing else was going on, just lying awake in bed until dawn. Getting out of bed at midday was an early day.

Without anything else going on in my life, I seem to drift back to that pattern very quickly. I've got a 9-5 job at the moment, so I'm usually up around 6 or 7am by necessity, and I'm ready to sleep before midnight. Look, it's Friday night, 11pm here now, and I'm just about to turn in because I'm feeling a bit tired.
posted by chmmr at 4:05 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to supervise the night shift of the design department at my old job, which was the 5pm-1am shift. After work, I'd stay up until 3, sleep until noon, then try to get things done between noon and 4pm, when I'd go into work. I thought it was a fine lifestyle until I went to a more normal schedule.

Now I get up at 5:15am on weekdays so I can work 6:30-3:30, and I love it. It took quite a bit of training to do so, and I did have to get up at the same time all week (including weekend days) for a few months to get the pattern down. I used to go to bed at 9pm in order to do this, but I'd spend a few hours each night tossing and turning because it was just too early. Now I go to bed around 10:30 or 11pm, and I'm fine for the most part, except on the days where I take a nap directly after work.

I say to my night-owl friends that getting up early is exactly the same thing as staying up late, except more things are open when I'm awake. None of them believe it, but that's okay. While they're at their desks until 6pm or 7pm, I've already gotten errands done and I rarely hit traffic. Plus, sunrises are really cool to watch.
posted by xingcat at 4:16 AM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm a night owl with an office job. I just sleep late and get progressively more tired as the week goes on.

No other way around it. I find I just cannot go to sleep early unless I am really really tired, which means my sleep schedule is all kinds of screwed up, but I function reasonably effectively.

It helps that I live close to work and can get away with getting in at 9:30am, meaning if I rush I can wake up at 8:00am and make it to work at an acceptable time. Then I catch up on sleep on weekends by sleeping for 10+ hour stretches, just in time to start the cycle again on Monday.
posted by Xany at 4:20 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you do have to give up staying out to all hours of the night. Just no way around it. What helped me was learning/remembering to love mornings. (I come from a family of night owls, and getting up early was the only way to get some peace and quiet at home.)

What screws me up every time is naps. If I nap during the day, my sleep schedule is all kinds of messed up for weeks.
posted by gjc at 4:31 AM on February 10, 2012

"Then I catch up on sleep on weekends"

IANAD, but as someone who used to be quite the nightowl I've read that it really doesn't work like this. If you aren't getting a regular 7-8 of sleep a night, it can lead to health problems (most likely making you susceptible to catching nasty flu bug type stuff).

I dunno. You get older. I don't "miss" anything by getting to bed around 1 am (I usually have to be at work at 10 am). Not too many awesome parties or shows happening for me these days.

I'm kind of thankful for that, actually. I find people tend to take me more seriously.
posted by bardic at 5:11 AM on February 10, 2012

My body's schedule is going to sleep at 1 or 2 a.m. and getting up at 9 or 10 a.m. When I was in grad school with mostly afternoon/evening classes this is what just happened naturally.

Unfortunately when I have jobs, I seem to have the kind that require getting up early, mostly to make the commute reasonable. So my strategy is:

Make sure I'm in bed about an hour before I want to be asleep (and I need 7.5 or 8 hours of sleep to be a reasonable person). I take a melatonin to help get me where I need to be in terms of being sleepy. (As I mentioned above, I'm a night owl so even if I'm exhausted, sometimes I just cannot get to sleep without the melatonin.) I read or watch something I've seen a million times.

I do let myself sleep in on the weekends (instead of getting up at 5:30, I sleep in until 7:30 or 8:00), but I try to be a little sleep deprived on Sundays by staying up a little later on Saturday night to help get back into the swing of things for Monday morning.

As far as the social aspect -- I rarely do things on weeknights unless it's an early dinner, if I am going out on a Friday I take a nap after work, and I don't do social things after 5 p.m. on Sundays usually. I'm an introvert so this works out pretty well for me though.

I never really got used to getting up early, per se, but it does get easier. I highly recommend not getting into the sleep deprivation trap--it's almost impossible to get into a routine when you constantly feel like crap. You don't really enjoy the times when you are hanging out with friends because you're so tired.
posted by Kimberly at 5:15 AM on February 10, 2012

Find friends with young kids. They won't mind meeting for a leisurely weekend breakfast/ 7am. (Seriously, your 'social aspect' question will become a moot point if/when you ever have kids).

Yeah, I have a baby who doesn't understand the idea of "Saturday" so I'm up at 6 every morning. I meet up with some other moms and a "late night" for us is staying out until 10.

The way that things even out socially (though yes, it's hard with kids) is shifting "social time" from evenings to afternoons. My husband and I still go out - only we now go out for lunch instead of dinner.

Brunch is a great time to meet people and hey! Brunch! The best meal of the day!
posted by sonika at 5:16 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

The key is, as with many things, to eat better and exercise.

Also, it really helps if you want to do what you wake up to do. I stayed up too late more when I had an office job because I resented the arbitrary start time.

I'm in my late 20s and I am able to stay up very late about one day per week without issue, and two without issue if I go to bed early the rest of the week.
posted by michaelh at 5:19 AM on February 10, 2012

I'm a lifelong night owl, but my current job requires that I'm awake by 6:30 am. In the past, I'd happily stay up until 3 or 4 am nightly, and sleep until 11 am.

I mostly do this by sheer force of will. I won't ever be a morning person, but I did choose these working hours so that I'm able to leave before rush hour really gets bad. I value this more than being able to sleep until 8.

That said, I definitely stay up later on weekends. Not as late as I used to, but I can comfortably stretch my sleeping schedule from 2 or 3 am until 10 am and still transition just fine back into the work week schedule. I'm 24, though. I'm aware that this may change in the future.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:24 AM on February 10, 2012

I used to be a night owl. I'm passionate about live music and would go out 3 to 4 nights a week to feed my need for beautiful noise.

That was many, many years ago. I now have 3 children and a day job (which requires me to go listen to live music!). I am an excellent nap taker. If I am too wired to take one before going out, I make certain to take one the next day. I always get up early. I find that getting plenty of exercise helps me get deep sleep, which means I need less of it to feel refreshed- 6 hours instead of 8. 15 minute naps are brilliant.

The key to this lifestyle is limiting alcohol. If I drink, it is no more than one glass of wine or one bacardi and coke. Every once in a while I will drink more but the next day I am useless. I have never used drugs.

You can train your body to do anything. It really helps that my bedroom gets a lot of morning sun.
posted by myselfasme at 5:35 AM on February 10, 2012

Reverting back on weekends makes things much, much worse for me.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:59 AM on February 10, 2012

I socialise semi-regularly (2/3 times a week typically) on weekdays but it rarely involves drinking. I always set off home at about 9.30pm, which allows me to go to bed after a decent amount of 'deceleration' time (vital, I've found, for a good night's sleep) at midnight; then I'm up at 7am.

For me, this is early-bird behaviour! My natural instincts are to stay up till 2-2.30 and wake up at around 10.

On weekends, I shouldn't really, but I always sleep in.

I'm not a scientist and don't know how this kind of sleeping pattern affects my health. I just know I feel OK, but get colds/flus maybe once a quarter, and perhaps if I slept more I wouldn't get them as frequently. I generally feel quite well-rested on this kind of lifestyle, though.

I sympathise with your question, Busoni! My social life is important to me and it would take a sea-change (marriage/kids) for me to compromise it.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:13 AM on February 10, 2012

I don't. I mean, I wake up at 8am for work on a daily basis (and have over the years woken up earlier), but will stay up later and later throughout the week because I will be more and more tired but less and less able to sleep. Then the weekends come and I will sleep in forever. Give me a few days off, heck, even a three day weekend, and I will revert to my usual "Stay up til 3am, sleep til noon." I hate taking a week's vacation because I will be completely in that routine by the time it's over.

I just wish night/second shift work was more common (the best job I've had let me work 6pm-2am and I never even needed an alarm clock), but whatcha gonna do?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:29 AM on February 10, 2012

This is why most people stop staying up until o'dark thirty once they get married and especially once they have kids. Having a day job is pretty much incompatible with staying up late more than occasionally. And "occasionally" isn't "on weekends," it's more like "once or twice a month."

Of course, once you do have kids, you stop staying out late because even if you go to bed at 9PM, odds are pretty decent you won't be sleeping through the night anyway. So if you don't set aside nine or ten hours for the project, you'll likely only wind up with three or four hours of sleep.
posted by valkyryn at 6:30 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a natural night person, but right now my husband has an 8am class three days a week. If we don't go to bed by 10 (or, preferably, 9/9:30) Every Single Night (NO EXCEPTIONS), we are miserable every day.

I suspect that because I'm fighting my natural body clock, I actually wind up needing more sleep and an even earlier bedtime to feel rested.

Also, I need a while to wind down after hanging out with people.

All of these factors combine into no social life, or paying the price of having to readjust from what feels like scratch if we do have a late night for some reason. I will snap back to my "real" schedule immediately if given the chance, so we have to be really vigilant!
posted by hansbrough at 6:33 AM on February 10, 2012

Oh, I wanted to say that even though it is hard to maintain the sleep schedule etc, when we are in the groove of it, I *do* enjoy mornings, so that's been a pleasant and unexpected side benefit.
posted by hansbrough at 6:33 AM on February 10, 2012

I have to get up at 5 for work. And yes, it means no more late nights. On my days off I get up late AND go to bed early. It makes me feel pretty rubbish if I'm honest, so I haven't become a "morning bird" so much as a grumpy nightowl with a headache who happens to be up early and going to bed early on a regular basis. Maybe other people can train themselves to do it, but getting up early still makes me feel very tired, all day, even when I'm always getting 8 hours sleep. YMMV
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:04 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I get up at 7 on weekdays, and am in bed by midnight, sometimes more like 11. I find 7 hours is good for me on most days.

Friday nights I end up staying up to anywhere from 2 am to 5 am, Saturday I sleep in to a decent hour... 10 am for sure, sometimes 11 or 12. Saturday I also stay up to about the same hour as Friday, but I don't let myself sleep in. This is the only way I can "reset" for monday. That means I only get maybe 5 hours of sleep, but then I usually just have a relaxing around the house sort of sunday, and I am nice and tired for bed at the normal weekday time on sunday night.
posted by utsutsu at 7:28 AM on February 10, 2012

Bedtime is the important rule to shifting me towards morningness. If I stay up late, I wreck myself for days on end. Sometimes it's worth it, but usually not.

A key part of bedtime is spending some time winding down so I actually sleep. A few chapters (15-20 minutes) of a light, frothy book is usually good for me. Light in this sense means "unlikely to keep me awake" so a pop history is fine but a horror or action book is not.
posted by immlass at 7:53 AM on February 10, 2012

I am a moderate night-owl - not a stay up 'till the crack of dawn type, but my natural body clock would probably have me going to bed at 1 or 2 and getting up a 9 or 10. I have a job that doesn't require me to get to work until 9:30 or so, which means I can comfortably wake up at 8 (even later if I rush, but I am simply unable to spring out of bed in the morning) and be at work on time (well, within reason). I highly recommend this.

I do most of my socializing on the weekend, but I socialize on weeknights not-infrequently. The key is to not drink much (a couple of drinks, max, usually) and give yourself some time to unwind after getting home. I find that if I'm home by 11 or so I can comfortably get to bed around midnight and get my 7-8 hours of sleep.

On weekends, I still stay out late, but not as late as I used to. I usually find that I start to get tired around 2, and then I go home and go to bed. Sometimes I'll keep it going 'till real late, but not more than a couple of times per month, mostly. I find that I am rarely able to sleep past 11 anymore, and almost never past noon.

Sometimes, I'll have a bit of difficulty falling asleep Sunday night, but I'll still get enough sleep to function (6 hours or so), and this will correct itself with a bit of extra sleep the next night.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:59 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found that before the age of 35 or so it didn't matter really when I went to bed and when I got up. After 35 or so biology takes over, and I've found it very difficult to make the switch from night owl to morning lark. At the same time, I'm always in bed now by 10 (11 is a late night) and try to get up at 6
posted by KokuRyu at 8:06 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have any of you with night owl tendencies successfully made the transition into becoming morning larks? How do you deal with the social aspect of that transition? Do you get up at 6 on the weekdays but stay up till 3 on the weekends? Or do you sort of have to give that up?

I have never successfully made this transition, despite the fact that everyone told me I eventually would (during high school, at my job after college, at my job after graduate school). What happens for me instead is that I would force myself into a normal-person routine for the first several weeks, usually not falling asleep until several hours after I hit the sack. Eventually, I would end up staying up late in some fit of hyperness--cleaning the house, or doing a bunch of late-night art--and then my sleep schedule would start trending later and later until I was consistently just a little late for work. AND exhausted.

My body naturally wants me to go to bed at 2ish, and get up at 10ish. I'm happy and healthiest when that happens. So I've found work that fits my body, rather than the other way around. If you're truly a night owl and can hack it, I recommend it. Maybe this will all change when I have kids, but who knows?

All of the above is great for socializing, but bad for making doctor's appointments and getting to the post office before it closes.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:41 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I transitioned because of my husband's teaching schedule. He gets up so early he's usually tied on weekdays early, and otherwise we'd barely see each other. I can manage about 1 night a month really late, but honestly now that I've hit my 30s most of my friends are free to do lunch/brunch more often than a late night out. The key is for me is that when I stay out late my body usually wakes itself up at a similar time (7:30 instead of 6:30, etc) the next day, so to not be destroyed the following day I have to work in an afternoon nap. Or be aware that the next day I'll be going to be at 8pm.
posted by ejaned8 at 9:45 AM on February 10, 2012

I've gone back and forth for jobs and so forth, and have always had days when I was up before the chickens for a dog show or a horse show or a camping trip.

Married a man who cannot sleep after 6 am.

One thing I've done to adjust is do easy things in the morning, like laundry and dog grooming and answering easy emails.

The few blissful times I was entirely in charge of my schedule, I was always up way early to ride before it was too hot, napped every day, and got in a long sleep every three days or so. Was never, ever, tired during that time.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:03 AM on February 10, 2012

I wouldn't say I am a lark now. More like five days a week I wake up multiple times in the middle of the night checking the alarm in panic, mostly starting about 2 hours before I have to get up. On weekends I can at least fall back to sleep when that happens and get some actual rest, but the OMG GONNA HAVE TO GET UP THE ALARM IS AWFUL AIEE thing usually means that when I wake up too early to check the alarm, I probably won't go back to sleep on any decent level. So I cave in and get up early and watch Hulu.

I attempt to go to bed sometime between 10 and 12. I have late night activities going on till between 10-11 about 3 days a week, so hence the variety. When I get home at 10:30 after being busy all night at the volunteer job, I am not going to fall asleep right when I get home, I'll still be wound up for an hour anyway.

Now, I am a nerd so I have next to no social life most of the time. If I'm home alone on weekends I have been trying to still go to bed between 10 and 12. Then I have less wake-up-check-alarm freakouts, and when I do I can usually go back to sleep. I do my catch-up time and sleep 9-ish hours then and come out okay. But on the rare occasions when I go to a party or something...I can still go to bed late and be just as wired as I ever was, but I still somewhat freakishly wake up early whether I want to or not, regardless of tired level. So I'll be up till 3 a.m. or whatever and still wake up at 6 or 7 when I don't want to, and I may or may not be able to sleep again. Sometimes I am able to nap later, but I'm not a good napper so that doesn't help much. I just accept that if I am going to party this weekend, there will be no sleep.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:39 AM on February 10, 2012

I'm used to getting up in the morning, though I don't love it. I'm happiest going to bed between 1-3am and waking up about 9 or 10. But since I have to be to work by 9am, I aim for a 1am bedtime. I've experimented with following a rule of going to bed earlier than that, but I resented missing a part of the evening that I enjoy, and I wasn't rewarded with a significant increase in daytime alertness or energy. At the age of 38 I think it's safe to say that I'll never "convert" to being a lark. Even though I'm, like, a real grownup.

I do minimize how long it takes me to get ready in the morning to give me a later wake-up time without a mad dash. I have to get up by 8am at the latest, I take 20-25 minutes to get ready, a mad dash can get me out the door in 12-15 minutes (yes, even with a shower.)

I don't lay my clothes out the night before, but I do make a rough decision about what I'll wear the next day while I'm getting ready for bed. I carry the same messenger-style bag to work every day and my keys and such are already stashed in it. I take public transportation to work. I hatehatehated a driving commute, and I won't take a job that requires one, period. This does limit my job options somewhat, but it's a pretty feasible limitation where I live, and it's one of the reasons why I live in a big city.
posted by desuetude at 12:45 PM on February 10, 2012

I'm a night owl but I have to get 8 hours of sleep or else I feel like a zombie, so when I have to get up early my schedule gradually transitions to going to bed earlier.

The key is finding a morning routine that works for you - something that you can get excited about getting up for. For me I look forward to breakfast and drinking coffee while reading the news online and not talking to anyone. I also minimize what I have to do in the morning which allows for more of that. It takes me about 1.5hrs to "get ready" in the morning, and 1 hour of that is sitting and drinking coffee.

I also turn on NPR or used to watch Today show/GMA partly for the noise and partly because the morning people are so peppy it wakes me up.
posted by fromageball at 7:31 PM on February 10, 2012

You can revert back on weekends but it is hell on Monday.

Yeah, don't do that. You don't want to have jet lag every damned week. Do the switch and give up the midnight socializing.

Befriend some parents or other people with early shift jobs. You can't change your habits and still run with the same crowd of people with no morning responsibilities.

And if you find yourself getting up early on weekends, use that time, don't roll over and try to sleep late just because you can. Get up early and do the fun stuff you would have done later. Or take advantage of short early-morning lines at the grocery and laundry, so you'll end up with more free time and less stress.
posted by pracowity at 4:55 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

A short-term course of Ambien (like a week) might work for you to help re-set your biological clock so you can fall asleep right away and stay asleep. (I use it long-term but I am what is known as a "fragile sleeper" so I need all the help I can get.)

Keep a strict schedule - go to bed at 10 PM on the dot and wake up at 6 AM or whenever you need to get up. And yes, most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night so you can't expect to stay up until 2 AM and get up right at 6 without feeling like a zombie - especially as you get older. That's just the way it is.

Also: don't sleep in on weekends, get some bright light right away when you wake up, get outside when the sun is rising, and don't lounge around in your PJ's for longer than necessary - get dressed, brushed, breakfasted, caffeinated if you drink coffee.

I don't stay out late anymore, except if there's a performance I'm dying to see or party to go to and that doesn't happen more than once a month or so - I'm no spring chicken and neither are most of my friends. We all have jobs and/or responsibilities that demand early rising. Speaking just for me personally - I think the stay-out-late nightlife is overrated. Been there, done that, got it out of my system; there's nothing inherently stodgy or boring about wanting to go to bed at a reasonable hour, especially on a weeknight.

Finally, I've found as I've gotten older that the lark-like lifestyle has come much easier. My body clock seems to have naturally advanced to the point where going to bed at 9 and rising at 5 is easy-peasy. This doesn't happen to everyone - I had an uncle who was a die-hard night-owl until the day he died - but he was an extreme case.

Here's an interesting article featuring Steve Pavlina, about circadian rhythms and adjusting them. It notes that some people just can't get out of being night owls no matter what and might have to work their lives around their bodies; most people CAN adjust their body clocks; and you do get more lark-like as you age (I've noticed that among me and my friends).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:24 AM on February 11, 2012

Oh, and one more thing - you may need a light (emphasis on light - a slice of turkey or a few crackers) snack before bedtime to keep your blood sugar from crashing overnight. I know if my blood sugar has tanked while I'm asleep, I need a forklift to haul me out of bed. If I have a tiny bedtime snack about 30 minutes to an hour before bed, that doesn't happen. Make sure you don't have blood sugar issues or, for that matter, sleep apnea issues, that deprive you of good sleep or make it unusually hard to get up and going in the morning.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:26 AM on February 11, 2012

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