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inkvisitor's avatar

Any tips for a night owl in a 9-5 world?

Asked by inkvisitor (660points) October 12th, 2009

I am and always have been a night owl – I like to stay up late, I’m programmed to stay up late, and I get a lot done later.

I have the typical 9–5 M-F work hours (and have for the past five years) and while I manage well, the late nighter in me hasn’t dissipated at all. I figured at some point exhaustion would take over – if I stay up until 2 and wake up around 7 there will be a point where my body and brain will just give in and want to go to bed earlier. Not so (at least not five years in to it). Naps work well but I don’t take them often. I generally make up for sleep on the weekends.

I know there are a million different answers for a million different people, but I was curious if any of you have similar situations and have found ways to offset this and have more balanced sleep patterns.

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41 Answers

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I’ve been that way for awhile now. The only thing that has ever worked for me was taking OTC sleeping pills. Otherwise my body just refuses to fall asleep any earlier than 2am.

Zen's avatar

What do you do? Is there something compatible that could be done at night?

ru2bz46's avatar

I’m in your situation as well. I used to work grave or swing shifts, and it was pretty good. I worked day shifts for the last 15 years or so. I’ve adapted to living my life on 4–6 hours sleep. I don’t even think about it anymore. I go to bed when I can (midnight, 1:00a, 2:00a), and get up at 5:30a or 6:00a to be to work by 7:00a. Sometimes, if I just can’t get to sleep, I’ll have a shot of tequila to relax into sleep.

A couple times a month, I’ll go in to work at night, and work through the next day (I write software) to get some work done during my creative time. Most of my best work is done on those all-nighters.

inkvisitor's avatar

@Zen I’m an archivist at a university. I suppose there are other hours elsewhere (but I have yet to see much flexibility). Plus I Iove my job and would never leave it over the hours.

Zen's avatar

You said: Plus I Iove my job and would never leave it over the hours.

Let me know when you would. Until then, everything would be too hypothetical. I am sure there are many jobs for someone like you that require things to be done all the time, so you would simply have a night shift. But if you like your job with all the other aspects of it, then throwing around ideas seems useless. N’est ce pas?

inkvisitor's avatar

I am talking more about how to alter me, not my job.

andrew's avatar

Have you tried setting an alarm on the weekends? Your body is just going to keep getting confused otherwise.

I know it stinks to get up early on the weekends, but at least you can get to brunch before the rush!

Zen's avatar

@inkvisitor Oh, ok. I don’t know that.


Zen's avatar

@inkvisitor What @andrew says makes a lot of sense. Like preparing yourself for bed with a routine (brush teeth, no tv or distractions, darken the room). Getting your body into that routine on the weekend would help for the coming week…

inkvisitor's avatar

@andrew Only when I have to do something/be somewhere. Otherwise, it’s totally unappealing ;)

But alas, it’s a good idea – will try it more often…if I can get my lazy ass to do so!

ru2bz46's avatar

@Zen and @andrew I do the early weekend thing as well, but it doesn’t help me. It does give me more awake time on the weekends, though. Up at 6:00a, bed at 12:00a – 2:00a.

andrew's avatar

@inkvisitor I’m an insomniac as well. I have to watch my stimuli before bed, because little things can get me going. Try keeping an early schedule for two weekends, and exercise. Just for two weekends. See if it helps.

Samurai's avatar

You could try laying in bed earlier with the goal of going to bed, you might be able to get a full 8 – 10 hours of rest. Your probably addicted to something to rather stay up then go to sleep. I sleep 12 hours here.

Zen's avatar

@inkvisitor Or spend your time here with me. I only sleep a few hours a night, too. ;-)

Haleth's avatar

I have this problem myself, and almost nothing works for me. The only times I’m able to get to sleep earlier are when I stay over at someone else’s house. Almost all my friends and family go to bed earlier than I do, so I almost always make it to sleep around midnight when I do that.

Samurai's avatar

Its a simple habit your in most likely, just like the habit of sleeping on your side or your back. You’d be surprised by how hard it is to switch this habit.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Welcome to the world of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.
As far as what to do about it, hell if i know. I’ve just learned to cope with it really. Its 305am right now and i got work in 6 hours :P

Buttonstc's avatar

There is a small likelihood that it’s just a habit pattern as previously mentioned. However, I think it’s far more likely that your body’s natural inclination is the opposite of the majority of the rest of mankind since you mentioned being like this all your life.

You have a few choices. One has already been mentioned about trying to find a job that fits into a night schedule if you can possibly do that.

The other choice is to use a systematic gradual re-conditioning of your sleep-wake schedule by the use of therapeutic light boxes and an organized schedule. It’s not that easy but it can be done. However, similar to dieting, it must be consistently adhered to.

Do some research on “circadian rhythm” and you will find detailed descriptions of how this is done.

I have been a night owl since childhood so I know whereof I speak.

You could also see if there is any medical facility near you which has a sleep lab set up and may be able to pinpoint your situation more precisely. If you’re lucky, there may be one seeking volunteers for sleep research but if you have medical coverage this would qualify. These places also have sleep experts who can guide and supervise you and may even provide you with a light box as part of the process.

By the way, just using any old lamp or something will not get the job done because it needs to be a light with a specific type of bulbs and output. I’m not techy to be able to quote specs and such as I found out about this quite a while ago but decided not to pursue this method.

Whatever you do, it’s a bad idea to use prescription meds since they are all intended for temporary relief of insomnia. Our condition definitely is chronic rather than temporary and the risk of using these types of meds is that constant use runs a heavy risk of addiction and habituation. Plus, they almost all interfere with REM sleep and this messes everything up since you are no longer getting quality sleep.

Research has been done which proves that REM sleep is the stage which provides many of the therapeutic aspects of sleep and interfering with that is at your peril.

About the only thing I allow myself is the OTC product Benadryl which also helps my sinuses since it is an antihistamine.

Even tho our night owl circadian rhythms are not like the majority, we have plenty of company since about 30% of the population is in the same boat. So, it’s not “abnormal” per se, but the problem is that most scheduling is done by the early bird majority.

So, enjoy Fluther since there are so many self-professed night owls here. Certainly far more than I have encountered elsewhere. :)

El_Cadejo's avatar

GA buttonstc.:)

DarkScribe's avatar

I have Narcolepsy – one reason why I am often on here at odd hours. As a result I often “Power nap” during the day and work at night. I am always the one who does the 2–3-4:AM press checks and am on call out of office hours.

In the sleep clinic I met a number of other people with Narcolepsy and found that a surprising number held jobs like Taxi Drivers where they worked at night and slept during the day.

An interesting side effect – when I fly to London, while others have Jet Lag, I thrive, my routines then become normal – unless I stay more than a week or two. If I do my body begins to a adapt to the new Circadian cycle.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Zen I have sleep apnea

I had sleep Apnea for years before the Narcolepsy developed. Many of my girlfriends would wake me up screaming in the middle of the night – thinking that I had died as I wasn’t breathing.

drdoombot's avatar

The best tip I’ve heard was to set an alarm for the same time everyday (including weekends) and learning to listen to your body. It will let you know when you need sleep. I haven’t tried it myself, though I’m meaning to someday.

When I have the money, I’m going to get a SleepTracker watch, which records your sleeping patterns and gently wakes you when you’ve reached a lighter sleeping phase, so you’re less groggy when you wake up.

markyy's avatar

I’m more of a night owl myself. Like @andrew said it helps to have a routine for your body to get used to. I started exercising every morning at the same time, and set an alarm clock for the weekend. This helped a lot, because if I don’t force myself to go to bed, I know the next morning is going to be hard and I’ll be tired all day. I’m now up to 6–7 hours of sleep (compared to 4–6 while I was in college), but feel a lot more tired now as I did back then (I should get that checked out).

@drdoombot Get me one of those for christmas :)

andrew's avatar

@drdoombot Don’t hold much weight in those sleep cycle clocks—I have one and it made absolutely no difference to my level of fatigue during the day.

Zen's avatar

@DarkScribe I function thanks to power naps. What’s the shortest possible “good and effective” power nap which includes the precious REM cycle? I don’t know the answer, and I imagine it might vary slightly from person to person?

Buttonstc's avatar

I don’t know the precise answer to what you asked DS but I have read that the more REM sleep deprivation you have accrued, the sooner your brain immediately slips into REM (as opposed to it’s usual rotation among the different sleep stages) to get as much in as possible in the shortest time. Kind of a self regulating catch up mechanism.

So, if you’re the type who tends to remember your dreams and you find yourself dreaming a lot during those power naps, that’s yur cue that you aren’t logging in enough REM time.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Zen What’s the shortest possible “good and effective” power nap which includes the precious REM cycle? I don’t know the answer, and I imagine it might vary slightly from person to person?

I don’t either, and with me it varies from day to day. The best that I can ascertain is that as long as my total real sleep in a forty-eight hour period reaches a minimum level, I function well. If it doesn’t, then I start to suffer conventional sleep deprivation problems. Sometimes a twenty minute nap can be as effectively refreshing as a three or four hour sleep.

When really sleep deprived, I isolate myself, put some good music on, something that I am in the mood for, turn it up quite loud and drop off after two or three songs. I never use earpieces and always need it loud to have effect. I also find that when I do this, putting the air-conditioning on very cold, sufficiently cold to feel comfortable under a warm Doona helps. It is about the only time I turn the air on.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Well, skipping all of these other night owls (it’s 4:16 AM here) I found the best way to equalize being a night owl with having to maintain a job in order to survive was to work a second shift position. Third shift will make you a vampire.

I work from 2PM to 10PM Monday thru Friday. This means I get home a little after ten, stay up til to 2 AM or so, go to bed, get up around 10 AM or even later, and it solves the problem of having to be cheery at an ungodly hour like those poor bastards that work first shift. if you are a happy first shifter, i.e a morning person, then you are not really considered a poor bastard. You are, as the British put it, simply mad. ~

EDIT: After reading everyone else’s responses, most of which were quite helpful, all I’ve got to say is good luck. At least you are not alone. Seems there are plenty of us night owls.

Worst job I ever had recently was flex officer, where you work on call, at whatever shift and facility you are needed. That, my friends, will make you an old and senile man in no time at all.

@Zen, I’ve had power naps of five minutes work well enough after a minimum of sleep the day before. Of course, caffeine is my friend, and without it, life would be unbearable.

DarkScribe's avatar

@andrew Don’t hold much weight in those sleep cycle clocks—I have one and it made absolutely no difference to my level of fatigue during the day.

This is new to me – I have not heard of them before. Do they have a programmable “window” with a finite “no later than time to wake you? They seem interesting – I’ll see whether I can track a supplier down and have a play with one.

Buttonstc's avatar

@DS. What you mentioned regarding sometimes feeling more refreshed after a 20 min. nap equaling 4 hrs of sleep makes sense in light of one of the studies I read about.

They took two randomly divided groups of normal sleepers in the sleep lab for several weeks. The only difference was that the volunteers in one group were awakened briefly whenever they slipped into REM sleep. They were allowed the same total amount of sleep time as the control group. It’s only the REM time that was disallowed.

In a very short time they were showing the typical symptoms associated with regular sleep deprivation even tho they slept the same amt of time as the other group. In some of the REM deprived it even escalated into hallucinations and psychotic symptomatology.

Needless to say, they were then allowed back to normal sleep without REM interruptions. I thought this was pretty fascinating.

Zen's avatar

@Buttonstc… one group were awakened briefly whenever they slipped into REM… they were showing the typical symptoms associated with regular sleep deprivation… hello!!! So would you if someone kept waking you up…!!!!


Buttonstc's avatar

Not necessarily. These were people with NORMAL sleep patterns , not folks like us.

Most had no trouble falling right back to sleep. And because both groups were in the sleep lab with leads attached to their heads it was easy to tell when those who were awakened slipped back tobsleep so that even if it took some time for them to go back to sleep only the time that they were actually sleeping counted toward the total.

I should really try to look up all the details of this again because the findings were pretty startling.

It’s also possible that they tried it with awakening from other sleep stages, but the REM stage was the critical one. This really quite a while ago that I encountered this so I don’t have every single detail fresh in my memory. But this was one of the critical studies clearly illustrating the critical importance of REM sleep in the whole picture. It really made an indelible impression on me even tho I don’t remember every exact detail.

This is akin to that experiment that Zimbardo did with the college students randomly divided into prisoners and jailers in terms of important behavioral studies.

inkvisitor's avatar

Thanks for all the replies – good things to look in to and try!
While you were writing all that earlier, I happened to fall asleep :O

markyy's avatar

So you found your answer, keep using Fluther till you fall asleep.

Cartman's avatar

I read somewhere that Einstein power-napped using a key chain held between the thumb and index finger. Sitting relaxed like that, and then waking up when the keys hit the floor. Short but apparently effective.

Doesn’t change you from a night person to a day person but might help with the power-napping.

Zen's avatar

@Cartman It only works with the above-180 I.Q. crowd.

bennihan's avatar

World of WarCrack

Cartman's avatar

@Zen so that’s why. I tried it without much success myself. Sad, really.

Buttonstc's avatar

It’s Tues. Oct. 20 and I just got through watching a show called The Doctors. They had on a sleep specialist who spoke about a relatively new device called Nightwave which has been proven surprisingly effective for many people.

Basically, you place it on the nightstand where it emits a soft blue light which pulsates rhythmically to mimic the speed of breathing which occurs during sleep. Obviously this is different from our normal breathing rate. As you breathe in time with it for several minutes, it begins to lull you into a sleeping breathing pattern and then you just close your eyes but keep the same breathing rhythm pattern. Then drift off to sleep.

They gave it to a woman audience member from several days previous. She was a hospital shift worker and reported that it worked really well for her in spite of her initial skepticism.

The name of the sleep specialist was Michael J. Breus, PhD. Unfortunately the segment was all too brief. He also spoke about the use of light therapy which proved effective for NASA astronauts and why it works. He also spoke about special sunglasses for shift workers which blocks out a specific spectrum of light particularly for driving home.

All of these devices were interesting but discussed primarily in the context of people with normal circadian rhythms who have them interrupted either through alternating shift work or travel.

I’m curious to know whether they would work for someone trying to change an ingrained out of whack system to a normal one. I do know that light therapy can work for that purpose, but it has stringent requirements to adhere to a specific schedule. Any deviance puts you back to square one and you have to start all over again.

I wonder how something like the Nightwave might work for us night owl weirdos.

I noticed that they also mentioned a 20% discount with a promo code connected to the show. If anyone decides to give it a try, let us know. Evidently it has more proven results than the watch mentioned previously.

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