Nice to meet you. My name’s Hayley and I am a born Night-Owl.
Seriously, if there’s anything I consistently do, it’s go to bed late. Even if I’m nodding off during the afternoon lull, my body nudging me to just have an early night for once, I’ll find a million things to do before hitting the sack. I give myself a pat on the back if I’m tucked up and ready to switch off the lamp by 11pm. My husband and I feel smug if we’re asleep before midnight. But something happens to me once that moon starts to shine. I come alive. My mind is overactive. I’m super productive…
…Except, it’s not productive when it means that the morning can be a drag.
You see, I always wake up grumpy. Always. I cannot move. I’ll invent endless excuses as to why I need “just five more minutes” and the thought of sitting up, swinging my legs from beneath the duvet and standing upright just sends me into a deep, morning slumber. Why can’t I conk out like that at actual bedtime? Once up, I’m fine. The morning monster tucks itself away until the following crack of dawn. But honestly, I long to be an early bird. When I do manage to experience that time of day, I feel grateful, curious, whimsical even. I love the scent in the air of night turning into day. The gentle hum of life stretching its limbs. The clean slate. And the only way to fully embrace this isn’t rocket science.
I just need to go to bed earlier.
Once upon a time, that was a punishment, wasn’t it? The threat of going to bed. And staying up late, well, that was the ultimate treat. This common pattern has filtered from our childhood into adolescence and we’ve been programmed as adults to go to bed late, simply because we can! Nobody is wagging their finger at us to shut up or count sheep. We’re our own boss. The masters of our own destiny. And late has always had the stigma of being great. Rock’n’roll. It’s rebellious in its mildest form. Except, like all things cool, is this doing us more harm than good?
Well. Listen up party animals, binge watchers and deep and meaningful late-night-chit-chatters. There’s a new wave of rockstars in town. They wrap up work and don’t reopen the laptop again after dinner. They take a shower and melt into comfy PJs before falling asleep fully dressed on the sofa. They look good. Feel good. And what’s more, they get stuff done…Before the day has even begun.
Leadership guru, Robin Sharma, wrote a book about it; The 5AM Club. He says, “Take excellent care of the front end of your day, and the rest of your day will pretty much take care of itself. Own your morning. Elevate your life.” Living by this mantra, you don’t just have to go to bed early; you’ll be ready to go to bed early. The idea is very appealing. Rather than start slowly and end with an almighty race against the clock, begin your day fresh and productive, winding down to a gradual and natural stop.
I’ve heard people (a-hem, like me) say this just isn’t possible for everybody. What about those who have long commutes? Babies still feeding through the night? Toddlers having night terrors? And those who work shifts or have evening jobs? However, mentally preparing yourself to commit to more sleep, in whatever way you can, is a decent start. It’s no surprise that many who have fallen into all of the above categories (also, a-hem, like me) have an unhealthy relationship with sleep. Rather than seeing it as a dear friend who we want to spend time with, we see it as the enemy. Sleep? Ugh. It’s time consuming. It gets in the way. If I push through my tiredness, I’ll be okay. I’ll eventually get on top of things.
Oh, how wrong I am.
And how much I need to make an effort to make some changes.
To anybody who manages to be in bed by 8.30pm, I am in awe. You are - quite literally - living the dream, aren’t you? A satisfying stretch of sleep. Minimal morning grog. You’re chipper. You’re full of charm. You’ve likely been up since dawn and ticked off twenty of your To-Dos. And look, there’s no need to be modest. You have bad days, too. Not to mention how hard it must have been to make the switch, commit to saying goodbye to late night TV bingeing and unnecessary tea and toast. You’ve had to turn down opportunities to eat out late and you think twice before going to the theatre or catching a later showing at the cinema. But, let’s look at how your decision has enhanced your life. And for my fellow Night Owls, let’s look at what we can achieve if we try…
You grant yourself the most precious gift of all. And sure, technically you lose time in the evening. But instead of staying awake later to - let’s face it - procrastinate and stare at various forms of blue light, you’re completely resting. Your mornings are set to be extremely productive because of the natural early start you’ll grow accustomed to, and it will be easier to get “stuff” done without regular daytime distractions such as clients making demands, kids wanting snacks and WhatsApp going crazy.
Better Sleep Quality
Regularly going to bed early means you will get more sleep. Just as staying up late will force you to wake before your body is ready. It’s been proven that sleeping lowers your blood pressure, and resting early can reduce your risk of stroke and heart attacks later in life. Other benefits include improved mood and lower chance of obesity. Sounds more appealing than the opposite; lack of sleep quality. That bad boy weakens your immune system and raises the risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Yay! Woop! Thanks to the above, you’ll be bouncing about and giving Tigger a run for his money! Lots of restorative activities happen to your body when you sleep. Muscles, organs, and tissues are given the space to repair, helping to improve how you feel the next morning. So if you’re suffering from fatigue, it might serve you well to change your bedtime mindset and use your evenings more wisely; asleep.
Health Goals - Score!
Amazingly, sleep helps to maintain and control your body weight. It resets your metabolism and regulates your blood sugar. Also, while sleep deprivation can contribute to acne, good sleep helps your skin cells regenerate, while increased blood flow and collagen help repair environmental and UV damage. And say goodbye to those dark, puffy circles under your eyes. They’re just fluid buildup from lack of sleep, so if you’re heading up to bed earlier, they’re going to do a runner!
Food Glorious Food
So many of us treat breakfast appallingly. We shove a snack in our mouth on the commute or finish off soggy leftover cereal. Deciding to commit to an earlier bedtime will set you up for having the energy and enthusiasm to start your day with an enjoyable meal. Even if it’s a simple fruit salad, you’ll be chopping up strawberries with a spring in your step rather than devouring a banana whilst running out of the door.
We feel groggy and disorientated when we wake up because our brains take some time to shift into gear. Sleep inertia is a regular part of the waking process (and some suffer much more than others) and can last for more than an hour, making it hard to concentrate if you throw yourself into a busy day too quickly. An early night can assist with being able to absorb and retain information better than when we’re sleep deprived and over-stimulated. Prioritising sleep will improve your ability to learn new things and improves your memory. So if you have a big presentation tomorrow, don’t over-prepare the night before. Get some sleep instead.
DON’T confuse being an early riser by choice with waking too early. If you’re unable to get back to sleep - or sleep at all - especially if you’re currently going to bed at the more common time of between 10pm and midnight, this can be a cause for concern. You might be suffering from mental health concerns like anxiety or depression, insomnia or hormone fluctuations from pregnancy or menopause. So please speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing this.
Sleep is cool. And we all deserve to be rockstars.