Saturday, June 17, 2017

Project Night Owl to Morning Lark: The Beginning

Night Owl to Morning Person

Ok, so my summer project is to see if I can become an early bird.  This has been a perennial favorite on the resolution list forever, yet never actually achieved.  Why worry about it at all you might ask? That's a really good question.  The fact is, I have kids.  Kids who go to school early.  Life happens early.  There is a lot of literature out there pointing to the benefits of being an early bird or a lark.  As I said, school starts early and I have to drag both of my kids out of their bed, and get them ready for school. They are reluctant early risers as well, except on the weekends...  Hmmm ... maybe I need to look at that a little harder in a minute, but I digress.  The world does seem to favor the early risers.

Plus, there are more and more studies pointing to the horrors of sleep deprivation.  It has being strongly associated with inflammatory diseases such as weight gain, Type II Diabetes, some cancers, and possibly Alzheimers (and new studies are being done uncovering even more ties to lack of sleep). Not to mention that when I lack sleep, I am a snapping cranky pants with less patience for everything and everyone.  As if I needed to add another reason, there is the fact that when you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation (less than 7 hours of sleep a night), you walk around like a drunk person. Also like a drunk person, you think you are just "fine".  That's right, the sleep deprived don't realize they are a bit clumsier and slower physically and mentally than when they are well rested.

However, for me there is something magical about being the only one awake at night.  Nothing happens in the late hours of the night, when the house is silent, and the kids are asleep, no one wants anything from me, and I can't do the million things that need to be done around the house because I don't want to wake anyone (I'm considerate like that).  In short, I'm free to indulge in me time. So......I just listed a lot of the reasons why I justify staying up late, but it's more than that. I just have more energy, and I'm more alert once the sun sets.  Even when I am dragging butt in the afternoon, starting around 7:00 pm, I'm usually wide awake.

Changing into a morning person is not as simple as deciding to do it.  It isn't just a matter of willpower.  There have been studies linking genes to your chronotype preference that cause biological differences.  Things like differences in temperatures changes that help you fall asleep, melatonin being released in your body, sensitivity to light, and other little things that tell your body to go to sleep, express themselves later for owls than for larks.

And there are benefits to being a night owl, benefits that get lost with all the "rah, rah, get up early and get going" hype you hear.  Owls typically score higher on intelligence and creativity tests than their lark counterparts.  However, they also tend to be procrastinators, moody, use caffeine, smoke, and drink and are more fun more than larks as well.  Why? This is has yet to be pinned down.  Is it because owl's are chronically sleep deprived because many are forces to operate in a lark friendly world?  Or are people that have owl genes also more likely to have "depressed" genes?  Who knows? Thank goodness for that depressed, creativity though as many famous authors and musicians are owls.  I happen to struggle with procrastination and depression, so I am still holding out hope of being famous.

All this isn't to say that larks don't also have advantages.  All the intelligence in the world won't do you any good if you don't show up and put it in the work, and that is where larks shine.  They are generally more proactive, persist through difficult tasks, and do it with a smile on their face. That's right, larks tend to be happier and more agreeable than their owl comrades.  Many larks run Fortune 500 Companies.

In a perfect world, we would all just get to be who we are.  Many companies are coming to the realization that they get more out of employees when they are free to work in their most productive hours, and are offering flex time to accommodate this.  The school system is not one of these progressive institutions though.  At least not the one I live in (yet), but some states are moving to have high school start later to accommodate teenagers natural inclination toward owlness.  That's right, your teenager biologically is more wired to be an owl, and your little one is more wired to be a lark.  Chronotype shifts as we age.

So, since I cannot change the world to suite me, I am on a quest to become that person who jumps out of bed in the morning without an alarm clock, ready to take on the world! There is a ton of information, tips and tricks to becoming an early riser, and equally as abundant is the info on having a calming night routine that gets you ready to hit the hay.  I'm going to test it all and find what works and what doesn't, and I'm keeping a journal of my findings to share with all of you, so it (hopefully) doesn't take a whole summer to turn your schedule around, if getting more sleep or even just more restful sleep is on your wish list.

If there is something that you have tried and been successful with, please let me know.  I have a feeling I will need all the help (and coffee cause you know I have that caffeine addiction) that I can get.

If you don't feel that you fit into either of these categories, there is a third option, the hummingbird. The hummingbird lives in both worlds.  In fact, like introversion and extroversion, most of us live more in the middle of the scale leaning more toward one side or the other.  Some of us are more extreme than others.  I'm pretty much done by 2:00 AM on my best day, but regularly go to bed by midnight or 1:00.  Just for fun, here are some famous owls and larks, and because I need a pep talk, some successful owl converts. Next week, I'll let you know how the first week went.

Other Articles you might be interested in:

Two Things You Can Do To Turn a Bad Day Around

5 Things You Can Do to Start Living Intentionally Today

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