The Conflicts of a Night Owl

the conflicts of a night owl

To sleep or not to sleep; that is the question.

I have always envied those remarkable people whose eyes start to droop at nine pm, who stretch and yawn by 9.30, and who tuck themselves into bed at the stroke of ten. These are the same kind of people who wake up NATURALLY before eight am, usually around six, and do crazy things like read the paper, walk the dog, have a leisurely breakfast, and climb Mount Everest — all before they leave for work.

I, on the other hand, try desperately to be something I’m just not. I go to bed at ten and lie there. For hours. Counting sheep. Changing positions. Itching those random itchy things you get when you’re trying to sleep. Does anyone else notice this? You’re trying to sleep and you start getting random itches everywhere? No, I don’t have fleas. No, I don’t have a personal hygiene problem. No, I don’t have heroin hallucinations. It’s just the universe laughing at me.


Or at least not until three am anyway. For some reason, three am is the magic go-to-sleep-time for me. And boy do I hate it. Three am is fine when you’re a teenager. It’s the peak go-to-sleep hour when you’re a university student. When it’s time to face the real world, however, three am is a terrible time to go to sleep. 

The conflict I experience personally as a self-labeled night owl is to do with the one thing that never fails to take up head space:

Fixing my sleeping pattern.

This sounds like a small problem that can be easily resolved by the supposedly simplistic act of: going to sleep.

Aha. And therein lies the dilemma.

What SHOULD be an easy thing to do is a daily mountain climb for me.

This is because the act of going to sleep, falling asleep, sleeping for sufficient but not too many hours, and getting up at a time which allows you to make use of the day, morphs from a simple act into an anxiety-creating one.

Knowing that it is laughable, highly optimistic/unrealistic to go to bed at normal-people-hours, the mental process of a night owl goes something like this:

Last night I went to sleep at four am and got up at noon. I don’t like getting up this late but I know that if I go to bed early I won’t sleep. As a form of compromise I will go to sleep at three am tonight and get up at eleven am. Then the night after that I will go to sleep at two, wake up at ten. I will do this until I go to sleep at ten or eleven so I can get up at six or seven and get to do all of those lovely things that productive people do. 

Night-time comes. You set your phone alarm for three am to ensure that you go to bed at this time in order to begin the fixing-pattern-process.

You get into bed. You cosy up to your wonderful husband/wife/significant other who is sleeping soundly. You hear the quiet snores of your dog who is resting comfortably in dream-land. It is silent and dark. Conditions are ripe.


YOU CAN’T SLEEP. You get up to pee. You don’t look at your phone because you don’t want to know the time. You go back to bed. You think about everything that has ever happened in your life and wonder about the mysteries of the universe. Time passes. Random itches. Position changes. Pillow adjustment. You get up to pee again. This time you give in and look at your phone. You see it is now five am. Crap. You hate sleeping past noon but need eight hours sleep. What time should you set your waking-up-alarm for? You sit on the loo and change the alarm clock on your phone multiple times. Aaaaargh. Eventually, you give up. You set it for one pm. Stuff it, you’ll restart the fixing-pattern-process tomorrow.

The next morning…or should I say afternoon:

You wake up at one pm to the sound of your alarm.

Now things go one of two ways:

The first way: You get up, but you feel (as my husband so perfectly describes it) ‘drag-ass’ and walk around zoning out, spacing out, and generally acting like a couch-potato-zombie all day.

The second way: This is probably the worst part of being a night owl: YOU TURN OFF YOUR ALARM. This is an alarm for one pm and YOU TURN IT OFF. Meaning: you wake up frantically at three pm with a huge dose of self-loathing/guilt/general ugh.

The steps above pretty much give an accurate depiction of the conflicts of a night owl. The time you fall asleep can be earlier, the time you get up can be earlier, but there is always this invisible pressure making you feel guilty/lazy/like an asshole for not being able to be like those enviable people who go to bed at ten and get up at six. As a result, it is best to do away with unattainable goals and make peace with your sleeping status. 

Once a night owl, always a night owl.