You CAN live your best life and still be a night owl. It’s possible. Midnight oil burners, this one’s for you.
So, the healthy lifestyles we hear about in magazines / blogs don’t typically involve a regular bedtime of 4 AM, but that doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as one that does involve one. You CAN live your best life and still be a night owl. It’s possible. There’s no one size fits all here, and the bottom line is: no healthy routine involves forcing yourself into a routine you hate, or one that just doesn’t work. All healthy routines DO involve some being intentional about your choices, though. Midnight oil burners, this one’s for you.
First of all, some food for thought: A study published in Current Biology discovered through a camping experiment that our bodies are designed to naturally respond to the normal light and dark cycles of the day. We get sleepier when the sun goes down, and begin to rise when it does. The study implies that there’s actually no such thing as a night owl—just a confused circadian rhythm that’s out of touch with what’s happening outside, in nature. So, if you’re glued to your electronics most of the time or focused on work, you’re likely missing the cues that help trigger your body clock.
What you can do is:
1. Try to increase your exposure to natural light. It’s all about setting up your environment to be more in tune with the natural cycles of day and night. So, get a light therapy box for your place, and / or dim the lights a little more around when the sun sets. That’s one simple thing that can ease your body into sleep at what feels like a more natural time, and get a little more in tune with what hopefully feels natural for you. Additionally:
2. Limit napping during the day. Napping during the day can lead to poorer sleeps at night – so, a habit of going to bed late is likely fine in the long term if you get enough sleep (7 hours is the sweet spot for having a long and healthy life – less than 6.5 and more than 7.5 are said to be where problems occur). If you’re constantly tired during the day, do what you can to get more sleep at night (rather than, you know, drink 7 litres of coffee during the week).
3. Take magnesium when you want to start winding down for bed. For relaxing your body and nerves, Magnesium is really effective. Over time you might see a difference in the time you feel sleepy, and, in general, less on-edge or tension – the feels that prevent you from relaxing into sleep at the right time.
4. RITUALS FTW. Regardless of what time you go to bed, stick to a relaxing nightly ritual before bed, and a morning one when you wake up. Going through the motions of washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc. strengthens that path in your brain to sleep. So, don’t fall sleep on your damn couch – put on pajamas before. Same goes for the morning – have a wake-up routine. Train your body to trust you to be a good parent to yourself. Rituals, even simple ones, can have a causal impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
5. Morning hack: Have things that make you excited to wake up and actually get up. Including but not limited to: Actual breakfast foods you enjoy (gotta wake up that metabolism). A luxurious af shower gel. Your favourite coffee or tea. Invigorating incense to light. A robe that feels like you’re putting on a damn hug. Whatever you can do to coax your morning-self into getting moving, get prepared to do it.
6. During the day: Get some movement in. Ideally, 30 mins. If you can’t fit in 30-minutes, try three 10-minute intervals through the day of walking or jogging. The link between exercise and a healthy, long life – including a good night’s sleep – is pretty rock solid. Whatever your sleep habits may be like, move your bod during the day. The endorphins make it worth-while in the short-term.
7. Eat brain foods. It’s said that sleep-deprived people tend to be hungrier / feel less satisfied after eating. If that’s you, eat more fibre-rich foods that’ll make you feel satisfied. Ones with tryptophan, calcium, and B6 (all sleep promoting vitamins and minerals). So, dark leafy greens, avocados, eggs, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts. Just get em in.
8. Take vitamin D. Especially in winter. The ‘sunshine vitamin’ regulates your mood, skin, teeth, bones and your overall health. Keep it in your cabinet.
9. Don’t OD on stimulants like caffeine and sugar. Caffeine has a half-life of 3 to 5 hours – which means it can mess with your sleep if you have a cup in the late afternoon or after dinner. Swap in some ginseng or yerba mate as alternatives.
10. In general: Don’t worry too much about your sleep. Don’t worry too much about your energy levels. Don’t worry too much about ‘getting anything right’ in particular – that’ll only mess with your health and sense of well-being more. Just be present and keep it simple, and do the things that make you genuinely happy. That’s what life’s about.