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The Night Owl’s Guide to Better Sleep

The Night Owl’s Guide to Better Sleep

If you love the night, you are not alone. Studies show that up to 20% of people are night owls, and for many of us, these tendencies even have genetic roots.

Evening people are those who prefer to go to bed well after midnight, and prefer to wake closer to noon when given the opportunity. These habits are most prevalent amongst adolescents due to temporary hormonal changes, but genetic research has also found distinct early and late genotypes related to circadian rhythm timing. If you are a genetic night owl, waking up early truly may not come easy.

For lifelong night owls, bad sleep habits can have real implications for health and happiness, making awareness important. Many healthy sleep and self-help articles tout the benefits of being an early riser. But, it is entirely possible to be a well-rested, healthy, and happy night owl by incorporating good sleep habits into your routine.

Here are a few ways night owls can have their late evenings and stay well-rested, too.

1. Make sure you are getting enough hours in dreamland

The main reason night owl-ism is often touted as unhealthy is that many owls find themselves staying up late while also trying to wake up early, leading to chronic sleep deprivation. It is tempting to think you can just catch up on weekends, but this is really not how our bodies work.

The average person needs at least seven hours of sleep to avoid fatigue. Teens may need up to 10 hours, and very active adults may also need more rest. Think about days when you are well-rested and have no morning obligations. How many hours do you usually sleep? What amount of rest makes you feel your best mentally and physically?

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If you are not getting enough rest, sleeping earlier is always an option. However, if you don’t plan on changing your sleep habits, then try to schedule classes later or pursue a career with flexible or later hours if possible. Short naps are another option for catching up on rest, provided you nap wisely.

2. Keep a regular schedule

Night owl personalities are often attracted to novelty and spontaneity. This novelty-seeking tendency may make owls more prone to keeping irregular hours while avoiding “ordinary” schedules and bed times like the plague.

However, studies have shown that regular sleep and wake times are beneficial for our bodies and help prevent sleep issues such as insomnia. Irregular hours and insufficient sleep may even play a role in body weight, adding yet another reason.

Think about your day-to-day schedule. When do you have to wake up to get to work or school on time? Work backwards by at least eight hours, and that is the time you need to start getting ready for bed at night. Remember, it takes awhile to get ready for bed and wind down once in bed, so give yourself ample time.

Even on the weekends or your days off, try not to delay this pattern by more than an hour.

3. Learn how to shut down

Night owls are more likely to struggle with insomnia than early birds. Learning how to destress, tune out and set boundaries can be helpful for keeping sleep on track.

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Whether you struggle with a racing mind or just have difficulty getting the sleep zone, there are several relaxation techniques studies have found helpful for reducing stress and insomnia. A few suggested by the Mayo Clinic included visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic relaxation, meditation, deep breathing and music relaxation.

Other ideas include setting distinct email/work/texting boundaries so you aren’t bothered or stressed out before bed, establishing a consistent pre-bed routine, using positive reframing and gratitude to overcome negative thoughts, and dimming lights in the evening. Taking a warm bath one to two hours before bed may also help, as the temperature drop from warm to cool promotes drowsiness

Try practicing a couple to see what works for you. Most techniques can be practiced at home, and there are also dozens of apps and online videos to guide you as well.

4. Make your bedroom sleep-friendly

Electronics like TV, games, laptops and phones can mean less time for sleep, especially for those prone to distraction. Keep the TV in the living room, and don’t work or play games in bed. Burn the midnight oil in a place other than your bedroom, and use your mattress only for sleep.

Other factors to consider include keeping your room as dark as possible at night to aid melatonin release, keeping temperatures cool, and making sure bedding and mattresses are in good shape. If you notice anything in particular that distracts from sleep or steals your attention, try to remove it from your sleep environment.

5. Mind your diet

Night owls are more likely to be overweight. This is likely a combination of sleep deprivation side effects and all of those extra midnight nibbles. If you are awake for an extra few hours, you can consume considerably more calories which add up over time.

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Be conscious of late-night snacking to avoid this. Keeping late meals light is also wise, as heavy meals and fatty foods can cause indigestion and disrupt rest. Healthier, sleep-supporting foods to munch on at night include fresh veggies like carrots, celery and greens, fruits like bananas and berries, lean protein like turkey or chicken, nuts like almonds and walnuts, and healthy carbs like whole grain breads or crackers.

Three other stealers of shut-eye include caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Limit caffeine at least six hours before you plan on sleeping, and institute last call on alcohol and smokes a couple of hours before bed as well. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day as well!

6. Try not to workout too late

Many night owls feel their energy peak in the evening, but working out too close to bed can leave you wired. Try to plan strenuous cardio and weight workouts at least a few hours before you want to sleep. This gives your body enough time to wind down and cool off.

Calming yoga and light stretching, on the other hand, can be beneficial near bed since they promote relaxation.

7. Remember why rest is important

Although work, hobbies, Netflix, games and other activities may seem like more fun than sleep at 2 a.m., night owls have to remind themselves that rest is an important part of being healthy and feeling good.

Fatigue and “social jet lag” can have a big impact on your mood, job, looks, and more. Studies have found that lacking sleep changes how people perceive you – tired faces look less attractive and less approachable.

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The National Sleep Foundation website, www.sleepfoundation.org, outlines several other undesirable side effects:

  • A tired mind is also less adept at complex tasks and decision making.
  • Tiredness makes people feel more irritable, anxious, angry and sad.
  • People that drive while sleep deprived also increase their risk of auto accidents.
  • Fatigue can comprise the immune system’s effectiveness and can affect hormone production.
  • Long-term sleep deprivation is also associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and more.

Whether you want to look better, get fit, be more productive or simply stay healthy, there are infinite ways that better sleep benefits your life. When you are debating between one more episode or chapter and calling it a night, remind yourself why rest is important to you.

Not everyone is cut out to become to become an early bird, and that’s okay. Night owls can still sleep well!

Simple things like getting enough rest, sticking to consistent bedtimes, prioritizing sleep and optimizing your bedroom environment set the stage for better sleep regardless of when you prefer to go to bed. Awareness of healthy sleep hygiene habits like these can help you develop an evening routine that works for your night owl nature and your sleep needs.

Share: Are you a night owl? What helps you get better sleep, or how do stick to a healthy schedule?

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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