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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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