People now seem more productive at night, which is a noticeable change brought on by the growth of remote work. It’s an intriguing phenomenon that affects people’s personalities, lifestyles, genetics, and even brain chemistry. We’re going to examine the biology of night owls’ internal clocks, the heart of their productivity, and how one might stay alert and motivated when working late.
WORKINGS OF NOCTURNAL OWLS
People who are night owls work best in the hours after most people have finished their evening rituals. They may work well into the night or even until the next morning. And I struggled to comprehend them for a very long time. By eleven o’clock, I’d be exhausted.
However, when investigating night owls- a subject so foreign to my own lark-like self- I came upon a fascinating piece by Kathryn Schulz. I chuckled at one part in particular and immediately understood these peculiar “night birds”:
“It starts, as I said, around 10 p.m., when something ticks over in my mind, as if someone had walked into a shuttered cabin and flipped all the switches in the fuse box to “on.” For the first time all day, I get interested in writing. As a corollary, I get a lot less interested in everything else.”
It was Schulz and this statement that inspired me to learn more about night owls and correct my ignorance about them. One may therefore argue that this post primarily serves to highlight them while also giving the rest of us a much-needed slap in the face for thinking they’re lazy.
DO THOSE WHO WORK AT NIGHT PRODUCE MORE?
Contrary to what many people think, one group is not superior to the other. Early birds are currently more adapted to the working environment, which is why you hear more about them.
Numerous studies on night owls and morning larks (another name for early risers) actually place greater emphasis on the distinctions between them in terms of other facets of life. For a more casual comparison, think of vanilla or chocolate ice cream as representing both groups. People always like one over the other, even though none is essentially superior to the other in terms of sweetness.
The same holds true for human productivity and biological clocks. Although they are active at various times of the day, owls and larks are both equally prolific.
WHY DO SOME INDIVIDUALS WORK MORE EFFICIENTLY AT NIGHT?
The riddle of night owls has received a lot of attention recently. There are numerous sources that can address the issue of nocturnal productivity, including a Rachael Rettner article. She looked at numerous studies and came to the conclusion that the following factors determine when we are most productive:
- Circadian rhythm, which differs in how owls and larks’ bodies respond to light: The name circadian rhythm is derived from the Latin words “circa,” which means “about,” and “dies,” which means “day.” It is used to describe how our bodies operate during the course of the day, including when we wake up, go to sleep, eat, when we are most active, etc.
It serves as the primary means of separating the night owls, early birds, and – who would have thought it? – the intermediate kind. According to science, the bulk of us actually fall under the last of the three kinds. The night owls would be individuals who stay up much past midnight, whereas the early birds would be those who get up incredibly early (like between 4 and 6 a.m.). However, research have revealed that the extremes are uncommon.
- Genetic predisposition: It goes without saying that the likelihood that you will be a night owl increases if someone in your family is or was one, especially one of your parents.
Researchers Satchidananda Panda and Luciano DiTacchio have discovered the gene that essentially serves as our bodies’ alarm clock. They can also be passed from parents to children just as easily as eye colour because they are hereditary traits.
- The “wiring” of our brain: Later in the afternoon, the brain is more active.
In addition to genetics, neurological research and imaging has repeatedly demonstrated that the brains of early birds and night owls just function differently. Night owls achieve their peak in the afternoon and evening, while the larks enjoy that productivity bump earlier in the morning.
- How our habits are shaped by our circumstances and way of life: Some people develop a night owl personality as a result of certain life changes. For instance, some parents only work more effectively at night because they have to because they have for a long time. Only when their children had gone to bed at 8 or 9 o’clock could they concentrate on their own work. Finally, some folks simply adore the night. Less noise and distractions are present, and the atmosphere is calmer. ADHD night owls have even claimed that their minds are less stimulated at night and that they can genuinely concentrate. To determine which factors specifically contributed to your development into the night owl you are today, it is worthwhile to examine your personal lifestyle, family, and general living situation. Perhaps it is the key to enhancing your work habits as a whole and bringing forth their full potential.
IS STAYING UP LATE ACCEPTABLE?
Our individual assessment? Absolutely. Your genetic make-up and the way your brain is wired cannot be changed. And as we’ve shown, those two things have a significant impact on whether you’re an early bird or a night owl. We cannot, however, ignore the fact that the world is made for early risers. Despite the fact that night owls are perceived as more adaptive and creative, statistics favour them when it comes to success.
It’s unfortunate that having a distinct biorhythm from your contemporaries still carries some shame. Even when night owls have spent years trying to conform to the traditional weekday mould, they can still be perceived as lethargic, incapable of adapting (ironically), or simply as the victims of poor habits.
Till Roenneberg, author of Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag and Why You’re So Tired, put it best:
“Once enlightened, they [night owls] started to understand themselves (and others) much better, began to appreciate their own individual time, and were suddenly relieved of the weight of prejudice ridiculing their temporal habits: for example, being called lazy if you don’t wake up fresh as a daisy by seven o’clock in the morning; or being called a boring person only because you don’t enjoy going out with friends after ten at night.”
Because of this, it’s essential for every night owl to set limits with the early risers in their personal and professional lives. Real success comes from overcoming the stigma and drawbacks associated with it. Specifically, the long-term effects of working late into the night on your body and psyche.
THERE IS HEALTH HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH NIGHT OWLS
The bad news is that night owls are more susceptible to a number of ailments since they work late. This is primarily the fault of individuals who cannot structure their job and do so, leading to excessive or insufficient sleep.
Our bodies are built to rotate with the sun throughout the day. Because the daytime is intended for work, hunting, and socialising and the night is intended for resting, this is something that is profoundly ingrained in our genes. Even though we no longer live in hunter-gatherer civilizations, it will take a long time for our bodies to evolve to keep up with our modern way of life. To put it simply, we mimic life and society more quickly than biology can keep up.
Because of this, the human body hasn’t completely adjusted to the night owl way of life. Sleep apnea, depression and anxiety, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension are among the dangers that researchers have determined to be the greatest offenders.
Despite how grim it may seem, there is no need to panic. In reality, by using this knowledge, night owls may organise their time more effectively and take better care of themselves. After all, being aware of the hazards can help you prevent negative outcomes. And in the following section, we’ll provide some advice on how to make the most of late-night work while maintaining good health.
FOR NIGHT OWLS, SOME PRODUCTIVITY ADVICE
Being a night owl and succeeding is feasible. That won’t be a problem for independent contractors and business owners. Their own schedules are created and maintained. But it can be difficult for knowledge workers, people trapped in cramped workplaces, and shift employees.
“Owls are at best, extroverted artists and intellectuals, or at worst, people who engage in dark arts and exert evil powers”– T. Roenneberg, Internal Time
- Decide when at night is the most productive for you: Even if you are really productive at night, you need structure. If not, you’ll likely start working too much and disrupt your sleep schedule. The threat of burnout is quite serious.
To add some linearity to your job, try timeboxing. If you’re not already, keep track of your time and tasks like a morning person would since precise data is your best friend. You’ll soon start to realise when it’s best for you to concentrate during the evening or night. Afterward, you can use breaks from concentrated work to rest and recharge.
- Maintain a regular sleeping routine: I almost heard a loud, unified response when I told a few acquaintances about all the research on the health dangers associated with night owls: “Sleep is sleep! What matters is how many hours you put in, not when you go to bed.
It matters, surprisingly enough, for those who concur. Timo Partonen found that the dangers persisted even when the night owls they evaluated slept a constant number of hours in the investigation on the health concerns associated with them. The body’s need for sleep at night was the root of the whole issue.
So, attempting to maintain a regular sleep schedule could be very beneficial. It also doesn’t have to be a significant shift. Regardless of your level of energy or the amount of work you have to do, deciding to go to bed at 1 or 2 a.m. every night is sufficient.
- Make your morning routine automated: Try to automate as much of your morning workload as you can if you’re a night owl who must report to work bright and early and has no other choice than to work a 9 to 5 job. Make a simple to-do list of some boring things to complete before your brain gets to work.
This could involve email archiving or inbox organisation, digital decluttering, gathering information in advance of more difficult activities, etc. Starting slowly and allowing your brain to awaken on its own terms will help.
- Keep a journal of your nighttime activities: We have already highlighted how much lowering health risks would benefit from understanding how to control your nighttime energy. This entails setting aside some time each day (or night) to write down information that has an impact on your routine. These may consist of:
- Foods that make you feel more energised or sleepy;
- Noises that either enhance or interfere with attention.
After tracking for a week, compile the data. Do you have any routines that would enable you to get at work earlier? Which ones make you feel sleepy when you wake up? How do you go about getting ready for bed?
The key to adjusting your schedule just enough to maintain productivity while adhering to the daytime work hours is found in some of those habits.
- Control the bedroom lights: It can be notoriously tough to wake up a night owl. They ignore numerous alerts and eventually fall asleep, awakening drowsy and dysfunctional.
In one study, participants camped out in the woods without access to electricity or lighting. They discovered a startling 69% shift in circadian timing, indicating that the environment had an impact on night owls. The body clock gradually resets when indoor lights, phones, computers, and TV screens are removed. Even if they weren’t entirely morning larks, they felt revived and more energised after waking up.
Get a sunrise alarm clock to try to replicate this. It is a lamp that progressively glows based on the actual sun, as opposed to noises waking you awake. It works better than a sudden loud noise to wake you up if your room is completely dark and your only alarm clock is the sun.
- Do not overeat: Similar to the last suggestion, prevent serious late-eating by carrying emergency snacks. In my college years, staying up late to study meant that I would become really hungry about midnight or one in the morning. Back then, a large dinner would definitely put me to sleep or cause me to wake up feeling nauseous. Not to mention that I carried some extra weight.
If you decide to skip a meal in favour of a snack, avoid bringing anything high in sugar and carbohydrates. You may feel fuller more quickly and easily, but you’ll also experience a sugar crash. This includes energy drinks, most candy bars, and processed foods like chips.
Night owls are a powerful force in the modern business. Although their routines may seem strange to the rest of us, they manage to function, and they are often more productive and adaptive than most of us. This gift, nevertheless, is not without its drawbacks. These practises can expose night owls to a wide range of health concerns. The solution appears to be learning how to organise their time, being dependable with their plans, choosing to sleep at certain hours during the night, and avoiding all-nighters.