Can A Night Owl Really Ever Become An Early Bird?

Can A Night Owl Really Ever Become An Early Bird?

7.00am start? Never met her.

As a student, a typical night before a deadline involves me, between shots of caffeine, aggressively hammering out my latest assignment while everyone else is tucked up in bed. The clock becomes irrelevant – just a tiny number, hidden in the corner of my screen, praying I haven’t noticed him.

My most productive moments in life occur when the sun goes down, but this isn’t entirely due to student culture. It’s just me.

I’ve always been the last one to go to bed in my family. While snoring can be heard from my parent’s room, I’m still wide-eyed and feeling as if my day will be cut short if I don’t stay up for another few hours. Sleep? Now? I’m nowhere near tired.

On a normal morning, I’m also last to crawl out of my hovel. I’ll stumble downstairs, hair unkempt and stomach growling, to see my mum dressed and glowing, already knee-deep into her busy day. It’s not even lunchtime and she’s already been swimming, finished the laundry, done the weekly shop, redecorated the entire house and arranged a hitman for Donald Trump. Me? I’m still trying to work out what day it is.

Our society favours stability. We all want a steady job – nine to five, on a salary perhaps. But some of us just don’t seem set up for that. And so, the question is: is it possible to make a morning person out of a night owl?

A lot of our sleep schedule is rooted in our genes. You’re not just being lazy (well, maybe a little in my case). But maybe you’re not supposed to be awake this early. A mutation in a gene called CRY1 can alter your body clock, even being linked to delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD).

But there must be something I can do. There must be a way to get feel refreshed and prepared for the day, even with that little voice in my head describing the comfort of my bed. 

I tried getting up early every day for a week. Ideally, before seven, but never after eight was my goal. Yes, some people do this every day out of choice. Yes, some of you may see this as an easy task. But in the same way some of you will shudder when I say that I can stay awake until 5.00am – and not even feel tempted by a yawn – I will find this challenging.

Day one was a struggle. I felt dead to the world until I joined my mum on her morning swim. Observation number one: despite my hate-hate relationship with exercise, it does wake you up.

The following morning, I went for a walk. This turned out to be a good idea, with the cold breeze making me more alert and the clear sky opening my eyes. Observation two: get some sun.

Day three started with another swim. Things were looking up.

Day four I laid in bed. Until 10.00am. Maybe I was wrong.

Day five I told myself I was going to succeed. But when my alarm went off at 7.00am, I just scooped my phone off of my bedroom floor and spent a good hour watching cat videos. Observation number three: if you want to get up early, give yourself a reason to. 

Day six was different. Instead of writing my essay for university the night before, I decided I’d get up early and do it this morning. And actually, this did give me a great sense of achievement. I felt like I could do anything that day. That was until about 3.00pm when I fell asleep on the sofa, dribbling in front the TV screen with Friends episodes on repeat.

Finally, the last day was here. I had to get up early for work, but decided to go for a walk first. Observation four: prioritise your head in the morning. Start your day with an activity which clears your mind, and whatever you have to face later won’t seem so bad. 

So, am I now a changed woman? No. I still like lie ins. I still end up staying up late, for no apparent reason. But there’s possibility now. Mornings were once my arch nemesis, but on the odd occasion our paths cross in the future, I know she’ll have my back.