6 Practices that Transformed me from a Night Owl into an Early Bird
…And why you might want to take advantage of them too.
There is a common belief that we’re either a Night Owl or an Early Bird. For most of my life I identified as a Night Owl, until I came to understand the negative effects of artificial light, particularly the high energy blue light spectrum.
Recently, it also dawned on me that as a child, around the same age as buying my first mobile phone and game console, I dramatically shifted from someone who couldn’t sleep-in to save themselves, to dragging myself out of bed, just making the bus to school. This continued on into my adult life, just making the tram to work.
I learned my natural 24hr body clock — circadian rhythm — was completely out of whack and never had a chance to get back on track, with my nighttime screen use only increasing as the years went by. It’s no wonder I had challenges with my health, when my body was only able to secrete a fraction of the anti-aging and sleep (melatonin) hormone, preventing me from enough regenerative sleep, in addition to the blue light causing blood sugar spikes, and practically every organ to be out of whack.
thankfully I’ve come a long way from that; I finally enjoy the stillness and gentle pace of my morning routine, as the early morning sun floods the lounge, which helps me feel grounded and gain momentum for the rest of the day. Although I consistently experiment and refine my habits to best suit my lifestyle, here’s what helped me succeed when I originally took on the challenge of becoming an Early Bird.
#1 Setting the intention
Whilst I seemed to do well being productive, doing assignments, and catching up on life admin late into the night, all my research and exploration into dealing with my chronic fatigue and countless other symptoms, consistently indicated this was against my body’s natural rhythm, and counterintuitive to how we evolved. Additionally, when by chance I got a morning with early morning sun, a relaxing practice like yoga and ate some healthy breakfast, all by the time I usually woke up, I felt accomplished. So as simple as it sounds, deciding to give my body the best chance at health, as well as experiencing more of that feeling was key, as it got me motivated and was the why behind the positive habits I subsequently formed.
#2 Dark Therapy
The most noticeable impact was from wearing (ORANGE not CLEAR or YELLOW) Blue Blocking eyewear EVERY night, 2-3hrs before sleep, as well as using minimal lighting, such as a salt lamp or red globes. This meant my body knew it was night time without the confusion of white (blue) light hitting the photoreceptors of my skin and eyes, and naturally my melatonin could get be released. This really has to experienced to understand what a dramatic difference you feel; by around 8:30/9 pm I could literally feel the surges of sleep hormone hit me, barely keeping my eyes open.
What helped me become so consistent with this, was having someone to be accountable to, for me it was a friend who also knew the importance of wearing them. However, an alarm with a reminder on your phone around sunset could work just as well. Another good idea is to use a habit app like done or habitshare to track this.
“Researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The fact that the levels of the hormone were about the same in the two groups strengthens the hypothesis that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin.”
#3 Sun Gazing
Thanks to being reacquainted with my natural melatonin supply, I was able to wake up early and get exposure to the early morning sun (before the UV index becomes harmful) for at least 5 mins. while doing another part of my morning routine like yoga or walking the dog, if I’m short on time. Another simple one, yet this has significant effects on your circadian rhythm; as that specific spectrum hits the photoreceptors of your retinas and skin your brain is sent the signal what time of day it is and therefore what functions it should be performing and not performing.
“Expose yourself to lots of bright (natural) light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.”
#4 Setting a wind-down/bedtime
I found it really helpful to have set times to aim for, additionally is well documented that keeping a consistent bedtime is highly beneficial for our circadian rhythms. I worked towards a realistic time, based on my usual activities but that also gave me at least 9–10 hours in bed, as we on-average spend an hour of that awake.
#5 Going to bed without my phone (in Airplane mode)
It doesn’t have to be a binge-worthy show on Netflix for me to completely disregard an early bedtime and stay up researching, scrolling, or otherwise doing things on my phone that suddenly seem extremely urgent and consuming. I found iPhone’s screen time only helps so much as I’m likely just to ignore the settings I create. So the best solution for me was leaving my phone to charge in another room so it’s too much effort for me to get up again to check something. As for an alarm I bought an inexpensive battery-operated one, which I never need to set now, as my aligned circadian rhythm means I wake up at 7 am every morning.
#6 Living with like-minded people
I get that this step may not be as simple for everyone, depending on your living situation, however even just being conscious of it can help when you do have more choice in the matter. When I was living with a housemate I made sure I chose someone who’s schedule roughly aligned with my own and wasn’t coming home at all hours for work etc… so as not to be woken or kept up past my normal bedtime. Thankfully when living with a partner, prioritizing sleep has been a mutual desire. Although not every night perfectly runs to the routine and times agreed on it makes it that much easier for me to stick with when naturally as a female my diffused awareness gets the better of me, I have masculine structured energy to remind me to get to bed.
I challenge you to do your own experiment with some of all of these…
If you can relate to the struggles of being a Night Owl or just want to give your body the best chance at resolving chronic illnesses, depression/anxiety, weight issues, or sleep disorders. I would love to hear what your experience is if you do try, let me know in the comments.