Night Owls Aren’t Lazy -- We’re Just Wired Differently

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
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“Why are you still up?”

It’s 11:30 at night and one of my friends who can’t sleep sends me a message. For some reason, me “still” being up past 10 at night is a weird concept to some people, especially parents with young kids.

Well, you know what I find weird? Getting up at six in the morning for no reason other than you like to get up early. Staying up late isn’t really all that different; it’s just that we’re doing things on a slightly different body clock.

I have been a “night owl” since I was a kid. I loved the weekends not just because I didn’t have school, but because my parents let me stay up as long as I wanted. There were plenty of nights when I would outlast them, quietly watching television into the wee hours of the morning. As I got older, I would relish the time I could stay up late talking to my friends or reading a book in my room. Now, the late night is my time to be with myself. It’s my time to decompress.

Early mornings suck. Not just because I am more of a night person, but just because they suck. In an ideal world, I don’t have to get up before 9 in the morning, and most of the time I can make that happen. It’s the benefit of working for myself — I can set my own hours, which means that I’m not getting up at the buttcrack of dawn.

“But you’re a mom, doesn’t your kid get up early?”

Ha, no, he doesn’t. My kid is an even bigger night owl than I am. It took time to de-program him from literally going to bed in the middle of the night to now going to bed at a more reasonable hour for our lives. But he was never about that 6 a.m. life. On the days when he did wake up that early, a couple hours later we’d both be exhausted and take a nap.

Now that he’s a little older, I can give him a snack, turn on the TV or his tablet and go back to sleep without worrying that he’ll burn my house down or hurt himself. He knows to play quietly, and when I wake up he’ll proudly proclaim “I played quiet for you, Mommy!” He’s a real peach when it comes to that. And even his idea of early is still considered late for most people; he’s rarely up before 8 in the morning either.

For me, the nighttime is when I feel most invigorated. There is something to be said for tucking the world in to sleep, and then staying up to enjoy the silence. Night people are my people; we just see the world differently. That doesn’t mean that we’re vampires or weird, we just like to be awake at a different time. For me, the late night is when I feel most clear-headed, because I’ve put the day’s stresses to bed for the night. I can focus on whatever needs my attention, and most often that’s my work.

Sometimes, as much as I try, I can’t get anything done during the day, because it’s like I’m running a laundry list of all the things that I still need to accomplish. Did I remember to pay such-and-such bill? How much longer before I have to cook dinner? At night, I can set that all aside and focus. If I tried to do that in the early morning, I’d still be focusing on all the things that need to get done before bed, and not what needs to be done in that moment.

I do admit, however, that I sometimes envy early morning people — the way they can get up before the sun and feel invigorated enough to tackle the day. I remember my nephew, who was probably about seven at the time, waking me up at some ungodly hour and saying, “The sun is awake, so you have to be awake too.” I looked at him and grunted before throwing the blanket over my head and going back to sleep.

But I couldn’t argue with his logic. I don’t mind seeing the sunrise; I’d just rather be seeing it because I haven’t gone to bed yet. But for me, the earlier I get up, the more the day drags. I’ll look at the clock and be like, “How is it only ten? I feel like I’ve been up for years.” I’ve maybe been up for a couple hours, but time is crawling. At night, I can sit down at ten, and look at the clock reading midnight and feel like only twenty minutes have gone by.

So many people ask me how I balance my work and being a single parent so successfully, and I tell them it’s because I stay up late. I get so much accomplished in the late night hours because it’s quiet, and since I have more brain power and energy, I can sit down and work uninterrupted. My boss is used to getting emails from me in the middle of the night because that’s when I tend to be my most productive. I have already laid the day to rest, and I’m only taking baby steps towards the next day.

That’s my secret. I do it all when everyone else is asleep. Sure, that might mean I sleep in the next morning, but I don’t have anything major hanging over my head while I have to tackle the million small things that need to get done during the day like grocery shopping and laundry. So no, I’m not lazy, and I’m not superwoman; I just do everything when everyone else is asleep.

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