Being a Night Owl…This is MY Normal! {Miscelaneous, Life Prints Portrait Design}

Posted on March 15, 2011. Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , |

I am a night owl, a night person… definitely NOT a morning person!  I am also the mother of an 8-year-old and a business owner.  These facts present a problem.  Why?  Because the vast majority of society (at least in the United States, which is where I happen to live) live and work on the presumption that 9am-5pm is normal.  Yes indeed, this is a problem.

Here’s a little background.  Growing up, my mom slept a lot and at times which were not conducive to raising three children.  There could have been a plethora of reasons behind this, but needless to say it affected the entire family in a very negative way.  As I look back on it now in creating this little history, I am feeling guilty and more than a little bit of camaraderie with my mom as to how life must have been for her back then (as well as now since this continues to be an issue for her.)  I can say that the sleep “issues” I have now are not new by any stretch of the imagination.

High School:  I was raised mormon and I was raised in California.  That being said, for all four years of high school, I attended what is called early morning seminary… religious classes at 6am at the church prior to going to school at 7:45ish.  I graduated from seminary, though I’m not quite sure how considering that if you added up all of my missed mornings of classes for all four years, I think I totalled about two years of actual class attendance.  Even once I got to my regular high school classes each morning, first period was a complete waste as I literally slept through most of it.   Needless to say, I was not any more a morning person then than I am now. 

Young Adulthood:  At nineteen years old, I was promoted to store manager at a location for a popular frozen yogurt chain.  Great job… unless I had to be there early to open the store.  That wasn’t usually too much of a problem since we didn’t open the doors until 10am.  I could get there by 9am and be alright… most of the time.  There were days though that I had to be there by 6am to tear apart, clean, sanitize and reassemble the frozen yogurt machines.  I managed okay… until the end of my second year in that job.  I had been handed the rains of one of the busiest corporate stores in the company, which was located just miles from the corporate headquarters.  I just couldn’t make it out of bed that day to clean the machines.  I wanted to.  I had planned to.   But it didn’t happen.  When I did arrive, I did the best I could but didn’t exactly do a stellar job.  Later that day, I received a call from the company’s vice president who was wondering why I hadn’t shown up (how the heck did he know?)  Unfortunately on top of not being a morning person, I had started to develop a nifty catalog of excuses (and in some cases outright lies) as to why things didn’t get done in the mornings.  On this occasion, I got caught in a lie by the VP of the company.  He was nice enough to allow me to resign rather than fire me.  That was a big lesson for a young kid… don’t make excuses or lie when you can’t get your butt out of bed in the morning.  I felt guilty.  I felt worthless.  I had screwed up a good job and I knew it.  Fortunately (I thought), I was 21 years old and had a big change coming up for me as a member of the mormon church.

My Time As A Missionary:  I’ll keep this part short.  I served a mission for the mormon church which for a female consists of leaving when you are 21+ years old and serving full-time for 18 months in the city and country which you are assigned to teaching folks about the church and it’s beliefs.  I was assigned to go to New York City in the spanish speaking program.   I was thrilled to be going as I had planned on doing so my entire life and I just knew that I would be able to overcome all of my weaknesses during this time period.  I knew that if I was obedient to all of the rules of the mission and the church that I would come out stronger and be blessed in many ways.  I would like to say that I do not regret having served a mission for the LDS church even though I am no longer actively involved with it.  I met wonderful people, had some fantastic experiences and learned a lot about myself.  The reason I bring this period up is that one of the mission rules was that we had to be back in our apartment by 9pm and in bed by 10pm, then be up no later than 6am the next morning.  I followed this rule to the t for the entire 18 months.  It was more than difficult to get to sleep early and to be up that early, but I did it.  I felt that if I did so, when I got back home I would be somehow cured of my sleep problems and be able to go forth and prosper as a morning person.  Bottom line… it didn’t work.  That, along with a number of other “weaknesses”, were not only not overcome but I came home dismayed and distraught that I had failed to turn my faults into strengths… maybe more on that another time.

Life As An Adult Student & A Working Adult:  Over the next couple of decades, it became crystal clear to me through trial and many errors that I was most definitively not a morning person (as if I didn’t already know that.)  If I had problems with classes in college or at work, it was ALWAYS due to an early morning schedule and me being late.  That’s it.  That sums up my life as a student and employee… if it’s in the morning, I’m in trouble.  So I learned to make sure my schedules always started after 10am.  Unfortunately the society we live in doesn’t always work that way and I would continue to fall into the early morning trap whenever my will was not taken into consideration… in other words, when forced to be someplace early… I’m in trouble.  That’s not to say that I can’t sometimes get up early and be okay.  If I have to do it on a regular basis or for an extended period of time however, then… I’m in trouble.

Being A Mom:  Well, what can I really say here?  Babies don’t wait for you to get your butt up out of bed… nor do toddlers or 8 year olds.  I take that back.  My 8-year-old will wait now because he can watch TV or play on his computer.  However, the school frowns on my bringing him in at 10:30am every morning. 

Living With An Early Bird:   So, a couple of years ago I meet a fantastic person who is highly motivated and is up at the crack of dawn every morning.  I played along for a while… hey, we were in the honeymoon phase and we do CRAZY things for love.  I went to bed earlier and got up earlier and didn’t even mind… for a while.  But eventually all good things must come to an end.  Have I mentioned that I’m not a morning person?  Not even love can conquer all things I’m afraid.  More power to her.  I am truly amazed at the amount of work she can get done at six o’clock in the morning.  It astounds me to be honest.  But I catch back up at midnight!!

And Finally, Being A Business Owner:  Hmmm, 9-5 you say?  Those are the hours I should be open?  I suppose so.  But here’s the thing, that doesn’t really work for me.  I know because I’ve tried… for my entire life.  Where has it gotten me?  Feeling guilty & frustrated and missing deadlines, appointments and generally disappointing everyone around me.  Depression?  Yep.  Feeling worthless?  Yep.  Angry?  Yep, even that.  At myself and the world that tries to force me into it’s box.  (As a self admitted free spirit, I don’t do well with being boxed in!)  So, what to do? 

What am I suppose to do with all of this information that I’ve gathered over the past 41 1/2 years?  I give.  I will not try to force myself to be and do something that is not me.  I’ve said it before and then I’ve gone and tried to do what the rest of the world says I need to.  Does this seem silly?  It may to many of you because this isn’t your issue to deal with.  But many of you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

This post actually started out as an email to my mom to tell her about some information that I found on the internet.  It quickly became apparent to me however that I had a lot more to say about this. 

Here’s how the email originally started

I’ve been very frustrated lately (well okay, for my entire life really) because of not being able to get up in the morning to live life on the rest of the world’s schedule.  I know that you understand exactly what I am saying.  Having a child who needs to get to school every morning forces me to get up, but I either end up back in bed or very grumpy and groggy.  Of course, I have tried many, many times throughout my life to change my sleep patterns but to no avail.  When I was on my mission, I followed the rules exactly which were to go to bed by 10pm and be up at 6am every morning.  I did it… though it was not easy.  I really thought that after 18 months of this, I would be able to maintain that type of schedule and not have problems functioning in the mornings any more.  Guess what?  As soon as I came home and was allowed to follow what my body naturally wanted to do, I was right back to being an extreme “night owl” and having trouble if forced to wake earlier than about 10am (though noon would be better.)

And here is what I found that I wanted to share with her…  Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.  There is actually a real sleep disorder that describes the problems that I experience, and they have made genetic links to it.  I have to say that while I have not been diagnosed with it, everything that I have read so far fits me to a capital T.  I’ll be discussing this with my primary health provider this week.  Knowing that I’m not just lazy or a flake makes my heart light with joy!  What I also read is that the treatments for this have mixed results and most do not fix the problem long-term.  That too is important for me to know.  It takes a whole load of stress off me because I understand that there is a physiological issue going on inside me that allows me to be awake until 2-3am every night and get my best work done, and that while I sleep pretty well during the time I’m asleep, it is perfectly normal FOR ME to not be able to wake up fully before 10am-12pm.  I don’t have to feel guilty about it or feel like I am somehow falling short of where I should be as an adult, a mom, a business woman or as a human being.  This is my normal.  And knowing that will allow me to do what I need to in order to be successful.  If that means not scheduling photo shoots or meetings with clients before 11am then that’s what I’ll do.  If that means staying up until 2am every night to get all my work done (such as this blog or editing clients images), then so be it.  I’ll get up with my son in the mornings and get him to school because society demands it (and he really likes it.)  Then I’ll come home and go back to bed until my body says it’s the right time to get up.  Rinse and repeat.

I know this may seem strange to a lot of people out there, but I am really feeling a sense of peace about this right now.  This is something that has tormented me my entire life and with which I have struggled with and against.  I have put way too much energy into it and I can start to let it go now.  Another piece of who I am has slipped comfortably into place and I will allow it to exist in peace and harmony with all the other pieces that may or may not fit quite right yet. 

So to all you morning larks out there… bravo!  I’m glad it works for you.  To my fellow night owls, let’s forget about the guilt and do what works for us.  We’ll be happier and healthier for it!

Thanks for reading along with this epiphany of mine!  I hope everyone finds the things in life that work for them and make a glorious life out of it all.


PS – Come take a look at my photography site if you feel like it!

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    Musings of an eternal optimist on all things photographic, business and well… life in general


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