Night Owl Does Not Equal Lazy

I don’t normally post things like this, but this is something that I think needs to be said. I want all of you, my readers, to understand me and my process. I want to share things with you. I want to let you in on how I work, and this is a big part of that.

So I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts, but I thought I would go into a bit more detail and give it a whole post all to itself. I’m a night owl. And I do mean that in a fairly extreme way. I wake around noon, and I can’t sleep before the hour of 3 AM.

I’ve been told for years that I’m lazy. Bosses, family, coworkers, fellow students in high school – they’ve all told me the same thing. I need to make myself wake up earlier and go to bed at a decent time, then I’ll feel better about work and school and I’ll get more done. I’ve tried everything to make that happen, and nothing works. No matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself be more productive early in the day, and I can’t make it any easier to be a morning person.

I have nothing against morning people. not at all, actually. I admire the people who can get out of bed in the morning and immediately go for a run or go to work with a smile on their face. I always wished I could be like that, simply for the fact that I have been so ridiculed for so long that I was ashamed to tell people how I felt about mornings. I hated telling people that I didn’t want to work at 9:00 because it was too early, especially when those people were working that same time or earlier. I was always told to suck it up and be normal. Everyone else has to wake up early, so why was it so hard for me?

What those people failed to understand, usually because they thought I was lying or exaggerating, is that I physically cannot function that early in the morning. I get physically ill and dizzy, and it makes me slow for the remainder of the day. I find it hard to focus on anything, no matter how much I enjoy the subject or project. I try so hard, but I can’t do it. All I can think about is when I can finally sleep in again so that I can feel normal again without the urge to vomit. Those of you reading this may think that even that is an exaggeration, but I assure you it isn’t. I find it difficult to stay on my feet, it’s hard to keep up with conversations, my vision fails randomly, and the smell of any food is enough to turn me from eating for hours. I can’t keep anything down even if I tried, so it wouldn’t matter anyway.

And those things last all day. Even a quick nap doesn’t make it any better. It doesn’t get any better as the day goes on. I get bouts of energy that last maybe half an hour, and then I fade again, struggling to get anything done.

No, I can’t do mornings. I can’t change my schedule. To those readers who may think that this is just the argument of someone who doesn’t like mornings: you are a big part of the problem. I don’t like posting things like this, things so personal, especially when they can be taken as accusations, but this is something that has always bothered me. Morning people who have never had a problem getting up early and getting things done have no idea what kind of struggle we night owls go through on a daily basis.

Not everyone is productive at the same time of day, so why is it so hard to believe that some people are more productive at night? I’ve mentioned before that I know when my productive hours are. I get my best work done between the hours of 10 PM and 4 AM. Not because that’s when I choose to sit down and work, but because I can sit and stare at my screen or at a notebook or canvas for hours before that and get absolutely nothing done.

My inspiration always strikes at night, and it’s when I feel most energized. And shouldn’t a person work when they feel they can be most productive? Just like you can’t for inspiration to happen, or you can’t force the zone to come to you, you can’t force productivity, at least not true productivity. You can make things happen, sure, but you aren’t getting the best that person can offer. Why force them to work at 60 or 70% and then be angry that their work isn’t up to par when you can let them work when they are at their peak and get better results?

This is a big reason why I am self-employed. I chose to work for myself so that I could work during my peak hours of the day rather than when my boss needed me to work. I felt useless trying to do my job before noon, and I was always being harassed by any of my bosses for being slow for at least a few hours of my shift if I was made to work that early. It created way more stress than I needed, and it meant that by the time I finished work, I was too tired and stressed from my schedule being messed with that I couldn’t get anything done for myself.

The kicker?

Despite being tired and not having the energy to work on any of my personal projects, I still could not get to sleep until 3:00 or later. Waking up early doesn’t mean that I go to sleep earlier. It just means that I get less sleep. And if I have to get up early for several days in a row, it means that lack of sleep is completely detrimental by the end of the week, and I begin slurring my words, my eyes turn red and puffy, I get extremely irritable, and walking becomes a real challenge.

Tonight is actually the perfect example of this, and that is a lot of the reason I decided to write this post. I woke up at 8 AM to work at 9, and I struggled to get through a short two hours of work that I had no choice but to do for my client at that ungodly hour. As a result, I spent the entire day sitting on the sofa at my best friend’s house trying to force myself to work on the million things I need to get done. The end result? This blog post is the only thing I’m getting done today. And the only reason this is even getting done is because, lo and behold, inspiration struck at midnight to explain my situation. I figured that telling you all about this during my peak hours on a night that it is really in full swing might be the best time to share this. It is currently 1:57 AM where I am, and despite waking hours earlier than normal, I know that I couldn’t sleep now if I tried. i won’t be able to sleep for at least another hour.

So why am I telling all of you this? Is it to rant and rave and get it out of my system? Yes and no. I’m sharing this with you because I know that being a night owl is more than just a preference for some people. I know that for some people, it’s a biological thing that can’t be helped. I know how much it hurts when people assume you are lazy simply because you run on a different schedule. I know how frustrating it can be when you argue, and nothing you say gets through because people just don’t understand. I wrote this post in the hopes that the readers I have who are early birds might read this post and gain a little insight as to why some people may not function as well in the early hours of the day, or why maybe someone you know has trouble waking up early. Maybe it’s not laziness – maybe it’s that their clock is set differently than yours.

In today’s society and willingness to accept people, I believe it’s time that night owls are finally recognized for what they are: hard-working individuals who thrive during a different time of day than the vast majority of the world. Not all night owls are party animals or druggies or alcoholics or low-lifes. Some of us are extremely motivated and productive and creative, some even more so than people who work “normal” jobs during “regular” hours. We just run on a different schedule than you do.

To my fellow night owls: Don’t let society tell you that there is something wrong with you or that you are lazy or a slacker. It’s okay to be different and to have different hours than most people. Embrace it. It’s not a bad thing, it just means you have to find something that works better for you.

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4 thoughts on “Night Owl Does Not Equal Lazy

  1. Mike Senczyszak says:

    I hear ya. Early in my career I worked 12 hour shifts for 10 years, I always preferred nightshift to days. It’s a different world out there after 2 am, most people never see it. Great post!

    • Kimberley Crawford says:

      Thanks. šŸ™‚ I prefer late night to any time of day, and I find it’s the best time for relaxing walks (at least here in my small town where wild animals are a bigger threat than people).

  2. Laurie Welch says:

    I love this! I was just explaining this to a friend last week. I have always been a night person, even as a kid and was forced to conform to daylight hours all through school and for most of my work life. I do not have the severe symptoms as you have in the morning, but I am not at my best. Not until the afternoon do I start to pick up and I am great about 7pm! Tonight I took a nice walk about 11pm, then I organized my day for tomorrow and now I am going to read for an hour or so. Around 2am is when I start getting sleepy.

    I lost my job about a year and a half ago and since then I have been doing work at home and am back to a schedule that feels so much better, because *I* feel so much better and alert. Your post is so articulate and I hope it helps those morning people who just don’t get that not everyone is like them.

    • Kimberley Crawford says:

      I’m glad you like it! It’s something that’s bothered me for years. No one really seems to understand what it’s like for those of us who just can’t physically function at the same time of day as what’s expected in “normal” situations, be it work or otherwise. I don’t think we get enough credit for forcing ourselves to get up earlier than we are comfortable with to try to fit the general standards we’ve been expected to conform to.

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