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Sleep tweaks boost night owls' wellbeing (bbc.com)
161 points by seagullz on June 10, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 157 comments

I've had sleep problems for as long as I can remember. I self-diagnosed Non-24 Sleep-Wake Disorder, where your body clock is typically slightly longer than a 24 hours, and so you feel tired later and later every day, eventually going to sleep is nearly impossible. It makes keeping to a normal routine extremely difficult.

The fix for me was morning blue light lamp, as soon as I wake up, for one hour. And 1.5 hours before bedtime, I take 500mcg melatonin. These 2 things worked like a miracle. I kept a log of doing these things, and the exact time I performed them, for a month. After a month, the habit was there, and I know have a normal sleep pattern, so long as I stick to the light and the supplement. It's had a huge impact on my life.

EDIT>> 500mcg, not mg

I'm in the same situation. What blue light lamp are you using? How did you settle on your current melatonin regime?

Also, any other advice that you may have would be appreciated, thanks!

This is the lamp https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079YBGPM5. The important aspect of it is to have it within 12 inches of your face when using it, but not directly in your eyes (can mess with your eyes). I usually have mine in front of my keyboard, tilted up, so the majority of the light is coming in from the bottom of my eyes.

As far as melatonin, I have to point out that I edited my post to say 500mcg (0.5mg) not 500mg. I've done some reading that the light doses work very well http://news.mit.edu/2005/melatonin. I haven't really tinkered with the dosage much, because the dosage I started with seems to work well.

The last thing I will say is that keeping a log is important. I've never been one to keep logs for things, but I knew if I was going to fix this problem and make it a habit, I needed to stick to it rigidly for a month. That's what it took for the habit to form, and I'm glad I did it. Best of luck!

Thank you for the details! Same situation, trouble going to sleep for most of my adult life. Going to give this a shot to see how it works for me.

Assuming the screen to be 0.5 square feet, that is only about 465 lumens. LED bulbs for standard sockets are commonly available up to 4000 lumens, and I have a bigger one that is about 7000 lumens.

I have those all over my house.

My kitchen has 14 40-watt T12 bulbs, probably 2600 lumens each, which would total 36400 lumens.

Yeah I couldn't be around lights that intense later in the day. Same thing with computer screens...I have them dim and disable blue wavelengths around sunset.

Thanks! In case you or anyone else is interested in more details about melatonin, here is some info: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/07/10/melatonin-much-more-th...

I might have a slightly different version but what works for me is going to bed when I'm not tired. I tried going to bed when I'm tired on a stay-cation once, and my sleep did a full 24-hour rotation in 16 days (so, on day ~7-8 I was going to bed at noon and waking at 8pm or so, and around day ~15 I was back on normal schedule). However, if I simply go to bed despite not being sleepy, it works fine.

500mg melatonin?? I take like 10mg occasionally and considered it effective

Edited, 500mcg, sorry about that! Studies show that the smaller doses have great effect http://news.mit.edu/2005/melatonin

Interesting, I will give this a try thanks!

If you use the blue for an hour does that set your 'start of day' to the start or end of that hour?

This 9-5 mentality being imposed in a way that if your sleep pattern is an owl, you're kinda ostracized and viewed as an issue you need to fix, has been going on forever. When the crux suggestion from this `research` is to go to bed 2-3 hours earlier and wake up 2-3 hours earlier and presuming the person does not have DSPS (Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome) or other genetic trait that causes this is, and always is, offencive.

The way we treat night owls is akin to mental health in the 40's.

Not everybody works 9-5, not every job can be fitted into a 9-5. But many of the jobs allocated 9-5 could equally benefit from flexi-time and have those who wake up early come in earlier and those who wake up late, come in later. Covering more hours, and cater for those who are equally not 9-5 people.

It's time work hours got some research, not the people being forced into this arbitrary cookie-cutter mentality.

Some companies already do flexi-time and cater for such people, but time and time again, the media and research go to mentality is in viewing such peoples as an issue in a way that parallels many forms of negative science we have seen historically upon many differences between humans.

People's sleep patterns are not unified, not even binary, and people should be able to find the sleep pattern that works for them and not be forced into all wearing the same dictated sleep pattern.

With that, the way to boost wellbeing of night owls is: 1) Stop treating them as an issue but an opportunity and embrace that diversity. 2) See point one and stop repeating the same mistakes with different categorisation.

I have also read a study (can find a link if somebody wants it) that observed bushmen in the kalahari (or somewhere like that - mostly untouched by modern civilisation) and found that the distribution of sleeping patterns (i.e. night owls vs early birds) was pretty uniform. They also found that because of this, there was always somebody in the tribe who was awake at any given point. They theorised an evolutionary advantage to this in that there is always somebody awake to keep watch.

Maybe you are referring to David Samson's study of the Hadza tribe in Northern Tanzania? "Chronotype Variation Drives Nighttime Sentinel-Like Behaviour in Hunter-Gatherers", 2017. [0]

Or in some more entertaining format at Duke University's website [1].

[0] http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.0967.

[1] https://today.duke.edu/2017/07/live-grandparents-helped-huma...

A similar evolutionary argument was put forward in "Why We Sleep"[0] by Matthew Walker. Its mention in the book was less specific, so I'm not sure if it's referring to the same study.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_We_Sleep

I'd also add that by forcing a 9-5 mentality we create a situation which has everybody traveling to and from work at the same time, yielding delays adding to stress, pollution...

Not saying that by solving the 9-5 mentality we will solve climate change, but it sure would be a measurable improvement on that front as well as mental health as a whole. Maybe somebody should research that.

Capitalists: let's use markets to efficiently allocate resources!

Also nominal capitalists: let's dictate labor schedules so that everyone has no choice but to simultaneously compete for available transport.

A sensible outcome if communication and other network losses from lack of co-location outweigh the costs of high peak transportation requirements and the costs of those being under-provisioned.

Which was probably very true in the past, and while changing is probably still true.

Because the capital owners have externalized the cost of transportation to work onto labor. They don't pay you to sit in traffic so they don't care how efficient it is.

Granted, but maybe the most curious thing about it is less the outcome than the mechanism -- there's apparently not an aggregately negotiated process that's market-like for arriving at the schedule for an organization.

I suppose I can imagine that perhaps at some point maybe there was a diversity of choices, and perhaps some critical plurality settled around 9-5 external facing availability, and once that happened, others that did the same had an inter-firm communication efficiency advantage, leading to wide adoption, but that's a just-so story rather than a studied opinion. Anyone know the actual history?

And that's a more macro scale. Internally, one presumes that either:

* It doesn't occur to most management to think about different ways of doing scheduling at all

* They've thought about it and it seems that the cost of aggregating an adaptive schedule is larger than the cost of dictating one (especially if most of the latter costs can truly be externalized!)

* Real day-to-day and career incentives for management reward 9-5 schedules

The managers want everything run on their schedule so they can keep an eye on things. That is the process, for better or worse.

I've worked at two or three startups (and heard of others) where, when it was time to move to bigger offices, there was a long discussion about moving the company out to the suburbs. Everyone hired on because the job was downtown, except who? Management. Now that we're doing well they want to make their lives easier. It came to some very angry conversations and threats of quitting before they would relent.

If memory serves, none of these individuals were of the facilitator school of thought, where the manager's job is to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Outcome is also aggravated by costs of co-location being paid mostly by employees, while a cost of network losses being paid mostly by businesses.

Its not the capitalists that untied cost from utilisation time when it comes to transport.

Anarcho-capitalists: roads with congestion pricing lead to an efficient balance of changes to schedules, housing location, and salaries. (This seems totally implementable now with cell-phone networks.)

Every time I've thought about that, my first internal response has been "there's already congestion pricing!" That is, there's already a very visceral cost imposed in terms of time and aggravation, along with increased fuel consumption and marginal automotive wear. The fact that people do it anyway indicates that the incentive structure pushing the congested commute is bigger.

Whether additional congestion fees could help really depends on how much bigger that structure is. My own guess is that it's quite a bit bigger, to the point where the pain involved (not to mention rents sought) before you find the point where congestion fees actually flip behavior is too large to yield a stable or reasonable outcome.

Yes, there is a cost of time and aggravation without congestion pricing. That's the point! When you decide whether to make a particular trip, you're deciding whether to impose the time/aggravation cost on everyone else using the road (because an additional car slows every car down some), but you don't pay that cost; they do. (As you pay the cost of their decisions.) It's a kind of tragedy of the commons, like the exhaust going out the tailpipes.

Pricing at the marginal cost aligns the incentive structure. What you said was like saying "There's already a carbon tax! That is, there's already a very visceral cost imposed in terms of the climate change we're already seeing." Hot weather doesn't get people to stop spewing CO2 out their tailpipes; expensive gas does, which is what a carbon tax is supposed to be about.

> What you said was like saying "There's already a carbon tax! That is, there's already a very visceral cost imposed in terms of the climate change we're already seeing."

If engaging in greenhouse-magnifying activities resulted in the same immediacy of frustration and discomfort that getting on a crowded freeway does, then sure, I'd not only contend that a carbon tax would be unnecessary, I'd go so far as to say as global warming wouldn't be a policy conversation at all until roughly the time the total waste heat output of human activity started raising the average temps.

Instead when I turn on a light or fill up a gas tank or type an argument on a computer, all I get is useful activity. There's no inherent negative feedback. Additional cost is one of the few signals that could be added.

When you get on the freeway, even in the absence of a fee or tax for your marginal contribution to everyone else's more arduous travel, you are immediately experiencing the aggregated marginal costs contributed by everyone else, in a way that you don't even have to calculate (though you could), you can feel.

And yet people do it anyway. Why? Certainly not because there aren't immediately apparent costs.

A solution that's incurious about why people are willing to bear existing costs isn't likely to be particularly effective at changing behavior. Or at predicting second-order effects even if it does find a price point at which it does.

Have you ever known someone to decide "Let's not take the car this time, it'd create too much congestion for other people"? Because that's a different cost, in amount and not just in who pays, from "With the traffic it'll take us 5 minutes longer than usual". You're not getting the negative feedback of your own decision here either; it's an increment like how when the CO2 goes out the tailpipe, the air right around you the driver is for you personally a little worse.

Of course reality is more complex than a toy model. I brought up the simplest model because your objection seems to me even cruder. People are not generally Hofstadter's superrational agents directly overcoming game-theoretical equilibria in prisoner's dilemmas with a million strangers.

Great post. I've successfully managed living a life with getting up at 5am despite being an individual that, when able, returns to a 2:30 AM sleeping time (and waking up at about 10), but this was primarily to successfully attend my 8-5 job and get a workout in at non-peak hours. But I'm far happier, and more creative, whenever I don't have to fit my life around office hours and can just roll with the ebb and tide of my head.

How do you condition yourself to wake up at 5am and not be super tired if you tend to be a night owl?

Wake up at 5AM. Repeat. Never waver. Doesn't matter when you get to bed. Pure exhaustion will put you out eventually.

There are three types of night owls:

- Normals or larks that are currently functioning as night owls because of caffeine, late blue light exposure, lack of sunlight exposure, et cetera

- Night owls made much worse because of caffeine etc.

- Unaffected night owls who think they are normal. 11PM-7AM sleep is now considered normal.

The article refers to the second category. I was the first.

You recognize what category you're in. A lot of people who don't and have 'become' morning people think it's just a matter of discipline.

I think most night owls aren't as night-owly as they think- they just don't have a consistent and healthy routine. Very few actually have a diagnosed sleep disorder, just poor habits. I was able to program myself to be a morning person with very little up-front effort.

Anecdotal but I used to be a night owl and now I've risen at 5am every workday for the past two years. On off days I just set my alarm to go off 7 hours after my head hits the pillow which is only an hour or so later than usual anyway.

Just have a routine, any routine.

This is generally my experience as well. I have been a night owl at times, stuck in a loop where I would live during the night and sleep all day. Then I broke it, and became a morning person when that schedule became more convenient(like for work). I also tried polyphasic sleep schedules, where I would sleep multiple times. I've found my body doesn't work well that way though, I prefer to sleep just one time and get all the sleep I need for the rest of the day/night.

I definitely prefer the night time for things that involve creativity though. For me, the ideas just flow better at night for some reason.

> When the crux suggestion from this `research` is to go to bed 2-3 hours earlier and wake up 2-3 hours earlier

That's a goal, not a suggestion. The suggestions include e.g. avoiding stressors and things that will keep you awake (such as caffeine and bright artificial light) late in the day, while making sure that you're exposed to sunlight early in the morning (even when asleep); also, accept the fact that you'll have trouble falling asleep the first few times you try going to bed earlier in the night, and stick to it anyway. This stuff works, and will shift your sleep-wake cycle backwards making you more of a "morning lark".

Of course it comes with tradeoffs too - morning larks will do their best work in the early parts of the day, whereas they might feel very tired and sleepy in the evening and early in the night. Perhaps that's not what you want to be. It's a choice you can make with some discipline though, not something that you're born with!

I think calling this "offensive" is a bit silly. Pushing everything into the box of "marginalized minority oppressed by uncaring majority" is getting old. In our society, waking up early-ish is advantageous. And not just in terms of work. It's nice to be awake in the morning when everything is still. Mornings are peaceful and beautiful.

I've always been a "night owl" and I could come in at 10 or 11 and work until 6-7 if I wanted to - no one I work with cares as long as I'm communicative and get things done. But adjusting my sleep schedule and getting in around 8-8:30 (wake at 6:30-7) has improved my quality of life. I'm also most productive before noon.

Getting sun seems important. I have a Hacker News Health Theory (TM) about melanin content: why would human skin color vary so reliably based on distance from equator if sun wasn't really, really important? I think that, maybe, getting enough sun is much more important to our health than we realize.

You're teetering on the brink of an epiphany there with the phrase "in our society." Being a night owl wasn't a problem until we built a world that didn't include us. The problem isn't night owls. It's the insistence from others that everyone be exactly the same, inborn traits be damned. So yeah, it's offensive.

Also, imagine being someone whose natural body clock is a 3-5am bedtime and 12-2pm wake time. You've adjusted your clock by a couple hours, but some folks are being told to make 6-8 hour adjustments. And for what? To accommodate a refusal to accept that not everyone is the same.

>The problem isn't night owls. It's the insistence from others that everyone be exactly the same, inborn traits be damned. So yeah, it's offensive.

How is it "offensive"? No one is forcing you to live any specific way, but if you want to fit in with what "society" has deemed "normal", then you have to follow the norms and rules.

Thinking the rest of the world should cater to your personal circumstances is offensive. Why should they adapt to you, and not vice versa? Where did this entitlement come from, that not only should someone provide you with a job, but also that you should get to decide when and how you'll perform it? If the "real world" doesn't jibe with you it's your responsibility to find a place where you fit. There are lots of things I don't like about the modern rat race, and I adapt.

> I've always been a "night owl" and I could come in at 10 or 11 and work until 6-7 if I wanted to

That's not much of a night owl. My preference would be to work until 1 or 2am, then sleep until 10 or 11.

The middle of the night is also peaceful and beautiful.

> Pushing everything into the box of "marginalized minority oppressed by uncaring majority" is getting old.

The thing is, we’re not a minority at all. There’s a large percentage of people who just aren’t morning people. If anything it’s a minority forcing their preferences on everyone else.

Yes pushing everything into a box is getting old, bit like sleep patterns being pushed into a box. Who said night owls are the minority when it is not a binary as that. Would 49% be classed a minority compared to 51% or would 1% be more suitable in such binary classifications. The whole minority/majority mentality in itself oversimplifies and as such dismisses many an issue in society.

Whilst in many instances you may be right, it is not the case for all instances. Surly it would be far better for all to embrace night owls and with that make morning commutes less stressful, polluting and time saving by forcing some arbitrary time upon the entire populus and in effect forcing those who do not conform to self-medicate, so they can fit in and also join in this mad race to work at the same time as everybody else.

You can equally argue that workers in some hemispheres miss out on daylight as they are stuck in an office during 9-5 in the winter when that is the only time the sun is out. Those working later would at least get some sun exposure during their off-peak commute into work as opposed to getting no sun upon their commute into and out of work. Speaking from a UK TZ perspective and winter sunrise/sunset times.

I will also say, traveling off-peak is so much quicker, less stressful that the impact upon work is measurable.

I'm also a fan of polyphasic sleep and that helps in many situations in which an early meeting/appointment is unavoidable. But gets down to what works best for you, not everybody else and so much more could be solved by changing working hours mentality within companies more than changing the people. Again, thinking better quality of life commutes into work and all those positive side effects that can be gained from embracing differences in sleep patterns over what we have currently.

> I have a Hacker News Health Theory (TM) about melanin content: why would human skin color vary so reliably based on distance from equator if sun wasn't really, really important?

Can you expand on that? All I get from it is that protecting yourself from UV is really important, but producing extra melanin is somewhat costly, so evolution selects for just as much melanin as your environment requires, no more.

Vitamin D is the missing link you forgot.

The tradeoff is vitamin d (+ nitric oxide) versus UV damage

DSPD isn't something you can fix by "adjusting your sleep schedule", it is akin to a const declaration in your biological clock's genetic programming.

Could you fix it by moving time zones? If not, why not?

No, because people's biological clocks are synchronized with the rising and setting of the sun, not with some universal clock time.

I didn't move time zones to fix it, but it has helped, but probably not in the way you intend. I work remotely, from home, two time zones ahead of the company I work for. They start work at 9am, and I start work at 11am my time. :-)

Only briefly, you would have to regularly travel east, for me it worked out that I'd travel around the globe every 9 weeks or so, just to keep the 9-5 momentum. Though it is one of those instances in which you are effectively using your late night sleep phase in conjunction with jet-lag to maintain those regular hours.

So technically, yes, but only briefly and you would then have to repeat once your natural rhythm caught up with you. So about 2 weeks and then have to move again.

>Mornings are peaceful and beautiful.

Tell that to my 1.5 hour morning commute.

Hey, thank you for this, I'm glad someone said this. It sounds like you know a lot about this. Are there any companies known for flexible hours the way that some companies are famous for remote work?

As a night person, I've always felt a bit hopeless with fitting into the career world. Even having officially been diagnosed with DSPS I find that few people take it seriously. It's not something I would ever feel comfortable telling a prospective or current employer that I have, as I feel like I'd probably get laughed at and told that it's not real.

I've realized that whether or not I believe in DPSD or even call it by that name is irrelevant. What I do know is some things lead to better quality of sleep, better quality work, and better happiness. It's nice to know that the habits mentioned in the article are effective, even though they aren't as good as actual acceptance of the way of being.

A fellow night owl friend of mine lives on the East coast and does remote work for a company on the West coast, during their normal business hours. I must admit to a bit of jealously.

I worked on a west coast based team in an east coast office for a while. It was pretty great until I had to work on a project on both coasts. I had calls scheduled anytime from 9am til 8pm.

I have the opposite spatial arrangement, and I'm honestly not sure how long I'm going to be able to keep it up. It can be a serious drag. Although I have rediscovered the glory of naptime.

We don't need to be cured; we need to be respected.

How would the larks like it if we just stayed up until they were in phase 3 of non-REM sleep and just smothered them all in their beds? That's just as offensive as forcing us to wake up at the same time they do, just because they don't want to wait for us to finish sleeping.

Well, in my trade (software development) it is becoming irrelevant with more and more companies embracing remote working.

I'm a night owl living in Brazil so when I take a job in CT I can sleep 2 hours more and still be seen as an early bird. I can sleep even more if the main office is in the west cost.

São Paulo is a huge, sleepless city (10 million citizens), you have excellent 24 x 7 options for almost everything.

"Mental health in the 40's" was women who deviated from expectations of public behavior, intercourse and reproduction being placed in institutions and forced to take hallucinogenic drugs. It's alarming to hear that night owls are being treated in this way and it would be a revelation to hear the stories of these people who have been victimized.

I'm not so sure - if it's easy enough for you to adjust your schedule as a "night owl", it's possibly something worth considering.

Personally I'm mainly on a night owl schedule because I feel like I get less enjoyment and focus out of the day if I split my free time between morning and evening.

It’s hard to keep a night owl schedule when you have kids.

Impossible to keep any schedule at times. But what happened for me is just that I can't sleep at night but have to be awake for the kids at certain times; cue chronic sleep deprivation. Kids are older now, so am returning to "normality", hopefully I'll get a job with flexible working where I can work into the night too.

Kids can and will mess with any schedule, but we still love them in the end.

Does kinda make you review your own childhood and as you look back upon it with probably the same mentalities your own parents bestowed upon you as a child. All those things they said and as a child you dismissed now ring true.

I disagree with the sense that being a night owl is bad for a 9–5.

If you think about it, it's exactly the opposite. Being a night owl means that you wake up late, go straight to work, use up all your energy there, come back home tired, and then you can't have a life other than "go to the pub" or other low-energy activities.

Waking up at a reasonable hour means that you can use your energy for useful things before work, which is bad for your company but good for you.

As someone with a deeply delayed sleep phase, this simply isn't accurate.

It doesn't matter when you want me to wake up; I cannot even think of trying to sleep until midnight at the absolute earliest. My natural sleep time is closer to 2am. I don't get the "afternoon slump" until 6pm, a solid four hours after the average (2pm, according to some light searching). I know this is the slump and not simply exhaustion because it's consistently timed even through the weekends. Once I'm through the slump, I'm good to go for another four or five hours, and I do effectively use this time for my own pursuits.

I don’t think people understand the difference in quality of sleep and so the whole next day for a night owl when they go to bed and wake up at a time that works for them. I have been measuring my sleep for years now. I try to keep early hours and wake up early. I have tried melatonin to bring a rather early sleep schedule ...etc. And yet, my body reverts to a midnight sleep time the first chance it gets. Also, there’s a marked improvement in quality - less movement, lower heart rate, less awake and longer sleep and more wakeful the next morning when I sleep at or after midnight and sleep 8 hours. I do have flexibility at work and yet I feel the shame walking into an office where everyone comes in at 8 and leaves sharp at 4/5. So, I go back to waking up early and feeling tired all day.

Now, I have been keeping this tracking for at least 4 years now. I did a 23andMe test recently and according to them my natural wake time is 8.04am.

Like everyone else night owls want to be successful and perception matters. So we end up waking up early and fitting in. However, I don’t think it’s good and I hope it changes.

What happens if you travel to another time zone, say 6 hours different to your home? Would you continue to fall asleep at the same time, or would you adjust? If you could adjust, does that mean the time you fall asleep is dictated by the position of the sun? If so, does that mean your bedtime varies with the seasons?

That's a reasonable question. I covered this and some similar questions in another subthread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20148165

Long story short: I adjust to the new timezone just fine, and (depending on the direction I traveled) the temporary jetlag is sometimes a huge boon. But I still ultimately end up offset relative to local time. I haven't tested with subtler variations due to the seasons, but it's a very interesting idea.

> at a reasonable hour

This is an odd thing to say, since the core point of this entire topic is that "a reasonable hour" differs based on a person's physiology.

Let's say "at an hour that doesn't make work the first and biggest thing on each weekday".

Every time I try to do something before a deadline, I end up being late for the deadline.

This morning I got up a little early. Decided to catch up on some personal communications. Fast forward to now late, doing a mad scramble to be only 5 minutes late for my meeting.

Staying up late isn't a panacea either, of course. You have to have the judgment to stop when you are tired and judgement is one of the first faculties to be compromised.

You know, I used to think this way too, but then I noticed something: I never have trouble switching timezones.

Oh oh I’m a nightowl how will I ever wake up before 9am and go to bed before 3am!? Are you all insane for suggesting this? No way jose

Then I travelled to USA, or from usa to Europe. 9 hour time difference. After a week or two I adjusted. Going to bed at 3am and waking up at 9.

Hm that’s odd, if I claim I cannot shift my sleep schedule, how did I just do so by 9 whole freaking hours? And it only took 2 weeks. That’s odd

So i tried shifting without travel. Bed at midnight, up at 7am.

Worked great

Now I have time before work to do stuff I otherwise would’ve done after midnight. Except my mind is fresher so I’m more effective about it

I'm truly happy for you, that you're one of the many people in the world whose sleep schedules are not more tightly coupled to the patterns of the Sun. Many of us are not like you, and we suffer for the lack of empathy expressed by such anecdotes. I wish it were that easy for me.

Based on my reading, delayed sleep-phase disorder has two components: a natural sleep phase that is delayed from the societal norm, and an inability to adjust that sleep phase relative to solar activity. The sleep phase is not based on solar patterns directly, but is regulated by a couple of mechanisms, one of which is the circadian rhythm. The body regulates the circadian rhythm by the daily cycle of light -- but what I think most people don't realize is that this only makes the sleep cycle regular, periodic. It's the distinction between precision and accuracy: we are consistently off the bullseye.

Changing timezones only shifts where the bullseye is. We cope with that just as anybody does: the body regularizes to the new norm. We're still a fixed offset off of the bullseye.

There's a related disorder known as shift-work sleep disorder, where an individual normally exhibits a sleep phase compatible with societal norms, but when called on to adjust that sleep phase (e.g. for late-shift work) is consistently unable to do so. In other words, shift-work sleep disorder manifests only one of the two components of delayed sleep-phase disorder.

Your anecdote shows that you definitely don't have shift-work sleep disorder.

I don’t think I have any disorder of any sort, you are right.

But here’s the thing: I used to struggle horribly with all this societal nonsense about when to and not to sleep. For 30 years I was always waking up too late and feeling more comfortable staying up late. It sucked but I couldn’t for the life of me adjust.

Until one day I realized it’s just like timezones. I can use the same tricks I use to switch timezones. Like going to bed at a set time instead of waiting for my body to tell me it’s time for bed. Waking up at a set time etc

And ... it worked.

So all I’m saying is try it. If you have and it didn’t work, fine. But you’ll never know if you don’t try. For 30 years I was too stubborn to try and would fight to the death anyone who suggested I may not have a sleep phase shift thingy and just aren’t going to bed early enough.

Also if you say you are so very tied to signals for the sun. What happens in the summer when it’s light out from 6am to 9pm? Do you also start waking up earlier? What about in winter when it’s light only from 9am to 4pm? How do you cope?

What do you do if you live in Finland and it’s light out for 6 months? Do you just not sleep?

> So all I’m saying is try it. If you have and it didn’t work, fine. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

This is good advice, especially when -- as others in this thread have mentioned -- blue light exposure may be making artificial night owls out of larks. I personally have tried this without success. I use f.lux to avoid making my situation any worse.

> Also if you say you are so very tied to signals for the sun.

That's not quite what I said, but I understand why that was your takeaway.

> What happens in the summer when it’s light out from 6am to 9pm? Do you also start waking up earlier? What about in winter when it’s light only from 9am to 4pm? How do you cope?

This is a good question. I would categorize this under "second-order effects", because I'm certainly delayed year-round, and I haven't noticed any obvious seasonal variation. It would be interesting to see whether earlier dusk correlates with going to sleep earlier more easily. Thanks for the idea!

> What do you do if you live in Finland and it’s light out for 6 months? Do you just not sleep?

Like I said, the circadian rhythm is just one mechanism the body uses to regular sleep. Another is the build-up of adenosine accrued while awake. Mentioned elsewhere in this thread, the book "Why We Sleep" by Matthew Walker is a wonderful exploration of the complexity of our sleep subsystem.

As for myself, although I've never lived in Finland, I have been a grad student living like a hermit in a room with almost solely artificial lighting. My sleep cycle starts to wander: every "night", I go to bed later and later, and wake later and later. It sometimes got to the point that I would wake at 4pm and sleep at 7am -- and eventually I would cycle back around to a lark's early morning schedule. This is pretty consistent with experiments in which people live underground and never see light, although it's certainly not so extreme as the results they saw.

(This, by the by, is also how I know what my natural sleep period is when unconstrained by scheduled obligations: nine hours. I've noticed that seven hours is the absolute minimum I need to be remotely productive the next day, and even then I'm likely to do low-effort things like discuss sleep on Hacker News.)

> This, by the by, is also how I know what my natural sleep period is when unconstrained by scheduled obligations: nine hours.

I think this is my one super power. When unconstrained by social obligations and only working on things I'm excited about, my natural sleep period falls down as low as 4 hours. Normally I sleep 6 hours and on the weekends it goes up to 8 because I'm tired from the week.

But put me in vacation mode and after 2 days of rest I basically don't sleep anymore. It's weird.

Maybe that's what helps me adjust. I'm essentially cheating by sleeping less.

For me what causes schedule drift like you mentioned in the hermit situation is a combination of procrastination and excitement about interesting work. When it's time to go to bed, I say "Just 5 more minutes" and keep going. Suddenly it's 3am and then of course I'm not going to get up at 7am.

The next day it's evening and well I got up late today so obviously I'm not tired yet ... aaand it's a self-reinforcing cycle.

I have seen good results from forcefully cutting that cycle and enforcing a bed time. It takes discipline to stop what I'm doing and go to bed, but ultimately it's the only thing that seems to work. Usually once I'm in bed there's no problem falling asleep within 10 minutes or so. The hard part is convincing myself to get to bed.

I also travelled to America and was there for 3 weeks, being a night owl means that jet-lag works in your favour initially in this instance, then your natural cycle adjusts around two weeks when your daily routine has stayed the same for all that time and your sleep pattern shifts gradually back to its natural state of being late.

I did work out once that if I traveled East at a certain speed that I could maintain a 9-5 lifestyle with ease. Though costs and logistical reasons meant this was just a fun maths exercise at the time, but worked out I'd cycle the globe around every 9 weeks or so (was a while back so might be recall error).

It's ironic that this comment is so controversial, when it actually makes a logical argument. "Morning larks" vs. "night owls" is mostly a stereotype - at best, you could call it a matter of lifestyle. Treating it as something fixed and unchangeable is quite ludicrous.

I mean when you think about it, if our sleep schedules were fixed in stone, moving from West coast to East coast would not be practically possible. You’d be doomed to wake up at noon forever more. You might make that work, but try moving a few timezones further and you’ve pretty much doomed yourself to never participate in society.

We know for a fact plenty of people are able to make these transitions. Regular travelers can even do them very quickly.

Ergo it should be possible for most people to shift their sleep by a few hours. I think most people just aren’t inconvenienced enough to actually try

PS: some research suggests that nightowls are actually more creative in the mornings. Larks are more creative in the evenings. So if you have a creative job, you might in fact benefit from working in your off time

| Wake up 2-3 hours earlier than usual and get plenty of outdoor light in the morning

| Eat breakfast as soon as possible

| Exercise only in the morning

| Have lunch at the same time every day and eat nothing after 19:00

| Banish caffeine after 15:00

| Have no naps after 16:00

| Go to bed 2-3 hours earlier than usual and limit light in the evenings

| Maintain the same sleep and wake times every day

So basically, stop being a night owl. Great advice.

Ignoring the "go to bed" and "wake up" advice, one could be a night owl and still be healthier for following the rest of the advice.

I myself used to be much more of a night owl- bed before 11:30 was just not going to happen. My wife is not. When we moved in together, I wanted to match her schedule. I started doing most of the things on this list and it worked for me. I went to bed last night at 10 and got up at 5:30 so I could go to the gym. Me of 10 years ago would have said that was impossible.

You'd also have to ignore the "Exercise only in the morning" advice. Exercising any time of day will keep you just as healthy.

I don't have citations, but have read data that supports the idea that exercising in the evening results in higher cortisol levels, and thus lower levels of melatonin in the evenings.

Sure, if you buy into the "you can't be a night owl and be healthy" thing (as this article seems to suggest). I think you can have both.

I feel that making people think it's somehow better to exercise only in the morning will discourage some people from exercising daily, which I feel is more important than the time of day.

The grandparent comment is also assuming that you want to sleep in the evening, which means you wouldn't be a night owl so it kind of misses the point.

There are still lots of people in this thread assuming that the "problem" that night owls face is that they're not sleeping in the evening, that's not it at all. They're sleeping in their natural cycle, it just doesn't fit with typical modern life.

So if exercising in the evening raises cortisol, and makes it hard to sleep for normal people, then that's not going to be a problem from someone sleeping at 4am.

I train anywhere from 9pm-1am and always sleep better at what seems to be my natural sleep time, which is around 3-5am.

Both your points are fine, I'm not attempting to say anything one way or the other, only to raise awareness that exercise has a hormonal response that some do not take into account.

I have found myself to feel much more energetic and happy when I rein in my night owl tendencies.

I love how the article essentially ends with "These are relatively simple things anyone can do that makes an impact, and that to me is surprising."

No, those are not relatively simple things that anymore can do. Like getting that morning sunlight in the winter when sun rises close to 10? Not to mention my ADD causing every single new routine to be a continuous, unabating battle for years, at best!

I really wish people would stop assuming that what is simple for them, just might not be it for anyone.

As someone that has ADD, do not use it as a crux for you to not improve yourself. It's offensive and in my experience just an excuse people tell themselves to justify being lazy.


> Research on ADHD has particularly emphasized impairments in inhibitory control (Barkley, 1997; Nigg, 2000) and working memory (Castellanos & Tannock, 2002; Martinussen, Hayden, Hogg-Johnson, & Tannock, 2005). Barkley’s (1997) model of ADHD emphasizes inhibitory control (i.e. inhibition of prepotent response, stopping an ongoing response, and interference control) as the primary neuropsychological impairment, which underlies secondary impairments in working memory and related functions https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425416/

Trouble managing and structuring time, remembering things, paying attention to relevant cues, and avoiding impulsive behavior are some of the defining factors of ADD.

Have you considered that others with ADD have more extreme symptoms on a different axis from you, or perhaps their life experience and stress have amplified underlying proclivities? Or maybe they have mutations that make normal medication not effective.

> Trouble managing and structuring time, remembering things, paying attention to relevant cues, and avoiding impulsive behavior are some of the defining factors of ADD.

Having ADD/ADHD means that you need to put in extra work in those areas, and not just throw your hands up and say I can't do that I have ADD. It's not fair, but everyone has their own set of challenges. CBT has been shown to have a positive impact on managing the symptoms of ADHD.


> Having ADD/ADHD means that you need to put in extra work in those areas

yes, and the original post you were replying to was lamenting how so many people seem to overlook that point.

> not just throw your hands up and say I can't do that I have ADD

Maybe we are interpreting things differently, but I don't see how they were making excuses for their behavior - just complaining about how so much of society seems to instantly scold them for struggling.

I interpreted your stance as a projection, and triggered off of the 'lazy' bit as being insensitive and manifesting the same unnecessary scolding.

For all I know that person is doing CBT and maybe even making a lot of effort - not just throwing their hands in the air as you seem to think. Being frustrated that large parts of society doesn't give you any slack isn't an admission that you are somehow not trying.

> Like getting that morning sunlight in the winter when sun rises close to 10?

Blue LED's to the rescue! (ha ha only serious)

Most people who self-apply the title "night owls" are probably artificially inhibiting their sleep by blue light exposure, so this advice is useful to many.

the distinction between larks and night owls is a robust psychological finding that predates iphones; there is some evidence to suggest it is genetic; and night owls represent a significant percentage of the population (about 20%). that isn't to discount the point about blue light exposure.

Night owls are absolutely real and they are genetically predisposed. In fact, night owls will always be night owls and there's really nothing you can do about it. Everyone should read Dr. Matthew Walker's book 'Why We Sleep'.

It fits "just so" like a lot of evolutionary biology hypothesis but it does seem that there would be an advantage to have some portion of the population that spent a significant part of their waking hours after dark. People to keep the fires going, to keep away predators, warn the rest of the group of danger, etc.

I've been wondering how much of night owls are just victims of modern life, screens, sedantary indoor jobs, caffeine addiction, sugary foods, sleep over compensation on weekends. It makes so sense for humans to not a sleep schedule that aligns with the sun. If you have a truly active day I find it hard to believe you won't sleep.

Circadian rhythm is 40-70% genetic. And there's an evolutionary advantage to not having everyone asleep at the same time. Early humans would have been safer at night with some people in the group awake.


But how big is the inter-person variation? "Out of some 200 hours for the entire study, for only 18 minutes were they actually all sleeping synchronously" is a pretty useless quote -- how much of that was due to a handful of extreme outliers? People's sleep times were obviously not evenly distributed over the other 1422 minutes per day. And obviously environment is going to play an outsize role in causing outliers, since people who work the graveyard shift aren't going to spontaneously revert to a normal sleep schedule when they enter a sleep lab.

What does the percentage mean exactly? Sounds like you can have a preference but it's really under your control?

Did other animals develop a similar group sleeping pattern? Humans wouldn't be the only ones to potentially benefit

The article explains that the other 30-60% is influenced by environment and age. Other animals have similar variation in sleep patterns.

Yea, I do essentially all of those things they recommend avoiding. So there is a definite chance I'm making my self a night owl by not using a routine.

Is it right to assume that night owls are up in front of a screen?

No, especially considering screens have only been around for a very small fraction of a percentage of time that night owls have, to the point of being negligible to discussion on the topic of night owls.

It's possible that the prevalence of screens is driving a significant number of people into the same sleeping patterns as natural night owls.

N == 1, but IME, even before screens were a thing in my house, when I was around eight years old, I still had huge issues sleeping early. I'd regularly lie in bed until one, two AM not being able to fall asleep.


|Not drinking too much

|Regular exercise at the gym, 3 days a week

|Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries

|At ease

|Eating well, no more microwaved diners and saturated fats

|A patient better driver, a safer car

It's what happened to me when I stopped using caffeine and started taking sleep seriously. I stopped being a night owl.

Stop being so lefty and get used to everything being right-handed.

I have found that eating dinner as early as possible — anyway, earlier than 8:30 or 9:00, which is my natural tendency — does help. I get an energy burst about an hour after dinner; it's hard (and pointless) to get myself to go to bed until it runs its course, so eating earlier is the only solution.

You beat me to it. Exactly - become a lark.

Right xD. I was thinking it was going to be advice to be a more effective night owl and still get the rest you need.

They shifted study participants sleep time from 2:30AM to midnight. They're still night owls.

More like be consistent and have a routine. Really complex stuff, I know.

Yeah rubbish article.

> They focused on "night owls", whose bodies drive them to stay up late into the night. The problem for many night owls is fitting into a nine-to-five world.

An alternative solution is to go ahead and live your life on the 25 or 26 hour cycle that your "night owl" body demands. You'll need to be single (or partnered with a similar night owl), have light-proof curtains or blinds, and work independently (or remotely for an accommodating company). And probably you'll want to live in a major urban area so you have access to 24-hour restaurants, supermarkets, and other resources when your constantly shifting day/night cycle leaves you awake at night.

it looks like you can cut diabetes risk and mental health risk by switching https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43711631

Interesting quote from your article:

> The paper's authors ... said it was likely that people with late body clocks were being harmed by having to adjust their habits to a "morning lark world". Scientists say that about 40% to 70% of a person's circadian rhythm, or body clock, is genetic. Part of it you don't have any control over.

In other words, the "night owls" might have health problems because of the effort and stress of trying to keep their body clock in sync with the rest of the world. If they could live a 25 or 26 hour day, they might be just as fit as the 24-hour "morning larks".

possibly yes, but how likely is that to happen? I'm actually a proponent of living in shifts with offices and shops open 24 hours and people being in "office hours" at different times. it would solve a lot of problems with traffic etc.

I found it also helps to go to bed before that late night "second wind" kicks in

True for me. I often get really sleepy around 9-10 PM. When I force myself to go to bed right then, when my eyelids are heavy, I usually sleep through the night (with perhaps a 15-minute semi-awake period in the middle) and wake around dawn feeling well-rested. But if I shrug off my drowsiness, I usually get a second wind around 11 that will keep me going until at least 1 AM, and then the next day I don't feel rested at all.

I have vastly different values but same effect. If I sleep when I am drowsy I sleep solid for 1 to 3 hours, then I am awake for sometimes 3 hours after that. If I sleep again it's solid until midday, which leaves me waking up at the same time as before except with 3 hours wasted awake in bed in the middle.

If I take the second wind I am awake until early morning and then out like a light for a solid 8 hours, again waking at midday.

I have tried dozens of possible schedules and I eventually revert to this if given time. When working a 9-5 it inevitably turns into an 11-7 and I am tired all the time regardless.

that reminds me: in the past humans had 2 sleeps and an awake period in the middle. you could try and get up and get some work done in that middle period? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783

I did that for about 3 months this year. I would go to bed around 6, wake up at 10. Then I would eat, go for a walk, and work on my hobbies/side projects until about 3AM and sleep until 7AM. It was honestly a very refreshing way to live.

Just happened to me last night : \

For me that's a 30 minute window between 22:00 and 22:30. If I fall asleep then I wake up 04:15. If I fall asleep after 22:30 I wake up around 9-10 in the morning.


maybe do some reading 4:15-5:00 and sleep another two hours or so after?

I've been sick with a cold for around a week, and have been going to bed early due to exhaustion. I've consistently woken up around 11pm each time I did this due to the second wind kicking in, staying awake for at least an hour.

One excerpt from the article [1]:

> Individuals were screened for no diagnoses of sleep or neurological disorders via self-report and were not taking any medications that affected sleep, melatonin and cortisol rhythms.

I'm really curious if insomnia or DSPD counts as a sleep disorder here.

I guess the core point of the study is, if you force yourself to be on a morning schedule for a few weeks and follow basic sleep hygiene, then it will work and you will feel better.

I don't know what to take away from this. I already follow their protocol, but my sleep onset is still naturally around 1:30am. For me, when I go to bed earlier, I fall asleep even later than usual, since I just doze for an hour and am even more awake. When I wake up earlier, I tend to fall asleep during the day. (I test negative for sleep apnea).

The comments here are pretty split between "I just tried getting up earlier and it worked great!" and "I do all of this and it doesn't work at all," so my experience isn't unusual. It reminds me a lot of comments on anti-depressant efficacy.

So I'll probably do the same thing I do every time a study like this comes out: Follow the sleep protocol more carefully for a few weeks, then feel discouraged when it gives no results, then feel even worse from the comments claiming that I am just being lazy. And then finally I will remember that the science on this subject is weak and incomplete, that morning people's unyielding sense of righteousness and morality is based on nothing, and that maybe someday we will discover universal methods of adjusting sleep schedules.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S138994571... and if you cannot access the full text, sci-hub.tw may be helpful

Well, I don't think these are "simple" tweaks. If you are a single person and must wake up every day at the same hour, won't do anything at night. If you just have time to exercise at evening, you wouldn't exercise anymore.

"Scientists studied 21 "extreme night owls" who were going to bed, on average, at 02:30 and not waking until after 10:00. "

I guess that makes me an extremely extreme night owl then.

To the other night owls out there, I would love to know:

-Do you struggle to sleep every day? Or is it only as the work/school/lark-world responsibilities progress through the week?

-Would you characterize your difficulty as struggling to sleep or struggling to wake up, or both?

-How does this impact your days off (i.e. weekends), and what is the first and last day off typically like in comparison?

-Is this the kind of struggle that you manage, but it frustrates you, or has other effects, or is it something that regularly threatens to derail your life? (i.e. late for work or class, or other real-life consequences)

-Do you feel like it is something you will always live with, or do you feel that there could be a lifestyle/solution, either involving your change, or accommodating to your current behavior and/or natural inclination?

I'm a night owl, and I won't go into detail about my situation with hope to not impact responses too much, but it would help me (and hopefully others!) to understand just how similar/different I may be. Thank you!

The only real advice here is:

- Exercise only in the morning

- Have lunch at the same time every day and eat nothing after 19:00

- Banish caffeine after 15:00

everything else is "stop being a night owl".

"Exercise only in the morning" is terrible advice. I cannot wake up one second earlier than I must in order to get to work on time. If I followed that advice, I would never exercise. The best advice is to find time to exercise every day, no matter what time that may be.

Don't want to? If we redefine exercise as part of the day's work, then is it better advice?

Not until I get paid cold hard cash to do it. ;-)

I'm not saying I don't exercise. I just do it in the evening after work, when I feel it provides a couple of benefits. (1) I do it consistently every day, because I feel more "up to it" at that time. (2) I feel that it helps relieve the stress of my work day, since focusing on my form and nothing else is almost meditative to me.

I just feel that making people think it's somehow better to exercise only in the morning will discourage some people from exercising daily, which I feel is more important than the time of day.

I am the same way. I have trouble falling asleep (will toss and turn for 45 minutes to 2 hours), so I'm loathe to wake up before I absolutely have to, because once I'm asleep, I want to stay that way. As a result, I just schedule my day so that I work 8 hours, then do everything else. It has its downsides, but its better than everything else I've tried.

Exercise in the evenings definitely amps me up and makes things worse, but in the mornings I often end up with a "OK, done my work for the day, now I deserve to relax" feeling that is very hard to shake. In addition to getting up on time, feeling light-headed and sick due to lack of sleep while exercising, etc.

I think you've sort of touched on a separate issue. I'm a night owl but find it far easier to wake up in the mornings if I'm excited for something. Often I wake up earlier on the weekends than on work days because I'm not particularly looking forward to going to work.

Is there any research around that tests whether self-defined "night owls" are immune to the hormonal effects of sunrise and sundown (as visual stimuli)?

I once considered myself one, until I started actually rolling the blinds up in the mornings (Spanish blinds block all light) and staying away from blue light in the evenings. Being brought up in a cloudy, rainy town and having a very obstructed view of the outside from my bedroom window didn't help, I must admit.

Also I wonder if certain habits and behaviors, like dopamine-induced compulsive social browsing or gaming, food addictions, etc. play a role here.

I am a night owl, and tried to shift the sleep cycle to earlier (get in bed earlier and wake up earlier). However, what I observed (when I went to the bed earlier) was that then I wake up very very early in the morning (around 5), but then after about an hour or two I became very sleepy again.

Is this supposed to happen if you try to shift the sleep cycle?

When you start to get enough sleep, it's normal to become biphasic. That is, wake up in the night and go back to sleep. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biphasic_and_polyphasic_sleep

Almost exactly what happens to me the odd periods I manage to sleep early. Fall asleep before 22:30, wake up 04:15-04:30. Then I get a bit spacey between 6-7.

After 2230 I don't wake up until about 9

I get that regardless of my schedule, which changes a lot. Between 2 to 4 hours after I wake up I feel like I need to sleep immediately and can barely focus. About an hour later I'm alert again.

My issue is I get a ton more work done at night when you don't have a million distractions going on: emails, meetings, loud noises, conversations, etc... All of that dissipates or disappears into the late evening - and focusing becomes easier.

This article is kind of dumb, basically saying that you shouldn't be a night owl, but I will admit that my quality of life is improved when I'm in a natural rhythm of going to bed "on time" and waking up early-ish, getting at least 7 1/2 hours of sleep per day. Around 2-3 cups of coffee per day seem fine, anymore and I need to scale it back. One cup doesn't do it for me. I also now get to work early and don't stress if I'm occasionally late.

The early bird gets the worm, so no matter how much we'd like to adjust society to be accepting of different sleep schedules, early risers will always have a natural advantage.

Not really sure about the sunlight in the morning. If you can force yourself to a early sleep (either by tiring yourself one day) or slowly shifting it early each day, you will be able to change your sleep cycle.

At least personally, I have found sunlight makes waking easier, smoother. So it's probably one factor out of several.

these "tweaks" boil down to "stop being a night owl." If I could wake up hours earlier and make myself go to sleep hours earlier I wouldn't be in this mess, BBC.

One item mentioned in the article that matches my personal experience is the importance of sleep consistency or regularity. Waking up at the same time and sleeping at the same time each night has been beneficial, even if those regular times are shifted from what the article suggests. There was a study that touched on this [0].

[0] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-03171-4

I personally enjoy being a night owl. I get plenty of excercise, sunlight, and sleep, and I've never had a problem at any of my workplaces for arriving late (say between 10 and 11) and then working late to compensate.

Furthermore, the article is common sense. Obviously, shifting my daily routine 3 hours would shift my daily routine 3 hours, and I'd eventually get used to it, but why would I want to?

A stalk delivered me a child and in one single transformation, I turned from night owl into Super Lark!!

I struggled with insomnia for about 3 years before finding something which worked for me: magnesium supplements. Learned about them through a random Hacker News comment.

Can someone reply to this comment if they see it in a few weeks and see if it's been working for me? :D

For me going to bed at 1am or 8pm works, but if I try anything in the middle, I just stay up until 1am.

Anything to help STAY asleep in the night?

I've lost the ability to sleep in one sitting and it irks me.

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