Tips and Tricks From Night Owls on Surviving the 9-to-5

Kyla Bills

The world isn’t made for people who stay up all night. Sure, the 9 am to 5 pm work day was a revolutionary step forward for labor protections… when it was invented in 1938… for factory workers. But now most of us are at desks staring at blue light all day. We know now that some people, about 20% of the population according to popular sources, are just wired to work better at night.

We asked a few chronic late-to-bed, late-to-rise types how they make it through their early-start (yes, early to them!) day jobs and deal with coworkers who keep scheduling meetings before their first cup of coffee.

Acceptance is the first step (*shrug*)

One of the keys to being a night owl seems to be just accepting that you’re a night owl. Instead of forcing yourself into a sleep schedule that doesn’t work for you, just lean into the chaos if you can. Make use of the time you’re most productive and schedule your life around it.

“I am trying to accept and shift my schedule accordingly,” says Miranda H., a copy editor in the Pacific Northwest. “Waking up at 10 am doesn’t affect my work so there's no need to beat myself up just because I think I ‘should’ start work at 9 am.”

Use your 9-to-5 for meetings and “musts”

Focus “standard” hours on collaborative work rather than creative or solo work. While you should probably avoid scheduling early morning meetings, we’re going to assume you’re at least up by noon. That still leaves five solid conventional hours you can work with others, and no one has to know you were up until 4 am last night “doing work” or “watching Vine compilations on Youtube.”

Miranda uses time at night to set herself up for the next day, reading and journaling before bed so she can skip a long morning routine and get straight into work. Similarly, Anikè, a model in New York City, shares, “If there’s something I can get done at night, then I’ll do it then. I wake up at 10 am regardless of what time I go to bed, so anything that can’t get done in the nighttime, like meetings or phone calls, I just do it during normal hours.”

Consider a weird sleep schedule, on purpose

Not everyone needs to—or wants to!—sleep eight hours straight-through during the night. If you’re willing to try, play around with what a DIY, nontraditional sleep schedule could look like for you.

“For a while I had to wake up at 4:30 every morning,” says Zach, a nutrition student and former chef. “My strategy at that time was to go to sleep around 1 am and get three-ish hours of sleep, then work, and then take a three-ish hour nap after work. I actually felt pretty good doing that as long as I was pretty disciplined about doing it.”

The world isn’t made for you, you beautiful freak of nature. Take a nap in the middle of the day; sleep for only a few hours; revel in the fact that you simply weren’t built for the (thankfully starting to evolve) systems supporting traditional labor. Some of the best artists and creatives of our time had unorthodox sleep schedules. (Kafka’s insomnia is well-documented, for one.) So while we can’t say what’s right for you health-wise, it’s worth experimenting outside of prescribed norms if they don’t actually work for you in the first place.

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