Sleep Testing and What Mornings Mean

There’s a common belief amongst people that they are either morning people or night-owls. The underlying idea here is that you are either someone who loves raising with the dawn or someone who enjoys the silence of the evening. Your ciccadian rhythm supposedly syncs with this time of the day to produce powerful mind/body connection. This is when you write well. This is when exercise feels the best. This is when you can create and deduce and produce…This is bullshit.

I’ve spent much of the last three years testing an idea that has always mystified me: whether I am a morning or an evening person. Up until I was a sophomore in highschool I rarely stayed up later than 8:45. This was my bedtime and I enjoyed falling asleep before my parents. However, I quickly switched from 8:45 to 10:30 to after midnight in the course of a single year. Until around the time I turned 30 I frequently stayed up past 2 AM.

What I’ve realized is that this is a product of lifestyle and desire. Not of biology. The ability to switch, during my travels these past few years, from going to bed at 9PM some nights, to 3AM, based on what I’m working on and desire is not that difficult. I was surprised to find this and began asking other friends if they had similar experiences.

Much of this came about from switching between East and West coasts, and talking to friends who travel for work or pleasure frequently. What I discovered (aside from how powerful jet lag really is) was that most people ended up having different times of high-level productivity based largely on how passionate they were about their current endeavor.

During high school I was competitively playing video games late into the night and this made staying awake relatively easy. In grade school I loved reading in the mornings, and this made waking up before 6 AM to read simple.

Why am I going into all of this detail? I challenge you to test your assumptions on your most productive time of the day. The most critical piece of this is your current beliefs and working on something you are passionate about. If you want to be a writer, and believe writing is best done in the morning, begin setting your alarm MUCH earlier for 30 days. Commit to a full 30 days. Don’t try to wake up 10 or 15 minutes earlier every day. Force yourself to re-cycle as you would from a travel day where you have no choice. Yes, you will be tired for a day or two, or struggle if you are instead trying to stay up much later than normal. But make this happen and commit to seeing how it works for a full 30 days.

In the end, we all have dreams and passions and beliefs about when we should be doing things and how effective they will be. Setting an intentional sleep cycle that you believe will promote your best work is a huge advantage. For me, personally, I love reading in the morning still, but have the belief (probably from late nights during college and grad school) that I am a better writer in the evenings. If I am going to undertake a writing project, I would make the extra time in the evening, and vice versa for learning or reading.

Let me know how this process goes for you, and be kind to yourself during the first four or five days as it can be a shock to your system if you’ve lived on a fairly consistent sleep cycle for a while.