Any Tips on Becoming an Early Bird Vs. a Night Owl?

Updated on September 17, 2009
E.S. asks from Lombard, IL
19 answers

I have been a night owl for as long as I can remember - I never wanted to get up in the morning regardless of what time I went to sleep. And then I think I made it worse by working third shift through college. To try to make a long story short, I am now in a position where I am a little freaked out about next week. My oldest starts first grade, has to be on the bus at 7:30 and I have tried for the last two weeks to try to get myself on track for this to no avail. I tried staying up all night so I could go to bed early and I still couldn't rise out of bed. My kids all sleep late (9am) and I had a nanny that came at 8:30 so it never was a problem if I worked until 5am and got up at 10. Now it will be a problem.. I am getting rid of my nanny at the end of the month because of money/work issues (mortgage banker who has just gone through the third lender this year that went under = no paychecks again!) and I am going to do this all myself. I don't know if this is a medical issue to see a doctor about (I'd prefer not to go on any sleeping medication, but will as a last resort) or if there are some good ways to turn myself into a morning person? At night when I try to go to sleep I will lay there and toss and turn forever, and then I say this is a waste of time and get up and do something. I can't seem to just fall asleep unless it is at least 2 or 3 in the morning and then 99% of the time I literally don't even hear the alarm, it can go off on full blast for an hour (then it turns itself off) and I am still asleep. I am foreseeing a bunch of completely chaotic mornings and/or all of us sleeping through the day and missing school!

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answers from Chicago on

Hi mom I don't think you have a problem, I was the same way I always work a 2nd or 3rd shift and when I was not working I still was up all night cleaning or on the phone or watching tv and my children were the same but when my first child started school I did the same thing but I got up sent the child to school then went back to sleep until the child got out. It was crazy. but what change it all I got older and my body beg for night rest so I change shifts and went on 1st and every thing work out find and now my son and daughter do the same thing and it now makes me mad, but how could I get mad when I made them like that, so keep trying and good luck

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answers from Chicago on

I used to be a night owl until I got married four years ago. I used to get so mad at my husband when he'd look at me with his bloodshot, tired eyes at 9 p.m. and say, "I've got to go to bed."

After awhile, I realized that I wasn't going to get him to be a night owl with me, so I turned myself around (because it was important to me to be on the same schedule as him). Here are some things that helped with that.

1. No TV in the bedroom. (It's tempting to stay awake much longer, and if you fall asleep with it on, you aren't sleeping well.)
2. No caffeine after noon. (Did you know caffeine has a half life of 6 hours?)
3. No running errands or grocery shopping, etc. in the evening: always try to get it done during the day, right after work, or Saturday mornings.
4. Eat dinner before 7 p.m. (and don't eat anything after that).
5. Relax after dinner until bed time (do calming bedtime routines with kids, sit and watch TV with the hubby when the kids are asleep, read a book, sit outside and relax/chat with your husband, etc.)
6. Get the kids to bed earlier than you (my daughter goes to bed by about 7 p.m. on week nights—she's only 19 months old and we're in bed any time between 8 and 9 p.m. after she's been down an hour or so).
7. Wake up early. Make it happen. You can ease into it, but once you start getting regular nights of 8 hours of sleep, it gets to be easy to wake up. Kids tend to need more than 8 hours of sleep: little ones need up to 12 hours of sleep, and as they age (even in elementary school), they should still be getting about 10. Your kids will wake up earlier, too, if they're consistently getting plenty of sleep.

It's just a choice you've got to make. It's not going to be easy. I don't think any sleep aids are going to be able to help you (especially if your whole family is out of whack). You need more sleep, but you need to have it happen at normal hours.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'm a terrible night owl and I think for me, it's just a bad habit. I love when the kids are in bed and I get that hour of TV, even if I'm folding laundry, sorting papers or doing my stretches or pouring a glass of wine and vegging out on my sofa. It's worse in the summer because, if the kids sleep a little later on some mornings, why can't I??? Now that school is back in session, it's hard.

I loved Alissa's advise. I am also going to try the melatonin route too. I think it helps adjust your inner sleep clock. I had a sleep study done this year. I never seem to wake up refreshed and thought I had sleep apnea. It seems that I may have some when I have any kind of chronic, sinus condition present so, personally, you really should rule out a medical condition if you truly are concerned about waking up suddenly and not being able to fall back asleep. (especially if you snore).

I do make sure that my children's lunches are made the night before. All backpacks are packed and placed near the front door, clothes are laid out, beds made in AM. I hate "fire drills" (i.e children dawdling or running maniacally, in the morning) so to avoid that, I implemented a "no fire drill rule" about 7 years ago. I allow my children "one grace" (i.e. one bad morning), and after that, an immediate 1 hour grounding after school, AFTER ALL homework and chores are done (it's amazing how quickly chores and homework are finished - then the punishment starts!) I rarely have to implement this. We have peaceful mornings around here. Sadly, when I am disorganized, my family falls apart so I know I am the nucleus of this concern!

I have an evening routine of cleansing, brushing teeth, etc... but... then I weaken and relax in front of the TV. I'm with you - I can't imagine falling asleep early but I'm going to start trying, too.

I have DVR so, I'm thinking if I tape my two shows, I can watch them another time.

Good luck on this.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on


I am also a night owl. I HATE mornings, would sleep till noon if I could. I found the only way to get on a morning schedule is to consistently, for a few weeks go to bed early and wake early. Like say to bed at 10:30 up at 6:30, every day even weekends. If you find that hard, try going to bed at 12:30, get up at 6:30, put him on the bus then go lay down till the rest of the kids get up. Unfortunately sleep meds are going to make you really groggy in the morning and in my opinion make it harder for you to get up.

Unfortunately this is probably your only options. I chose to be a mom knowing I hate mornings but for the sake of my kids I have to get up early, get them fed, and off to school. Not eating , missing school, or constantly making them late is not an option. My Mom was big on doing all those things to us and I till this day I still have some resentment to her for that. I don't want my kids to have them for me. Good Luck! Remember your child comes before you and your sleep.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Melatonin is very safe, gentle, and usually quite effective. Your body produces it in great quantity at night to help you sleep. I give it to my 5 yo who doesn't produce enough. Use it around 8:30 or 9 to go to bed in a hour. You can get it at Walgreens, CVS, grocery pharmacies, etc OTC. I buy the extended release version online from Vitacost. 3mg is a standard dose--although I give my 5yo 6mg extended release (2 capsules). I use it for myself when I am keyed up. Even if it doesn't help you sleep, it is a decent antioxidant as well.
Good luck (or good night!) B.



answers from Rockford on

Sounds like you've already gotten some good advise. One thing that may help, not so much with the sleep, but is preparing for the morning the night before. Have lunches made, cloths layed out, backpack at door. I also make a lot of my breakfast stuff ahead of time and freeze it like eggs for egg burritos, waffles, pancakes, sausage etc. that way I just have to microwave it in the morn and not have to worry about preparing breakfast. Give it time for your body to adjust to the change. Oh yeah when you do get up in the middle of the night don't do chores etc. They'll only keep you awake. Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

You sound like my husband, however, he has been able to conquer this pretty well.Now he gets up at five a.m. everyday except weekends. But it is hard for him on Sunday nights getting ready for Monday. I'm sure you've addressed all the things you can do. I am opposite, light sleeper, never sleep, get up all night.Get up early. I am jealous of your kind. teehee. However, I'm always reading ways to help hubby. So I'm sure you've read about the things that can make you sleepy and those that can keep you awake.Hot baths at first, relax with a good book at first, how about some couchie couchie with hubby right before bed.Certain drinks are going to keep you awake like caffeine and alcohol.No matter what anybody says a little alcohol might make one sleepy, too much and it tortures you all night. For the most part there are obvious foods to avoid. So I won't go into that. If you exercise before don't do it at night. If you are worrying then perhaps finding ways to throw the worries out for the night could help Write them down and throw the paper across the room til the next day.
Yes, you could contact some sleep disorder place and maybe that's a good idea, but you might do fine with all the moms helping you out there. Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

I would call Dr. Weisblut's office and get a recommendation for a sleep expert for adults. He is a children's sleep expert. Clearly, your clock is off. If you need to be out of the house or have one child out by 7.30, then you need to be up before 6.30am. Most of us need 8 hrs sleep, so that means going to bed to sleep before 10.30pm. In your case, I might start by trying to go to bed by 9pm as it will take a little while to get asleep. Bed by 9pm means nothing too stimulating in the evening eg coffee, tea, exercise, too much tv etc. It will likely take a few days to reset your clock. Try not to stress out about it but it does require a certain amount of discipline. After a while it will likely become second nature but again you have to be firm with yourself and really go to bed on time. Likewise, all the other members of the household need to be in bed on time too. Good luck.



answers from Chicago on

I hate to say it, but you just have to suck it up and do it. I also hate getting up early and prefer to stay up late, but with school and my own job, I just can't. Make out the schedule ahead of time and make sure EVERYONE in the family, including your spouse- knows it and sticks to it! Otherwise you will get run down really fast. The first month will be a killer, but after that it will eventually become routine. Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

Good Morning, E.. I have just what you need to get yourself together. Ever heard of TUNGUSKA BLAST OR TUNGUSKA MIST. Both are all natural the go to this web page they explain everything. I use the Blast daily love the energy I get from it. they also have a mist called PM for sleeping.Again all natural
Really excellent products.


answers from Decatur on

We have all been through this.

First, take a melatonin pill around 9:15pm.

Then, start your evening by taking a nice hot bath around 10 pm. Even better would be to have someone (professional or otherwise) massage you before and/or after the bath. Try to be in bed by 10:30 or so.

NO caffeine or exercise after 4pm. Try to eat dinner no later than 7 pm. Try to make your bedroom your relaxation place. Candles, incense, dimmed lights (this works well with the bath too).

I promise of a week of getting up early because you have no choice, and going through this routine, you will have it all worked out! Once you start getting up early, you will be exhausted by 10:30 pm!

Best of luck!



answers from Chicago on

I totally echo Heather's advice and would add a few tricks I've used. Exercise in the morning to help wake up. Even just a few jumping jacks to get the blood pumping, followed by a cold-ish shower will help to wake you up. when I get prego, I get puppps so no hot water on my skin or hives galore, only cold showers and let me tell you, they really wake you up, especially in cold weather!

Don't do any cpu or tv after 9 p.m. Seriously studies have shown they're a stimulant (gee I'm breaking this now lol) and can effect your sleep cycles. DH and I try to read at night so we can wind down. My dd loves to listen to audio books to fall asleep, I find it keeps me up b/c I want to hear the story! But soft music helps me a whole lot. Actually dh and I both love a Christmas cd (of all things! it's Gregorian Chant) so we listen to that softly it's got a pavlovian effect on us now. :) Sex can do that too, and is there a better way to nod off? lol.

I really hope that helps you. I, too, don't like sleeping pills. They make it super hard on your body - most people don't realize the main sleep ingredient in PMs is benedryl, which you probably don't really need but the side effects cause the desired effect for most people. Mostly I think the routine will get you there!

Good luck to you - we're in the same boat here, trying to adapt to being up at 6 every morning a week in advance. School's return is such a mixed blessing!




answers from Chicago on

I had to do the same after having kids. I read an Ayurvedic healing book that talked about the different cycles of the day and how they effect people. Almost every one has an active cycle between 11 PM-ish and 2AM-ish. The trick is to be asleep BEFORE this cycle hits. That cycle is very important for rejuvenation and restoration, but if you are awake when the cycle hits, that is when you experience the tossing and turning for 3 hrs which is completely useless.
I did the following:
1. started a night time routine that was the same every night. This seemed useless until I did it for about 2 weeks, but it starts getting your body/mind prepared for going to sleep. Now, I just start it and I get tired, but when I first started it, I felt it was silly. So the same routine of washing your face/brushing teeth, reading, what ever it is you like to do at night.
2. sucked up getting up early for several days in a row regardless of how tired I was.
3. did not did not did not take a nap (this was huge for me, probably not as big of a deal for you.)
4. Made sure I was in bed by 10:00 - no excuses.

Somehow, I did it. And oddly, was more energetic for it. For me the two biggest things in the beginning was 2 and 3. This made 4 much easier after a few days. For ongoing maintenance of the routine, 1 was key.

Good luck! Now I seriously can't believe what I can do in the morning before a time that I was still in bed!



answers from Chicago on

I use to be a night owl too. Years of working as a lighting tech @ clubs & concerts. Whenever I would come back from being on tour I used Melatonin. It's not immediate, but it will help your body get on a natural sleeping schedule. Take it every night a little before the time you wanna fall asleep and make sure you give enough time to get 8 hours in. After 3 or 4 days you should start seeing a difference. It's not a sleep aid, it's totally natural. You can buy it @ any pharmacy w/ the herbs & vitamins. Always worked for me! Good Luck!



answers from Chicago on

If you have a question as to whether this (or anything) could be a medical problem, make an appointment to see your doctor, especially if you haven't had a physical lately.

Can you enlist your husbands help to make sure you wake up in the morning? Or a series of alarm clocks that you have to get out of bed to turn off. Or keep the nanny for a few more weeks for a few hours each morning until you can get your schedule on track - her job being to get the kids off to school AND make sure you get up on time!

As far as sleeping at night, you will eventually get a new routine in place, but it will take time. You are used to sleeping from 5am to 10am - that's only five hours, not really enough sleep. Try sleeping from 11pm or midnight to 6am - when you go to bed, do not get up when you can't sleep - even if you aren't sleeping, your body is resting, and you will get used to a new schedule over time. No caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. You can try warm milk, or Sleepytime (herbal) tea, and a warm bath. Some yoga or meditation might also be useful, often people can't sleep because they have too much on their minds. (Worrying tends to keep people awake!)

Melatonin (available at stores such as GNC) is touted by many people as helping to provide them with a good nights sleep - so that may be worth a try too.

Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

Have you tried melatonin? You will want to do the research to find the correct dosage for you, but I found a study a couple of years ago when I was looking into it that found it safe and effective for kids (we didn't end up using it because my son adjusted on his own eventually, but I was impressed that it does work.)

You could also try - temporarily - using benedryl to help yourself feel drowsy at bedtime. I used it when I had really bad pregnancy insomnia, just one pill. It wears off in a few hours so it shouldn't prevent you from waking up at the right time.



answers from Chicago on

Sometimes I cannot sleep if I have things I want to get done around the house.....try to have everthing done at a resonable hour...then try bathing or showering before bed (or just washing your feet in the tub...I do not know why but this makes you sleep better).....try some nighttime tea and then in the morning have the coffee brewed or get the Starbucks Doubleshots and chug away! Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

If you are on no herbs or medications of any kind, over-the-counter or prescription, I would suggest that you try melatonin...

People often find that the use of melatonin is helpful when their circadian rhythms are off-kilter, such as during jet-lag.

I would also suggest that you take a multivitamin with breakfast and a balanced B-Complex with lunch.

I would also suggest that you make sure that you take nothing with any B-vitamins in it after 3 pm. B-vitamins taken before 3 pm can help with sleep, but B-vitamins taken after 3 pm can interfere with sleep.

Best wishes,



answers from Chicago on

I wish I could help. I can't wait to see what others say because I have spent my whole life trying to be a morning person and I never have been able to manage it. I have come to believe that some people are just generally nocturnal and I fall into the group of people. We only had one child, who never took the bus, I drove him for grade school. We home schooled for Junior High and my husband took him for his freshman and sophomore years of high school. He drove himself his Junior and Senior years. Luckily he takes after his dad and is earlier riser.
He is now 19 and still gets himself up and ready for his summer job. How lucky I am.
I would not recommend getting on medication because I tried it. The only thing that I really have found that can work is changing your diet. Do not eat after 7:00 Pm. Try to stay away from a lot of dairy products or foods like bananas or oranges that can give you a boost of energy. No soda or caffeine drinks after 3 or 4 Pm, many people have a big boost of energy from the sugar and/or the caffeine Once the kids are down start winding down yourself, don't be on the computer. The TV seems to relax me but I have to be in bed for it to truly relax me. Reading also can help me but again I have to be in bed so when it is time to drop off I just set my book down and lights off. I also find that a hot show sometimes relaxes me and the number one thing that has helped me is we bought a sleep number bed. I can adjust my side of the bed to my comfort and it dose help me relax.
Good Luck... I hope you can beat the battle of the I can't sleep. S.

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