At night, all the ideas are out for grabs. That is, if you're not asleep.Published on 21 June 2021
I'm a night owl by nature. I love the calm and quiet of the night when you look outside your window, and the only light on the block still on is yours. When the occasional high-speed car or chopper racing past is a reminder that at night, anything goes. When inspiration hits and hits big.
A friend of mine used to say that "at night, all the ideas are out for grabs." And man, this phrase has been my motto, my de-facto way of functioning, for the past 10 years. I couldn't imagine not going to sleep at 3 AM. Not getting in that last line of code, scribbling down that last idea on paper. I still get FOMO whenever I lay in bed, and an idea hits me. I jolt from under the sheets to the resigned eye-roll of my wife and run to the living room, where I grab my phone and write it down before it slips through my fingers.
There's something about staring into that darkness and have it stare back at you, like a blank canvas begging to be painted on.
Regardless of the above schedule, I still managed to sneak in 6-7 hours of sleep daily. Go to sleep at 3 AM, get up at 9 AM - would you look at that: it's still morning, I look as fresh as a french croissant straight out of the oven! Here I come, world!
Rince, and repeat. (Try and) leave the weekends out of it.
If you took a good, hard look at the blueprint of my day-to-day over the past years, that's what you'd see. The screen of my computer acting as a neo-noir night lamp, illuminating my room as I work through the night, plowing through ideas, good and bad.
I walked around the apartment at 3 AM, like a ghost, making the floorboards creak and waking people up. I got endless complaints from my family that despite what I might think, I don't seem to be getting enough sleep, and the persistent bags under my eyes proved it. A never-ending feeling of exhaustion and tiredness hovered over my head as if to say: "See? They're right! You're tired! You need to fix this!"
A prolific Twitter user would've hammered away on a tweet, asking their following to share "their experience" (just to get confirmation that, indeed, they weren't getting enough sleep, alongside twenty useless tweets starting with: "I don't know about sleep, but...") Someone else might've picked up a book "On Sleep - a NY Times Bestseller!" to learn more about the subject and replicate some of the tips found in the book (Ok, I'm on the hunt for one, please advise).
The transition was simple: 3AM - 9AM became 11PM - 6AM.
In my case, the feeling of tiredness, alongside my family's worried glances and the undeniable fact that 3AM - 9AM wasn't your run-of-the-mill sleeping schedule, was enough to convince me to try and tweak the time I went to sleep.
The transition was simple: 3AM - 9AM became 11PM - 6AM. My main goal was to preserve the same hours of work and the same hours of sleep but rearrange them in such a way that would allow me to get a "good night's rest" (whatever that means).
I'm happy to say that, at the time of writing this, I've committed to the above schedule for the past four months, and the results speak for themselves.
1. No more bags.
No, I'm not talking about LV or Gucci bags (sorry, Cardi). The first sign of change came about when the bags under my eyes went away. Yes, I didn't look like a freaking panda anymore, and I quite liked it.
2. I'm done with playing night-time catch-up.
Overall, I feel better. More rested, despite getting in about the same amount of shut-eye. Waking up with the birds makes it seem like I accomplish more because I start my day when it actually kicks in, instead of feeling like I'm playing night-time catch up. A placebo effect? Maybe. But if that's the case, it's one hell of a placebo.
3. Winning the breakfast game.
A healthy, slow, morning breakfast, compared to the on-the-run "swallow whatever I find in the fridge because I gotta go" breakfast, is a huge win and welcome addition to my morning routine.
4. Re-discovering slowness.
To be clear, when I say "slowness", I'm not thinking about Flash - the Sloth from Zootopia. But I am the type of guy to barrel down the street, the world around me a blur, with a clear image of my destination painted vividly in my head. It's so strong a habit that a friend of mine once spent ten minutes walking next to me, and I didn't even notice he was there. I can't guarantee this type of behavior has been fixed, but for their part, the mornings have a stable cadence to them that feels good. It's miles better than tornado-ing around the apartment looking for my shoes with a slice of bread in my mouth because I "gotta run."
Of course, everyone's sleeping habits are different. All in all, as far as this night owl is concerned, this little experiment was successful. Going to sleep earlier, and waking up earlier, proved to be a much better fit for my daily routine than pulling constant all-nighters.
Sure, whenever genuine night-time inspiration hits me, I allow it to ebb and flow because it must. Those ideas floating around in the feeble glow of the moonlight gotta be snatched up. And if not by me, then by who? There's something about staring into that darkness and have it stare back at you, like a blank canvas begging to be painted on. But allowing it to hit me occasionally, instead of forcing it to come forward every night, seems like a more natural way of growth, both for me and my creative neurons.
I can't wait for the next truly inspired all-nighter. As for now, I'm off to sleep. It's bedtime.