The Blog of a Math Nerd...named Donnie


Being a Night Owl

Posted on 03/05/2017

I've heard that people who wake up early are happier, healthier, and more productive. I wanted to be more productive so I decided that I would get up early. I thought I would have more time to get things done, but I could never make it stick. I would get up at 6am for a while, but one morning I would silence my alarm, fall back asleep, and wake up two or three hours later. I was also spending 8-10 hours sleeping each night. I knew that I didn't need that much sleep, but I couldn't figure out why my body felt it needed it. Finally, after failing for years, I flipped it on its head. And it worked.

Some people just aren't morning people. It didn't matter how much I wanted to be one. I always found myself sleeping too much and feeling bad that I wasn't being as productive as I wanted. A few weeks ago, after returning from a trip to California, I had some catching up to do. I knew it would be a late night, but that was fine because I didn't have anything to do the next morning. I stayed up until 5am and got everything done. I woke up at 10:30am feeling rested and ready to go. It was incredible that I felt better after 5.5 hours of sleep than I did when I would get 9.5 hours. Not only that, but I got a lot done in the seven hours between when my wife went to bed and when I went to bed. It dawned on me: I am a night owl and I should embrace that.

For the past several weeks I have fully committed to the night owl lifestyle. I go to bed between 2am and 4am, get between 6.5 and 8 hours of sleep (waking up on my own), and I have several hours of uninterrupted work time at night. I also feel happier and healthier than I have in a long time. I have even lost 4 pounds without changing any other part of my lifestyle. It did take some time to get used to not having a lot done before lunchtime, but I would remind myself that my intense working time had shifted to the late-night hours.

Working late at night is not for everyone, but neither is waking up early in the morning. I think employees and employers can benefit from being flexible about working hours. Forcing someone to work outside of their natural rhythms now seems counterproductive. I believe that a person can be an early-riser or a night-owl just as much as they can be analytical or creative (I'm definitely analytical). Figuring out which category you fall in can literally be the difference between happy and miserable or success and failure. I wouldn't replace Jony Ive with a mathematician and expect great results.

Tags: Sleep, Productivity, Life
Updated on 03/06/2017


Allow me to introduce myself. I am a mathematician and programmer. Currently, I am working on a PhD in arithmetic geometry. I like to write about many things including math, sports, programming, education, and technology. If you would like to see my comments more frequently, you can follow me on my social profiles:


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