Last night I stayed up writing until 2:20am, then watched an episode of The West Wing to unwind before actually falling asleep at 3am. This not entirely unusual for me.

I live on the west coast. At 1:45am my time, I took a break and Snapchatted back and forth with a friend on the east coast who wakes up at 4:30am to work out before he goes to work.

That interaction, one could say, is the perfect symmetry of a friendship between a night owl and a morning person.

The fact is, society tends to look down on those who stay up. You're thought of as more productive, efficient, and if you get up early and go to bed at a "reasonable" time.

Yet some of history's most famous leaders and creatives did their best work at night. Kafka sat down to write at 10:30 or 11:00pm and worked until 1, 2, or 3am. Other well-known night owls include Winston Churchill, Fran Lebowitz, Bob Dylan, Carl Jung, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Travolta, Prince, Christina Aguilera, and, believe it or not, Barack Obama.

Some research even suggests that those who stay up late and sleep in regularly are smarter than those who don't.

Smart or not, here are 7 things night owls do on the regular that morning people will never understand:

1. Set an alarm for 11AM or later

I don't know a single morning person who can relate to this. Even on weekends, it seems morning people have body clocks that are set to times like 7AM. To them, sleeping in means getting up at 9AM (I truly cannot not grasp this).

Night owls, on the other hand, know that if they don't set an alarm, they're not going to make it to that noon yoga class. It's just a fact.

2. Start their workday at 4PM

When you get up at 11AM, by the time you've meditated, worked out, showered, eaten lunch, run errands, and gone through your emails, it's easily 4PM -- sometimes later.

It's completely normal for me to work from 4-6PM, take a break, get back on the horse from 7-8PM, eat dinner, then wrap things up from 10PM-1AM. Then it's Netflix until bedtime around 2AM.

3. Drink coffee in the evening

When you know you're going to be up for a full eight hours after 6PM, there's no real reason not to.

4. Get a second wind at 10PM

I can be completely exhausted at 8:30PM -- I mean barely be able to keep my eyes open -- and then absurdly alert three hours later. It's as if something happens at 10PM that reactivates my brain, and I'm suddenly wide awake. Even if I wanted to, the idea of being able to get to sleep at 11PM is, to me, laughable.

5. Do some very serious night snacking

If you eat dinner at 8PM but don't go to sleep until 2AM, by midnight ... you're pretty hungry. It's not unusual to whip up a quesadilla or full-on turkey sandwich and devour it.

You usually want to keep noise levels down in deference to non-night owl members of the household, so other popular night owl snacks include: chips, cereal, leftover pizza, endless cups of tea, and, of course, cookies.

6. Procrastinate by looking at memes

Everyone does this, obviously, but night owls are masters at it. The best is when you and a fellow night owl trade memes about procrastination at 1 o'clock in the morning, chuckling to yourselves at your increasing levels of wit.

7. Occasionally stay up until dawn and then completely freak out

On the whole, night owls probably don't want to stay up quite as late as they do, nor sleep quite as late as they tend to.

When you stay up really late, you can sometimes get ahead of yourself. And by "get ahead of yourself" I mean keep hitting "next" on Netflix until you realize that it's 5:30 in the morning. 

Every night owl has experienced that horrible moment when you actually hear the birds chirping outside. I can't be the only one who has pulled open her curtains with a sense of dread, seen the pink sky of dawn, and jumped back to dive under the covers, horrified that I've let things get so out of hand.


The fact is, we all have internal circadian rhythms that scientists tell us we can only do so much about. We should learn to embrace who we actually are (not who we think we should be), and that includes our natural work and rest periods.

After all, "new year new you" doesn't mean you should try to fundamentally change who yourself. It means you should strive to be even more of who you are, and love yourself with all your so-called "flaws" ... even if one of them is horror at being unwittingly awake for the sunrise.


"Listen to the night as the night knows your truths, your stories, your aches, your dreams, your cravings, your forgotten memories, not so forgotten."

Victoria Erickson

"I will always write.
I will capture nights all over the world
and bring them to you."

Henry Rollins