My name’s Emma, and I’m a recovering bedtime procrastinator.
My nights used to consist of snacking, scrolling through my phone, watching TV—anything I could do to put off bedtime just a little bit longer. This was my way of reclaiming my schedule after exceptionally busy days.
Carving out time to chill and unwind after work is undoubtedly important—but I took this overboard for a while. Spending so much of my evenings on screens (which are known to inhibit melatonin production and mess with your natural sleep-wake rhythms) only encouraged me to stay up later and later. I went through years thinking I was a night owl before realizing that wasn’t the case: Technology was just tricking me into thinking I wasn’t that tired when, in reality, my body was craving an earlier bedtime.
This isn’t all that surprising, considering that light plays a huge role in regulating our circadian rhythms. And as I recently learned from holistic psychiatrist Ellen Vora, M.D., some of us are more sensitive to it than others. Vora previously shared with mindbodygreen that she, too, used to consider herself more of a night owl before realizing that she was just particularly sensitive to light after sunset.
“If I see light in the evening, it suppresses my melatonin, and I can feel wide-awake for hours. If I get the proper light cues in the evening (i.e., darkness after sunset rather than the psychedelic light show of modern life), I can get sleepy at an appropriate time,” Vora writes. Who else can relate?
It took me a while to identify my energizing triggers and get closer to my true sleep schedule. I’m still far from perfect, but these are the changes that I’ve found most helpful for breaking up with my former night owl persona: