I'm A Natural Night Owl: How I Trained Myself To Be Up At 6:30 A.M.
I'm someone who has always loved to sleep. But as I went through my medical training, sleep started to represent a struggle. I had less time to sleep, and then eventually I found it difficult to sleep even when I did have time. I dreaded trying to sleep every night because I knew it would be fraught with tossing and turning and lots of frustration.
It wasn't until I started to study the science behind sleep that I fell in love with it all over again. (I joke with my husband that sleep is my first love, but he's a close second!)
These days, I sleep best when I've been able to work out in the mornings and get in a short early afternoon power nap. I also sleep better when I can allow my schedule to drift a little closer to my natural circadian tendency, or chronotype.
I naturally want to go to bed late and sleep in, but my typical schedule isn't aligned with this circadian rhythm. Because I am such a night owl, I have to be very careful with consistency—going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day—so I don't drift out of rhythm. I've been able to adjust to an earlier schedule through consistency, but if I'm not careful, I can struggle to fall asleep at my desired time during the week. When I'm on a long vacation or taking time off from work duties, I allow myself to shift a bit and tend to get better sleep.
Sleep is so important to me because I remember what it was like when I wasn’t getting it.
Sleep is so important to me because I remember what it was like when I wasn't getting it. I was absolutely a worse version of myself: more irritable, emotional, angry, and less productive. I wasn't living up to the potential that I knew I had because I was so exhausted and only had enough energy to "get by." Sleep allows me to function at my best. It gives me the mental clarity, energy, and improved mood I need to be productive and successful in my everyday life. I feel more in control of myself, my emotions, and my day after I've gotten good sleep.
- Average hours I sleep a night: 8 to 9
- Ideal bedtime: 12 a.m.
- Ideal wake-up time: 9 a.m.
- Nightstand essentials: The Hatch sound machine, Bluetooth sleep headphones, a blackout mask, Neom perfect night's sleep pillow spray, book of devotionals
- Favorite place I've ever slept: In my in-law's old spare bedroom, randomly. It was a very cool and dark room that had the most comfortable mattress I've ever slept on!
- Sleep bad habit: Sometimes sleeping in later than I should on the weekends
- Caffeine consumption: 1 cup in the mornings
- How I track my sleep: No specific tracker
- The last product or habit that changed my sleep for the better: Not looking at my phone when I wake up in the middle of the night
- The first thing I do when I wake up: Say a prayer
6:30 a.m.: It's a Tuesday morning, and I'm already starting to set myself up for good sleep. After waking up, I open my blinds to allow as much natural light in as possible. I also make my morning routine enjoyable to help buffer against stress that I may encounter during the day that might interfere with my sleep. I do this by listening to energizing music or an intriguing podcast while I'm getting ready and preparing my favorite coffee drink that puts me in a good mood. I start with a workout first thing in the morning, which also helps me to sleep well at night.
8:25 p.m.: I've been home from the office for a few hours. After watching some TV with my husband, I start winding down. I turn off the television, and I dim all the lights in my home to help bolster my natural melatonin release. I light a candle that contains some of my favorite essential oils for sleep, including lavender and chamomile, to help calm myself down before bed. I also take two tables of magnesium glycinate to help promote relaxation, slow down my nervous system, and set the stage for sleep.
8:30 p.m.: I turn the thermostat down from 70 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This is to help facilitate the decrease in body temperature that has to occur when falling asleep. I start my soothing music playlist that includes mostly smooth R&B. The music really helps me to relax and gives me all the feels.
8:35 p.m.: I hop in a nice warm shower to promote a decrease in body temperature that helps me to fall and stay asleep. I then apply my Neom Perfect Night's Sleep magnesium body butter. I find that layering the aromatherapy scents and magnesium to really help relax me before bed.
8:50 p.m.: I start my skin care routine and brush my teeth while listening to music.
9:05 p.m.: I grab a book to do some light reading before falling asleep. Right now, it's The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama. Reading helps me to feel relaxed and takes my mind off the worries or other thoughts lingering from the day.
9:25 p.m.: I top off my reading with a nightly devotional for about 5 minutes. This really puts me in a grateful and positive mood.
9:30 p.m.: I hit my pillow with a few sprays of pillow spray and throw on my blackout sleep mask to block all light while I sleep. I turn off my bedside lamp, turn on the white noise on my Hatch, and go to sleep.
Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell is a board-certified physician, certified sleep specialist, speaker, author of the forthcoming book Sleeping on the Job: How To Optimize Your Workplace Performance And Personal Well-being Through Better Sleep, and founder of The Solution is Sleep LLC.
As someone who formally suffered from insomnia herself, she understands the transformative power of good quality sleep and how obtaining this regularly can lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive life. She has been featured on local and international television shows and networks such as the Dr. Phil show, ABC News, and WGN television spreading her message about the power of good sleep. She also regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications. She specializes in helping overwhelmed workers beat burnout and build resilience while increasing productivity and engagement through better sleep.