How to make your 9am lecture

Windup_alarm_clockAH NIGHT owls. We’re the ones who historically would have guarded the camp at night, preventing everyone from being eaten by tigers. We were heroes, doing more than our fair share to keep our fellow humans alive.

Alas, society has rather lost its use for us. It is now skewed to favour the early risers, and as such, 9am lectures for us are absolute hell. Almost impossible to awaken for and undoubtedly a bleary eyed mess if you do. I’m sure all of us insomniacs are looking forward to a nice desk job, commuting into work at 8am or earlier!

I personally like being up into the early hours. The peaceful calm atmosphere whilst the world is sleeping is perfect for quiet reflective thinking. They’re also some of the best socialising hours, and it is undoubtedly the optimum time to be finishing that essay that’s due in in 7 hours. I’m naturally writing this article at 3am, the time when my mind seems to work at it’s best. Many of the most interesting people I know are night owls, something about it seems to cause you to view life in a slightly deeper, more thoughtful way.

However it is less than convenient for many reasons. From the conventional to the not so conventional, I’ve examined some tips below and concluded our best chances at being able to actually attend morning lectures more than once a month.

f.lux: Lately, a lot of research has gone into the effects of blue light on our sleep. It has been shown that blue light is the specific waveband of light that signals to our brain that it’s daytime (sunlight tends to be very blue), and likewise the lack of blue light signals to our brain that it’s night-time (presumably we’ve evolved this way so that the more yellow light from fires wouldn’t keep us awake). f.lux is a small, free computer program that has gone viral over the last year or two as a way of helping you sleep. It determines your approximate location and then when the sun goes down it’ll automatically tint your computer screen to a more orangey and less bluey glow (you may have noticed the blue glow from screens at night). It may not be an instant cure, but it certainly helps reduce the harshness on your eyes and seems to somewhat make it easier to sleep. Free, easy, and seemingly moderately effective, this is an essential thing to try. 9/10

Blue blocking glasses: Using the same blue light theory, you are able to buy orange lensed glasses that block 100% of blue light. This means it matters much less that you’re sat on your laptop until 5am – hurrah! With no blue light entering your eyes, as far as your mind is concerned it really is night-time, and you’re likely to notice yourself getting sleepy earlier. This works well if you have the discipline to put them on a few hours before bed every night. It isn’t an instant fix, but give it a week or two and you’ll likely notice your sleeping hours sliding back towards normality. Downsides: they aren’t free to buy, can be a little awkward to find, and they tend to look stupid. However that’s a small price to pay for actually making lectures and passing your degree! 8/10

Getting sunlight: If your mind believes that blue light = daytime, and sunlight is blue, then the obvious next step is to get outside in the mornings! As soon as you awaken having a big dose of blue light makes it perfectly clear to your brain that it’s daytime, and thus when it comes to night-time your mind will be much more inclined to accept that it’s night. Get outside when you wake up! Free, easy and effective. 9/10

Food: Studies have shown that the times that food is available may have a major impact on our circadian rhythms. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective that if food is only available at certain hours, then your body will make damn sure it is awake during those hours. By restricting our eating to during the day only, and giving up those 3am dinners, there’s a good chance that your sleeping hours will quickly improve. This is a widely recommended strategy to get over jet-lag, too. Worth a try. 8/10

Intermittent sleeping: It might seem incredibly lazy to get up for a lecture then go back to bed, or to nap in the afternoons, but it appears to be fairly natural for humans. There’s plenty of evidence that not too long ago it was regarded normal to sleep in two blocks of around 4 hours each, with an hour or two during the night for other “activities”. Even today when you consider Spanish siestas and standard late night eating in many European countries, it shows that our British way of doing things isn’t necessarily best. No reason to feel guilty about sleeping and napping when you get the chance. 9/10

Sleeping pills: Don’t really solve anything in the longer term and are some questions over the health implications – except in exceptional circumstances, would not recommend! 3/10

Counting sheep: Worst advice anyone has ever come up with, if anything it just keeps your mind ticking. Why is this the first recommendation you learn as a kid?! 2/10

Exercise: Makes you sleep deeper and feel more rested, again won’t fix a totally broken sleeping pattern but definitely helps manage it and does all sorts of goodness for you anyway. 8/10

Embrace it!: Night owls tend to be interesting people, and the early hours are a wonderful time to socialise and be alert and thoughtful. Society may favour early risers, however increasingly there are many ways to work on your own hours if you need to. You’ll likely outgrow the nocturnal-ness in due course anyway, so enjoy it while it lasts. 10/10