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ON THE FRONT LINES: How night owls can be just as productive as morning people

On the Front Lines

If you are a night owl, read these tips to maximize your productivity before starting the Fall 2023 semester. – Photo by maticulous / Flickr

We have all heard of "morning people" — a group of extremely productive individuals who wake up at 5 a.m. and start their day with a cold shower before heading to the gym for their early morning workout.

By the time the rest of us wake up, they have already gone through a good portion of their day. On the other hand, night owls are sound asleep until they roll out of bed at, what, 10 a.m.? Maybe 11 a.m.? Sometimes even later.

The main reason for these late risings seems to be staying up late — but what exactly are these night owls doing up at 2 a.m.? Scrolling through TikTok? Well, as a certified night owl, I would like to make the argument that night owls can be just as productive as morning people — if executed correctly.

So, if you want to learn how to be a productive night owl, keep reading.

Stop shaming yourself for not being a morning person

For the longest time, I have wanted to be a morning person, and boy, have I tried to be. 

I have attempted the 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. workout classes, and I usually end up having a pretty terrible workout even with an adequate amount of sleep from the night before.

I feel groggy and lightheaded. My muscles feel weak, my stomach aches for some much-needed breakfast and I cannot help but think about how much more effort I would have put in had I opted for an evening workout instead.

I also find myself to be especially irritable in the early morning. It just feels way too early to be awake, and I cannot help but think about how I could be curled up in my bed instead. This fact makes me especially grumpy, and I hate to think that I could take that crabbiness out on those around me.

The fact of the matter is that you do yourself more harm by trying to force yourself to be someone you are not, continuously failing at it and feeling disheartened because of that.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept that you are not a morning person and determine how to be the most productive night owl with these steps.

Establish a routine and sleep schedule

Just like a morning person might consistently sleep at 9 p.m. to wake up at 5 a.m., a night owl can also stick to a consistent plan.

While some of the appeal of being a night owl may come from being more spontaneous, sometimes night owls can get carried away by staying up at all different times and having zero structure in their sleep schedule.

This inconsistency can lead to sleep deprivation which is a major hindrance to productivity. Getting enough sleep is a key ingredient to optimizing your energy levels and overall health, and I do not think it is valued enough by college students.

Additionally, getting enough sleep may be the first step to weaning yourself off that caffeine addiction, which also is not healthy for you. 

To avoid the sleep deprivation trap, my goal this semester is to establish a routine that includes a designated sleep schedule. Again, while I am all for being spontaneous, there is no denying that creating a routine has its benefits.

I plan to sleep between the hours of 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. and wake up between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. to give myself at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. I purposely scheduled my earliest class to be at 10:20 a.m. because I know there is no way I am making it to an 8 a.m. class.

Another tip for all the night owls out there: Do not schedule morning classes unless you absolutely have to. There is no point in signing up for a class that you will not attend, not pay attention to or fall asleep in.

As a result, most of my days will look something like this: wake up, make breakfast, head to class, go to the gym, shower, eat lunch, more class, go to work (at The Daily Targum's office, of course), head home between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. and, lastly, have some time to myself — which brings me to my next tip.

Use the night to be creative (do not just scroll on TikTok)

If you are like me, you hate going to bed early. It is almost like a sort of FOMO. The night is still young and no one wants to miss out.

It finally feels like I have some time for myself after fulfilling the day's commitments. I feel the most creative and find myself writing into the late hours of the night. It feels like the ultimate adrenaline rush, and this might be the case for a couple of reasons.

Some research suggests that more of our brain function is directed toward the right hemisphere (known as the creative side of our brains) around the time we sleep.

Additionally, feeling tired can simulate the feeling of being drunk since both conditions release the same hormones, and on top of that, a chemical called prolactin, activated at night, provokes a sense of calmness and peacefulness.

While it is important to decompress after a long day, resist the urge to jump onto social media for hours and focus on leveraging your late-night creativity high.

Study for that exam coming up next week, develop a side hustle, start a deep conversation with a friend or get in a late-night workout, which — you might have guessed — leads me to my last tip.

If you want to get a killer workout in, leave it for later in the day

Like any gym rat, my social media algorithm is full of fitness influencers. And funny enough, a few weeks ago, a YouTube Short (yes, a YouTube Short — I never downloaded TikTok) from Dylan McKnight came up in which he addressed the long-lasting "debate" on whether people should work out in the morning or at night.

He references a 24-week-long study published in 2016 by Maria Küüsmaa which suggests that "combined strength and endurance training in the evening may lead to larger gains in muscle mass."

McKnight also mentions that this may be due to the increased amounts of food and caffeine a person consumes throughout the day to give them energy, which I think adds to the advantages of being a night owl (even though I personally try to avoid caffeine).

It is also important to note that the study looked solely at "young men." McKnight's content generally targets young men, and well, some of his commentaries can come off as a bit problematic in his videos. But alas, that is a conversation for another time.

Concluding thoughts

A Rutgers student who prefers to stay up late and sleep in does not have to convert to the idealized early riser lifestyle. They can accept their preferences as they are, leverage them to their advantage and start off their semester with a bang.

Sara Eschleman is the opinions editor of The Daily Targum.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 900 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day's publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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