• Cara Fielden

Why we need to stop shaming night owls/late sleepers

If you’ve been keeping up with us for a while, you’ll know a bit about our sleep expert James Wilson and his approach to improving people’s sleep. The Sleep Geek, as he is often known as, focuses on helping individuals to better understand their sleep type, and working on things they can implement in everyday life to help with their personal sleep needs. Something James often talks about is sleep types. Think of it like a line - a continuum if you like - with early types at one end (who are sometimes called larks) and late types at the other end (often known as owls). We all sit somewhere on this line. We are all different and actually most of us sit in the middle with a bit of a preference one way or the other. But something that we have noticed in society is that night owls (or late sleepers) are shamed for choosing to sleep later. Read on to explore why we think this needs to STOP!

Understanding our sleep type is crucial to improving our sleep. Better sleep starts with an awareness of what we’re like as sleepers - and our sleep type gives us a huge insight into this. If we are someone who works better in the evening, and prefers to go to sleep at midnight as opposed to 9pm, that helps us to understand when we need to get up in order to be productive. Alternatively, knowing that we work better first thing in the morning will help us to realise that we probably need an early night most of the time, meaning we are more of a lark. This vital piece of information has helped thousands of people sleep better under the work of The Sleep Geek. So why is it considered so ‘bad’ to be a late sleeper?

Where has this idea come from?

There is a toxic (in our opinion) idea in society that those who wake up later and go to sleep later are lazy, less productive and even less healthy. Society has created this idea that there is a ‘normal’ time to sleep, and that late sleepers do not align with the rhythm of modern society. It seems this idea has resulted in making late sleepers feel bad about their sleep habits, as opposed to seeing an alternative perspective or at least offering some helpful advice.

The internet is flooded with articles, research and blogs talking about the benefits of waking up early, and a lot of it feeds into hustle or grind culture. This culture is all about working as hard and long as you possibly can, not really taking into account how this can impact our wellbeing. So if you have read anything about how getting up early is the key to being successful, and you’re not someone who functions well in the earlier part of the morning, we imagine this has made you feel rather ashamed of your sleeping habits. And that’s where the concept of sleep shaming comes in.

The impact this has on night owls

If we look through the lens of James’ approach to sleep - this could really impact how late sleepers view their sleep. It will make them feel like, in order to be successful in society, they need to be early risers or ‘morning people’. And for those people who sit on the night owl end of the continuum, this can be really damaging to their sleep and therefore their overall wellbeing.

Sleep is the foundation of good wellbeing, so if we’re not sleeping in tune with our sleep type, it can be really detrimental to how we feel. Forcing ourselves to sleep in a way that isn’t right for us will not work in the long run. That’s why the pressure of grind culture can be very toxic for our wellbeing - it encourages us to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves, when really what we need is to delve into understanding our individual sleep needs and type.

Work and sleep

There has been a huge shift in society and the workplace around the typical ‘9-5’. People are challenging this ideal to work hours that suit their lifestyle - and we’re here for it! As long as we’re doing the work and meeting all our requirements from our workplaces, why wouldn’t we follow a structure that benefits our health and wellbeing? If anything, that’s what’s going to make us better workers in a multitude of ways!

What about mothers and carers? The 9-5 will not work for everyone, and this expectation causes a lot of damage to the people whose lives do not align with that specific routine. The kinds of people that inform these ideals and expectations are the people who that niche schedule works for.

Let’s think about the pandemic: that changed everything about the way that we work. Society has shifted a lot since then. Many of us are working remotely, which has likely adapted many of our working hours. Being a bit more flexible with our working hours will inevitably help us find a balance between getting the amount of sleep we need and functioning to our best ability at work.

So maybe there’s a silver lining (a really, really tiny one!), to what’s happened over the last few years, that people who do not fit in well with the 9-5 hustle culture do not have to anymore in order to be seen as productive or successful.

Final thoughts: As we mention a lot here at Beingwell, taking care of our wellbeing is all about finding an approach that works for us as individuals - not a prescriptive piece of advice to apply to everyone. And that idea is exactly the same when it comes to sleep. Sleep is an intimate and personal thing that we all experience differently, so finding what approach to sleep works for us is vital to improving it. In the same way that there’s no one-size-fits-all with working hours, there isn’t one for sleep or wellbeing. It takes a lot of work to figure out what’s right for us, but it’s all worth it to feel better equipped for the ups and downs of everyday life.