Staying Up Late: Why Everyone Should Go to Bed Earlier


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Over the past year and a half I have developed the bad habit of staying up late. Really late. I rarely get to bed before 2am as I am up working on my business. And since I developed this bad habit I’ve noticed some of my other good habits fading away like dew in the sunshine. I don’t meditate as much, I am less patient and my health is not as strong.

In this post I want to give you a few reasons as to why staying up late is a bad idea and why we should all endeavor to go to bed a bit earlier.

What constitutes “staying up late”

So how do you know if you are staying up late? Is 10pm late? Is 1am late? Actually, it depends. You know you are staying up late by one single signal. You are tired. If you are up late enough to be tired you know that you are going past your body’s bedtime. And this bedtime is different for everybody. Some people need to be in bed by 8pm. Others can stay up all night studying and not feel tired at all.

Why we should go to bed earlier


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If you find that you often stay up late it might be worth while having a read over these points. I truly believe that people these days stay up far too late and that going to bed earlier is a key to many successes in your life.

If you know of any other reasons or perhaps you don’t agree with what I have written please leave a comment and discuss it. I am very interested to learn more about the issue of sleep.

1. Humans aren’t used to staying up late
Something that I have come to realize in the past few days is that humans are not used to staying up late. In fact, up until about 100 years ago most human beings would go to bed at a little after sundown. This is an interesting point as it indicates that staying up late is a very unnatural behavior.

Before electricity and light bulbs most people went to bed as soon as the days chores were finished and dinner was eaten. Sure, they had candles and fires but for the most part people did not stay up reading. They certainly weren’t up writing blog posts or watching Letterman! And going to bed early often means waking up early – until about 100 years ago everyone got up at dawn.

So perhaps staying up late is not healthy because we aren’t used to it yet. Perhaps humans are supposed to go to bed early and get up early – just like every other creature on Earth. And this leads me to my next point…

2. Staying up late is not nature’s way
I recently saw a video where the great Buddhist master Tai Situ Rinpoche said that staying up late and getting up late was not in tune with nature. I think he is 100% correct.


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Think about the world. Think about nature. Everything rises when the sun rises. The flowers start to open, the birds start chirping and so on. With the exception of nocturnal animals everything on Earth wakes up as the sun does. And in a similar vein everything goes to bed as the sun does. Flowers close, birds nest, etc. But humans stay up watching television or reading blogs. Does that sound right?

If something or someone goes against nature it usually has bad consequences. For example, if you spend your life eating unnatural foods it usually means you end up getting fat, diabetes or even cancer. So why is bedtime any different? Is it really a good idea to disturb this natural rhythm?

3. The morning is the best time for meditation
Throughout the ages, since the time of the Buddha, meditation masters have been telling us that the morning is the best time of the day for spiritual progress. For many of you reading this article your spiritual progress is the most important aspect of your life. So why are we sleeping in?

In the morning the mind is clearer, sharper and more at ease. It is easier to rest in the natural state of your mind and you have a lot less disturbing emotions such as desire, anger and attachment (apart form attachment to sleep!). Furthermore, Chinese medicine shows us that the internal energies (chi) of the body are ideal for meditation during the early hours of the day. Perhaps this has something to do with the natural rhythm that we talked about above?

If you want to become a great meditator or at least start to take your meditation practice more seriously I strongly urge you to start going to bed early and waking up early. You will find that progress comes a lot faster.

4. The morning is the best time for exercise
Last night as I was sitting on the computer eating a packet of crisps and drinking a chocolate milk the news lady told me that Australia is now the fattest nation in the world. I couldn’t believe it! My home country was now fatter (per capita) than the USA. And there I was up late eating junk food and depriving my body of sleep.

If you are trying to lose weight the best time of the day for exercise is first thing in the morning. Why? It is simple. If you exercise before breakfast your body will start to burn your fat stores for energy as there is no available energy from your food. This means you lose weight a lot faster than if you were exercises after a meal.

But weight loss is not the only reason. Exercising before work is also a great way to tackle depression and leaves you feeling fit and alive the rest of the day. You will have a lot more energy and work won’t seem so draining. This I can guarantee.

5. Being tired usually means being grumpy
Here at The Daily Mind we are very interested in personal growth. And as we all know one of the most important ways to grow as a person is to start behaving in a more loving, compassionate and patient manner. But tiredness sometimes makes this aspiration difficult.


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Think about the last time you were sleep deprived. You might have been up all night working on an assignment and then had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to work. Think about how mean and irritable you were that day. You got angry at everyone around you and you felt extremely agitated. Then you went and downed five coffees to wake you up and instead made yourself more depressed, anxious and uptight. That is what tiredness can do to you.

If you are trying to work with your mind and become a more loving person you need to give yourself all the help you can. Going to bed early is one way to do this. A fully rested and fresh you is a lot more loving than a tired and grumpy you.

6. Late nights aren’t that productive
Something that occurred to me very recently was the fact that I am not very productive during the later hours of the night. My mind is usually foggier and I am less likely to get things done. So perhaps staying up late to do more work is not the best idea?

If you are staying up late to get work done perhaps you need to rethink you strategy. Start to become aware of your late night work hours and find out if they are really as productive as you think. For example, if you have a report or an article to write see how many words you get done in an hour and then compare it to the writing you do during the day. I bet it is less productive.

Perhaps a better strategy would be to get a good night’s sleep and then wake up early and work when your mind is fresher and more alert? I am considering trying this at the moment. What do you think? Has this worked for anyone?

Conclusion

There is a strong case to be made for early nights and early mornings. It seems that the only reason we don’t do it already is because we are up watching bad television or because the bed is too hard to part from at 6am. However, once the habit of staying up late and sleeping in is conquered I honestly think that we will accomplish more, become better people and feel a lot happier. What do you think?

34 thoughts on “Staying Up Late: Why Everyone Should Go to Bed Earlier

  1. Great post! I recently read an article where scientists found that some weight gain is caused by the lack of sleep. So they did a study where they had a bunch of women get the required amount of sleep (7-10 hours) for about two months and they did not have to do any exercising during the two months. They found that all the women in the study lost weight. Goes to show you the importance of sleep.

  2. There is definitely something special about getting up early. There is some sort of purity to it.

    I agree that morning is the best time for meditation. It seems to be easier to stay focused and relaxed. However, I find that I exercise best in the afternoon.

    “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healty, wealthy, and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin

  3. Another fantastic article that for the most part I agree with. But, one point that did jump out at me was the recommendation to exercise in the morning. I study psychology and recently we have been looking at bio-rhythyms. These are the body’s natural cycles that occur in almost every part of your body for everything. While studying this I found out that the best time for exercise is in the evening at about 5-6 PM rather than in the morning. This is because between 6 AM and midday your heartbeat is at it’s highest than at any other time of day (it increases when you are getting closer to waking up to bring you out of your relaxed state of sleep). If you exercise in the morning your heart rate only increases a small amount, if at all. If you exercise in the evening your heart rate more often than not will show a decrease over time. A lot of athletes actually exercise in the evening because of this. I think it’s good to have a small amount of exercise after you wake up, but keep your main exercise periods for evening times to reap the benefits. Apart from that though, I totally agree with you. We should all start going to bed earlier!

  4. Great post! Thanks for the important reminder.

    I’m convinced that I should be waking up daily at 3 AM in order to fit all the things I need to into the magic morning. I’m sure I’ll be up late tonight just worrying about it. ;-)

  5. Interesting. I have put on a little bit of weight lately. I’m not sure if it is the lack of sleep or the fact that I eat bad food when I am up but there is certainly something there.

    Thanks for the information!

  6. Darren that is really interesting. I don’t have much time now but I will write a more lengthy reply later. I’d love to get a guest post from you about your study if you were ever interested.

    Thanks.

    TDM

  7. It becomes habit too, not very helpful when you live in a world where everyone follows waking up with sun. You get behind the world, or you get infront? But the night is a time of quiet, alot better than the day. It’s better to sleep during peace than with movement, hustle and bustle.
    Other than that, there’s things like harm to organs (synthesizing vitamin K while sleeping) and hormonal imbalance.

  8. You wrote, “If something or someone goes against nature it usually has bad consequences. For example, if you spend your life eating unnatural foods it usually means you end up getting fat, diabetes or even cancer.” This implies that diabetes is caused by diet. We don’t really know the causes yet, but there are also genetic factors influencing whether one gets diabetes. Please don’t just blame one’s eating habits (those of us with diabetes tend to blame ourselves for getting the disease). I agree with you, eating unnatural foods leads to all kinds of bad things! Thanks–

  9. Very good points here, I just bought a new house and it’s easy to get caught up working on stuff and finishing projects late into the night, but that ends up affecting me for as much as several days afterward. Early night for me tonight.

  10. Dear TDM,

    Thanks for your thoughtful article.

    I personally do get up early for light exercise and spiritual practice (typically 5:30-7:30am). A few things I have observed:

    – If I sleep in for the same period that I would normally be up, or longer, I often feel lethargic during the day and more tired in the evening. The only exception to this seems to be if I am exhausted or worn out to the degree where I really do need a couple of extra hours of sleep.

    – Spiritual practice in the morning has a noticeable effect on the quality of my day. Even the smallest amount of practice, when there is no time for more than few minutes, has a very noticeable effect.

    – Sometimes when I engage in spiritual practice in the evening it can seem calmer and more relaxed than the morning. This usually *feels more pleasant* and intimate (perhaps related to the daylight softening / fading rather than brightening) and I usually sleep much better afterwards too! However, because I then sleep soon afterwards, I’m not so aware of the effects compared to morning practice! On the other hand it does make it easier to get up early for morning practice!

    Sometimes it seems a bit like the brighter sharper mind of the morning is also easier to be distracted and engaged in thought processes, so prolonged focus takes more *effort*. In contrast the softer evening mind can be more relaxed and settled with less need for *effort*. Of course this sometimes means the evening mind can be soft and fuzzy and lack clarity also!

    – Sometimes I engage in spiritual practice in the morning and again in the evening, this has the feel of spiritually ‘bookending’ my day – like everything that takes place during the day in contained within the embrace of my spiritual practice. It is both deeply restful and deeply satisfying. Needs careful planning, attention and focus to fit in regularly though!

    Best wishes!

  11. Oh and another thing I wanted to mention is that I have a daily “lights out” alarm set for bedtime as well as a morning alarm clock to wake up to. Very effective when I get engrossed in something in the evening and lose track of time!

  12. Wow, I think it would be great if you wanted me to write a guest post for your site. I’m not entirely sure what it would contain, obviously the theme would be bio-rhythms, but I’m sure I could think up something. Let me know what you would want to do or put in the guest post. I think you have my e-mail when I post a comment, so contact me by e-mail if you want to. Thanks.

  13. I just read an article on nocturnals (the human type) & nocturnals feel more awake, more alert & better able to concentrate at night. Is it a generalisation to say that “In the morning the mind is clearer, sharper and more at ease”.. ?? Definitely true if your a morning person, but some people just aren’t, like me. I would rather study all night & into the morning than go to bed early & get up early to study. I get more done, I learn better & my mind is far more receptive at night, which also doesn’t fit with your idea that “Late nights aren’t that productive”. At night, I’m more upbeat, talkative & better able to socialise/communicate, more switched on and just generally alot more happier, which in that sense is a more productive time for me. I know I don’t speak for all night people, but I do know I’m not alone in my thoughts. Your article has alot of truth but there are quite a few points that I feel are the biased opinions of morning people. However I do definitely agree that it is a great feeling waking up early & getting everything done, by the time I am normally just waking up. To be honest, I would love to be a morning person, but I never have been & I’m not sure if I could be, because I’v been staying up late & waking late for years now.

    Your thoughts? Thanks :)

  14. I disagree with you in a lot of ways. I just happen to stay up past three at least three days a week and play a varsity sport plus another sport on the side, I’m in all advanced classes, and I’m never tired… unless I sleep. It seems strange, but I have some how conquered sleep deprivation. I wake up at around 6 ever morning, and sometimes earlier. Although I do wish that I didn’t stay up so late sometimes, because I love sleeping, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to sleep more than I already do. When I wake up I’m actually more awake and hyper than I am when I get lots of sleep. And I still manage to play sports while also keeping a 4.0 GPA… I think I must be a freak of nature according to your article.

  15. its an interesting post…but i have to disagree with 1 thing.. its mention that it goes against nature’s behavior.. by staying up late..and thus its bad for health. i have to say over 100 years ago the world is not as like it is now. in the night it is dark it just makes things harder for them to complete their task. but now in this current era isn’t it different? we have electricity and stuff like that. that would change a whole lot of things.everyone now is just trying to improve the world. by working, studying etc.. every minute counts furthermore 100 years ago working and studying isn’t the same..humans aren’t use to staying up late.. but humans learn to adapt and thus there is the possibilities of changing..well this is just my point of view.. with the many school assignments, activities, and homework given i have no choice but to stay up a lot. i can bet 100 years ago there isn’t such things like there is now..

  16. You are actually wrong about staying up late. In fact, without your first point to support the rest of your article falls the whole thing falls apart. In summary, primates were the prey at one time, so being nocturnal may have been an evolutionary benefit that humans still have today in the form of “staying up late” regardless of the effects of electric light. Also primates are meant to be sleeping in the early hours of the day at daybreak, so exercising actually is not healthy and increases a chance of things like heart attacks. Think of it this way: are the chimps at the zoo most active at daybreak or mid afternoon? Getting up early and forcing yourself to exercise is not what nature intended it’s a byproduct of modern living. There has been plenty of research in this field done by anthropologists and zoologists. Remember some parts of psychology are designed to support the corporate/government status quo, so not everything that comes out of that field is actually in line with what nature intended.

  17. How Interesting! Thank you for all of these tips. I also have a bad habit of staying up late, watching hulu, and falling asleep with my computer on. Ugh. Just writing it out makes me feel bad about doing it so often. Of course, I have also been in a bad habit of waking up late and missing the mornings.

    When I was in university, I had a grueling schedule. I was achieving a major in mechanical engineering at a tough school, adding lots of courses in design and business, holding lead positions in three clubs, working a part-time job, and maintaining a serious relationship and a very full social life. I was busy!
    In fact, I think I worked harder during that time than I had ever worked before or since. Still, I had a wonderful work ethic. I rarely pulled all-nighters to get work done.
    What I remember best about the positive decisions I made back then are these two lessons:
    1) First, I realized that tasks would fill the time allotted to them. If I had to write an essay that should take approximately 3 hours to write, I would not begin at 8 hrs to deadline. If I started at the 8 hr mark, the essay would take all 8 hrs. Instead, I would begin at the 3hr mark, just the amount of time I deemed necessary, and that would be all the time I had. If the essay wasn’t done in 3 hours, it wasn’t getting done. Quickly, I trained myself to value the time I gave myself and do the best I could with what I had. I wouldn’t stress anymore at the end of the time allotted because I would literally have no more time or energy to dedicate to that task. (Usually I had to turn in the assignment or perform other tasks I’d already scheduled)
    2) Second, and this one is really related to this article, I realized that I had to burn the candle in the morning, not at night. With such a busy schedule, just managing my time well was not always enough. Many days I had too much work to do and not enough time to do it in. At that point, I had to skimp on sleep to meet all my obligations. I realized that when I would get tired late at night, my productivity suffered severely. In a tired state, it would take me 3 hours to get a 1 hour task done. What did I do? Well, I still didn’t have the luxury of getting a nice 8-hour sleep every night, but instead of working into the night, I would set my alarm. The minute I felt my energy waning and the tiredness swimming in, I would stop my work, estimate how much time I needed to finish in the morning, and set my alarm early by that much. Sometimes I was falling asleep with unfinished work at 1am with an alarm set for 5am to finish it. Remarkably, this worked! Don’t get me wrong, I was still sleep-deprived and I had to catch up on that later, but my ability to work well at 5am, even on only 4 hours of sleep, was much better than my ability to continue working at 1am. If you have to lose sleep for work, much better to do so in the morning than late at night. Part of this also goes back to my first point – in the morning, you have a finite amount of time before the deadline, whereas the night before you essentially have all night stretched out ahead of you for working in a tired daze.

    It’s always best to have a reasonable schedule, but I agree that working in the mornings with just a little sleep is far more productive than at night with none.

  18. Sorry to break it to you Amy, but you are a morning person. Thats great for you and you will always fit in with the accepted work environment. My point was that if people were to live as thier bodies dictated, a lot of people would no longer be “morning people” and we would see an increas in “night owls”. I am glad your body can handle it, you will be more successful because of your biology, but its not for everyone and quite a few can never make the adjustment.

  19. That was an amazing report! Did you conduct any experiments thoroughly though? I wholeheartedly agree with you about working at late hours, i often cant concentrate on everything I do and I always get distracted. Do you have a cure for this though because I really need it. I don’t get a good night sleep anymore these days. If you do you have a cure for it I would love to read your report.
    -Jen

  20. Your article was great!!! I totally agree with you on everything! I have been a night owl for 16 years now and always go to bed after 10:30pm. I can never go to bed before this time! At night I feel more awake, more alert, and can concentrate better. I get more done, learn better, and my mind is far more receptive at night. I’m more upbeat, talkative, and better able to socialize/communicate, more switched on and just generally a lot more happier than in the morning.I feel much more productive at night than in the morning or during the day! I don’t know what to do because I feel so great at night time. I also love spending time with my boyfriend in the evening and into the night and I don’t want to go to sleep because I love spending time with him hanging out together. Despite these things, I really want to be a morning person and go to bet early before 10pm and wake up at 6am! I have done this a couple of times before and I felt so good in the morning and the rest of the day and my anxiety and stress levels went down! So going to bed early is my dream!!! But every time I try I cannot make myself go to bed early!!! Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

  21. I have to say this just isn’t true for everybody. I was always an insomniac as a child and never could sleep before about 1AM, I used to sit out on the landing or get up to stuff and because I was forced to get up early for school I didn’t sleep enough. But I was never tired.

    Now, I need 7-8 hours sleep but if I go to bed early I wake up in the night all the time, I sleep terribly if I go to bed before 1am or so. Always have. I exercise a lot in the day (but not before bed) and I eat a while before going to bed. Going to be late and getting up late is natural for me and in fact my weight stays lower if I do that, and I have far more energy. I never did used to have much energy in the mornings, always at night.

    So, I think people are just different. Now I am doing some 9-5 job I am so tired in the day I almost fall alseep half the time because I am going to bed at 12:00 midnight and getting up at 8am, both times are way too early for me so I have no energy. When I went to bed at 3am and got up at 11am I could jump out of bed and literally have loads of energy. So much for this then.

  22. Muslims wake up early for the Fajr prayer, considered one of the best prayers for its ability to brighten ones face for the rest of the day. no wonder your sense of needing “meditation” (or contact) in the morning is active.

  23. this article is the truth …My father always used to say the same thing i never used to do it but once it felt like ma life was falling apart i just thought about it and tried it one night and since then i haven’t looked back..!..plus waking up in the morning at round 5:30 -6:30 am is the best.. which is a known fact if people try it..i personally would believe the world would be a better place if people slept early..!

  24. i COMPLETELY agree! even tonight, for example, im Wide awake, and buzzing! but, no matter how much sleep i get, in the morning i will be sluggish, and waiting to be energized by mid-to late afternoon, going into the night again.

  25. Thanks for the article. It is so true.

    Sometimes before I got to bed I start thinking of things that I haven’t done or read then I want to start reading and this wakes me up. Then I continue working until 2-3 or even 5am. … of course this isn’t a productive work.

    There were times where I used go to bed at 9pm and read for 1-1.5 hours then my mind was so tired and I couldn’t wait to go sleep.

  26. I would love to be an early bird but I just can’t. It is so easy for me to stay up late, even if I get up on time.

    My mind comes alive at night. In college I wrote my best papers at 1am. When I would try to do them early, I just couldn’t focus.

    I’ve been lifting weights for 10 years, and I prefer exercising in the afternoon/evening after my body has warmed up throughout the day, and after I have eaten a few meals to give me some energy. Morning workouts leave me feeling like I didn’t work to my potential.

    I also *feel good* when I stay up late. Like I said above, my mind comes alive. I have good ideas. I feel happy and awesome. Studies show that acute sleep deprivation may help depression… maybe that’s why? I don’t know.

    Great blog post, though. I enjoyed reading it. I think I’m just a biological night owl.

    Cheers.

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