night owl with new early bird work schedule

A reader writes:

I am most decidedly NOT a morning person. I’ve been a night owl since I was a kid. I actually chose my field as an undergraduate (a branch of the biological sciences) based on the fact that labs quite often run non-standard hours. In fact, for the overwhelming majority of my career so far, being a night owl has been incredibly helpful…I’m often willing to run experiments later in the day than another labmate, meaning that both of us can use the same equipment and therefore more work can get done, making the most out of limited resources.

However, now I’m in a new lab, and I’ve come to discover that everyone here is a morning person, and now I am expected to be, too. I was very honest and clear when I interviewed about my preference for later hours (I usually feel physically ill when getting up in the early morning), and during the interview process I was assured that wasn’t a problem. Unfortunately now that I’m here, it is.

I did mention it to my manager and got a non-answer like, “Well, I guess I remember you saying that, but it is what it is” … meaning that the experiments had already been set for happening in the early morning, no one else had a problem with it, and that it was now up to me to comply. And all of the interview assurances were verbal, I already went back and checked all communications from the interview process.

I’m trying to make the most out of this situation, since this is a new job and I’d like to stay in the good graces of my supervisors. I am experiencing a lot of anxiety about trying to become an early riser. Because of the anxiety, I’m going to bed so early that I miss out on having a life after the work day is complete, because I’m tossing, turning and worrying about that early morning alarm clock going off. I’m sure people in other fields can struggle with this, too, as well as recent graduates just getting used to a new professional job. Do you have any tips, tricks or advice for a night owl trying to fly with the early birds?

I do realize that this type of question will likely get a lot of “suck it up buttercup” from the commenters. Believe me, I’m trying! I desperately wish mornings came easily for me.

Ooooh, I sympathize. I’m a huge night owl — last night I was up reading until past 3 a.m. for no reason at all other than that that’s the schedule my body puts itself on when left to its own devices. And then someone called and woke me up at 9 a.m. and I am Quite Annoyed.

So know up-front that that’s my bias, but I really think that what they did here is BS. Whether or not someone thinks that your schedule preferences are frivolous (and some people will), the fact is that you were clear about your preference and you were told they could accommodate it. It’s really not that different than being told during the interview process that you can work from home two days a week and then finding out when you start that ha ha, they were just kidding, or having anything else that you agree to before accepting a job suddenly yanked away.

And yes, of course you should get those things in writing because it often makes it easier to resolve when there are problems with it later on, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating and unfair that they handled things like this.

All of which is to say that if you wanted to, I think you’d be justified in looking at other jobs over this, even though you haven’t been there that long. This isn’t a perfect solution, because if you do change jobs over this anytime soon, you’ll be stuck with having to explain why your stay there was so short-term. And while it’s completely legitimate to change jobs because the terms of employment were misrepresented to you, that’s still a pain in the ass and something better avoided. Plus, people like to judge people who don’t like rising early. (But I judge them right back for missing out on the delights of the 1 a.m. cup of tea and Downton Abbey rerun.)

As for what you can do in order to make the early morning hours less painful … I’m hoping readers will chime in with suggestions on this, because it is not my forte. However, one thing I can tell you is that most habits become ingrained after about 30 days. So if you can be disciplined about it for a month, it’ll probably be a lot easier after that. Readers, what else can you suggest?

{ 292 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    If it makes you feel better, OP, my mother has this issue too. She feels tired all the time and physically ill when having to get up early, even if she tries to go to bed early. Her doctor told her that it is her body’s natural circadian rhythm and to listen to it. Since she is on disability for other health conditions, she doesn’t have to deal with getting up for a job now, but when she did, she would do nothing during the week because of the side effects.

  2. Wubbie*


    I was in your situation and struggled terribly with early mornings. I used to typically go to sleep between 2 and 4 AM and I was expected to be in by 9AM. It was awful. They did know about my sleep issues and were somewhat accommodating, knowing that I was always willing to stay late, but I did get grief over it from time to time. It affected my personal life too, where I’d sleep until 2 or 3PM on weekends and be completely unproductive.

    I started taking Melatonin about a year and a half ago and the results have been simply magical. I usually go to bed now between 9 and 11 PM and 90% of the time I am the first person in the office every day. While it does help me sleep, the most dramatic effect has been how much it helps me wake up! Even on the weekends, I am now normally awake sometime around 7 to 9AM and I get tons accomplished.

    I cannot recommend it more. If you have a Costco near you, the kind they carry there also includes an herbal supplement to aid with relaxation and sleep.

    1. Laurie*

      That sounds promising. I’ve been hearing good things about melatonin aids, and I’m willing to give it a try at this time. My only concern is, is it addictive? And do you find that you can go off of melatonin and still wake up at 7 – 9 AM?

      1. Christina*

        I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or pharmacist, but from what I understand melatonin is a natural and non-addictive supplement. We actually produce melatonin after during the production of vitamin D, usually initiated by getting soem sun (hence why many people get sleepy while sun bathing).

        I’ve been on a melatonin regimen for years and I only use it when I can’t sleep, but it is very helpful to get to sleep and stay asleep.

        1. Ornery PR*

          I’m nearly certain this is not correct. Melatonin production is inhibited by sunlight and permitted by darkness. Creating an absolutely dark sleeping environment will help your body produce melatonin. Also, melatonin is a hormone, and you absolutely can overdose on it.

          I’m not against melatonin, but get a lot of information before you start it. I took a much too high of dose when I first tried it (5mg) and had terrible nightmares, anxiety dreams and could not wake up. It’s important to talk to your dr before you go on any sleep inducing regimen.

      2. Wubbie*

        I did a lot of research and consulted my doctor before starting with it and I’ve never heard anything that indicated any issues with long term usage. That is absolutely something I looked for.

        I take it every day with no problems at all. I have not heard about addiction issues. If I miss a day or two I don’t feel withdrawal or any other problems. But it’s not a “cure” so if you stop taking it I’d guess the problems you had could return.

        1. jmkenrick*

          My grandfather is a doctor who specializes in children’s sleep and he has often spoken of the virtues of melatonin. (Taken in small doses, I believe.)

    2. Chrissi*

      I second this. I’m exactly like the OP where I don’t feel well when waking up early and I have fought it and felt ashamed of it for 10 years before finally accepting it and I’m much happier. But also, melatonin. You can use it as a sleep aid (that’s the dosages that are sold, usually 1, 3, or 5mg), but if you are JUST using it to “reset” your circadian rhythym so that your body knows to get up at the right time, you should use a very small dose, 0.3mg. They don’t sell that dose in the stores, so I just buy the 1 mg and try and break it into 3 pieces. Using that small of a dose, won’t really make you drowsy at night, but it helps you wake up in the morning, and it keeps you from having any hangover effects as well.

      1. Wubbie*

        I do not recall exactly what the dosage of the product I use is, but I think it is less than 1mg. I’ll try to remember to confirm this when I get home tonight.

      2. GDorn*

        This is exactly right – taking 3mg may backfire for some people, leading to night terrors and/or sleepwalking. .3mg is much more effective for setting up a rhythm.

    3. jlf*

      Seconding melatonin. I only discovered it after years of trying other sleep remedies that left me groggy hours after I woke up in the morning. Unfortunately I can’t take it right now because I am pregnant, but it really was a life-safer for me and had basically no negative side-effects that I noticed.

    4. Minneapolis Mom*

      Melatonin is a great solution to short-term sleep problems. According to this fact sheet and my primary physician as well, it should not be taken in doses larger than 1 mg for 200 lb adult or for a longer duration than 2 weeks. I have taken it occasionally and had great results, but I do have some pause when I see it recommended as a long-term solution.

        1. Ash*

          Let’s not quote Doctor Oz as some sort of reliable person when he has been proven wrong on many occasions. Let’s listen to real doctors who don’t have TV shows and make money from advertising products.

      1. Emily K*

        Yes. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you can go nuts with it. If you regularly take it as a supplement, your brain will stop making as much of it naturally, because your body loves homeostasis.

      2. Ellie H.*

        Wow, I’ve been taking melatonin for almost two years. I take 5 mg a night I think. It still works great for me.

        1. Another Jamie*

          Same here, except I usually take 1-3 mg a night. And for at least 5 years.

          I’ve never felt any withdrawal, but it does eventually start to lose it’s effectiveness. I find that not taking it for about a week helps it start working again.

          (I’m not a doctor or anything, but I do tell my doctor every yearly check-up that I take it every night and he’s not concerned.)

    5. Wubbie*

      One more thing I wanted to add. Before I started Melatonin I’d take sick days at least, and sometimes more than, once a month.

      Since I started a year and a half ago I think I’ve taken 2 sick days.

    6. Jesse*

      I love my melatonin too. While I take it right before bed, I’ve heard that if you take it at the time you WANT to set-up for sleep (i.e. 9pm if you normally go to bed about 1 or 2am) then your body will learn to adjust.

    7. Jubilance*

      I agree with the melatonin suggestion. If there’s a Trader Joe’s near you OP, they make a chewable melantonin that also has a peppermint flavor.

      Also, when you take melatonin, immediately go into a dark room! Turn off the lights, pull the blinds, use a sleep mask if you need to. Light (whether natural or artificial) inhibits the body’s production & use of melatonin, so if you take it but stay up watching tv or reading, it won’t work. It regulates your sleep cycle, but it won’t actually make you sleepy like a sleep aid will.

      1. fposte*

        The current theory is that TV use and computer use–that’s including smartphones and tablets, anything with a glowing screen–is particularly bad, so make sure your phone is out of the way as well.

        1. jmkenrick*

          I actually think there is some science behind that; I recall reading something similar. Although I am too lazy to look it up now.

          1. Lulu*

            Yes, f.lux! Although the downside of this is that you can convince yourself it’s OKAY to keep reading stuff on the computer past the time you’re “supposed to” shut it down… The blue wavelength stimulates hormones (not going to trust my memory on explaining specifics just now) that make your brain think it’s still time to be awake, rather than winding down for sleep.

            1. Emily*

              Doesn’t it have to do with evolution, basically? Our brains evolved to be active during the day when all colors in the light spectrum are visible and short wavelengths (green, blue, violet) suppress melatonin production, and to sleep when light sources like campfires and candles, which give off long wavelengths (red, orange, yellow) and allow melatonin production were all we had at night. I had a roommate in college who used a special high-intensity short wavelength lamp designed to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’m pretty sure she primarily used it to apply makeup, but I actually noticed a difference when I had to get up for an early class and she had it on.

    8. Katie*

      Yes!!! Melatonin!
      I came here to suggest that, but I see many other people had that great suggestion for you.

      I would suggest taking melatonin (I use 3 mg) about half an hour to an hour before you want to be asleep. Then lie in bed, maybe read something not too very interesting, but don’t watch TV or look at a screen.

      You can also set your alarm for about half an hour before you want to get up, and leave a cup of water and a caffeine pill by your alarm clock, swallow the pill when you are still half-asleep and the first alarm goes off, and it should be much easier to wake up at the time you want to wake up. (This is not a healthy long-term option, obviously).

      Also increasing your caffeine consumption during the mornings might help.

      Try to keep up your routine on weekends too, that will help your body get used to it.

    9. Your Mileage May Vary*

      Melatonin is made by your body naturally. If your natural level of melatonin is high enough, taking the melatonin supplements won’t help you. I think it’s a good thing to try but, if you’re like me, you might be lying awake at night wondering why this wonder pill won’t help you like it seems to help everyone else on earth.

      I am a nocturnal person who always has had a 8:00 to 5:00 job. I recommend Ambien.

        1. BW*

          Wonder at giving me wee-hour panic attacks. Knock me out – 3 hours later I’m wide away and AHHHHHH. *sigh*

      1. FreeThinkerTX*

        I’m one of those people you’ve heard about on the news who took Ambien and walked in their sleep. Actually, in my case, it was *drive* in my sleep. And I crashed my car, then walked home. With absolutely NO memory of it. In fact, when I was headed to work the next morning and my car wasn’t in the garage, I called the police and reported it stolen. They found it in a few hours, damaged with two flat tires, and parked in nearby store parking lot, with the doors locked and no sign of forced entry or hot-wiring. And my keys were on the kitchen counter where I always keep them. That’s the only way I knew it had to have been me behind the wheel.

        So I say use caution when taking Ambien. I’ve seen in the news recently where the FDA is changing the dosing recommendations for women to half the original amount.

        1. Your Mileage May Vary*

          I’m glad you’re alright. A friend of mine who is in law enforcement got a call to come in a book one of his “clients” one night after he took his Ambien. He drove down there, did the processing and drove home. The next day, he asked the officers why that guy was in jail. He never remembered doing it!

          I eat late at night after I’ve had Ambien. I’ve also left some rather uninhibited Facebook posts to some of my more whack-a-doodle “friends”. I’ve had to learn that once I take it, I need to go right to bed even if I don’t feel immediately sleepy. Otherwise, who knows what I”ll get up to.

          But if nothing else works and one needs to get up the next day, it may be time to bring out the big guns.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Holy crap! I’m glad you didn’t get hurt.

          A friend talked about how spaced his wife was when they gave it to her when she was starting labor with their first child. She has absolutely NO recollection of the *goofy* things she said while the medicine was working. That is so creepy.

    10. Brightwanderer*

      Woe, I got briefly very excited about this and then discovered that it’s prescription-only in the UK. Also, recommended only for insomnia in people over 55, apparently. O.o I guess I’ll be trying some of the other suggestions in this thread (although I am by this point completely immune to my sunrise lamp and able to catch my alarm clock that runs away in my sleep…)

  3. Mary Sue*

    I’ve been stuck in an early bird job for the last seven years. The bad news: it’s sucked every single morning. I have yet to get ‘used’ to it. The good news, I finally hit upon a system that works for me. I have an alarm on my phone set to go off Sunday through Thursday nights at 8.30pm. I drop everything and do set up for the next morning – coffee maker, outfit, lunch, anything I need to remember to take to work. And then I take my tablet computer with me to bed and I surf the Internet until I fall asleep. Drooling. On my tablet

    I’ve got the XTreme Free Alarm Clock on my phone which you can set up to make you do math to snooze it or disable it. So when it goes off at 4.45am I have to become coherent enough to do simple math problems just to shut it the heck up. Oh, and I have it set up so that every time I snooze it, it knocks 2 minutes off the snooze time and requires an additional math problem to shut it up. I’ve basically got it set up to annoy myself awake around 5am.

    And why don’t I just turn the alarm off and go back to sleep? Because I know if I go to the kitchen, I push a button and there’s coffee and open the fridge and there’s a cookie on a plate for me. I bribe myself to get out of bed.

    This all works because I am single with no roommates. Your mileage may vary depending on your own housing situation.

    1. Sydney*

      That is a great system you figured out for yourself. I have taken similar steps to bribe myself to do things, like work out for example.

    2. the gold digger*

      set up for the next morning – coffee maker, outfit, lunch, anything I need to remember to take to work.

      Isn’t this how everyone does it? I don’t have the alarm set, but when I get home from work, I make my lunch for the next day, set up the coffee machine, put my gym clothes in the bag, and set out my work clothes. I don’t want to get up any earlier than I have to in the morning and if I wait until morning to do stuff, I’ll forget important things. Like underwear.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        No. I make my lunch, pick out my clothes, etc. in the morning, and I start work at 7 am. Then again, I rather get up 15 minutes earlier than have to arouse myself from my 9:00 pm couch crash to make lunch.

        1. BW*

          Same. The only think I do is set up the coffee, because it is on a timer to brew itself right before I wake up, and it’s too much thinking and action for me to handle first thing in the morning.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Isn’t this how everyone does it?

        Ummm, no. This is the way that works best for me because it is almost inevitable that I will get out of bed with no extra time to do more than the essential morning ablutions. But I am not as good as you about doing it when I get home from work and sometimes I drag myself to bed so late that I don’t do my preparations. This usually means that I have to buy lunch the next day.

        There are those strange people who wake up so early that they have extra time to do non-essential things in the morning. I once read a ridiculous article on O magazine about how a person could be ready faster in the morning by watching TV instead of reading the paper. Really! If you’re reading the paper in the morning before work you are not even trying to be quick. That pretty much cemented my negative opinion of O magazine.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          For some reason, I have a 3-yr subscription to O Magazine that I didn’t order. It just started showing up one day. It is completely worthless.

            1. Nichole*

              This phantom magazine subscription thing happens to other people? My early-30 white husband has a mysterious subscription to Ebony. We’ve never paid for it, and didn’t even know it was coming for a few months (it goes to my mom’s house…even weirder. We did live at that address, but had moved several months before the subscription started.)

              Sorry, back to topic. Just thought that was curious.

              1. Katie in Ed*

                I’m not sure if this is the case here, but you might want to be careful with these phantom magazines. I think some unscrupulous companies do this and then charge outrageous subscription prices and late fees, even if you never authorized the order. I’m sure there’s not much they can do if you have your wits about you, but these kind of scams tend to take advantage of those who might not.

                1. fposte*

                  That can be the case, but it’s not uncommon for them to come as a free unstated bennie with some purchase; the magazine then gets to inflate its circulation stats accordingly, despite the fact that those customers never signed up for the magazine any more than they signed up to get a phone book.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Watch your purchases online and in stupid stores like Best Buy (in fact, just avoid them altogether). They’ll sometimes tack those on without you knowing it.

                  Technically, though, if you didn’t agree to it in some way and they just start sending it to you in the mail, I think they cannot charge you for it, in the US anyway. It’s considered a gift. But they count on people either missing an uncheck box somewhere, or not knowing that.

              2. Andrew*

                I’ve had a mysterious subscription to the Hollywood Reporter for 3 years now. It’s very enjoyable and I will miss it if it ever stops.

        2. the gold digger*

          No, I mean, doesn’t everyone prepare things the night before, not doesn’t everyone do it as soon as she gets home from work! As soon as I get home from work works for me because once I get it all done, I can relax, but other people, obviously, have different methods. I think setting an alarm is a good idea.

          I can’t imagine waiting until the morning to get everything together. I always laugh when I see suggestions in women’s magazines to set things out the night before because I think, “Really? Someone got paid to write that article?”

          1. Y*

            I wish I could do everything the night before. It’s actually what I’m trying to force (yes, force) myself to do because I know have an earlier schedule than my previous job.

            I normally had enough time to make my breakfast and lunch, pick out clothes…etc. Now I have to get work an hour earlier, and that, combined with having to travel right in rush hour…doesn’t give me that morning time anymore.

            It sounds flippant to say, the reason I did it in the morning is because I don’t know how I will feel in the morning, and so it’s hard to plan food and outfits. Food…is easier to plan than outfits.

            I’m trying to learn how to do it the night before…but it feels so unnatural for me!

            1. Diane (the other one)*

              Yes, me too! I have to know how cold it is, how cold I am, how hungry I am, and whether I’m grumpy and dour (grey or black), artistic (bright colors, or confident and regal (red or purple). Also, I have to reassess the sock/tights situation and brush the cat hair off of everything or pick something else. And I cannot do this the night before because I don’t feel like it. I tried.

              1. the gold digger*

                Diane, I have the cat hair situation as well. Our cats have fur that is white, gray, and black, so no matter what I wear, their fur is going to show. I miss the days when I could sit on the bed to put on my shoes and not get cat hair all over my butt.

                I am impressed by anyone who can make a clothing and food decision in the morning because I just can’t think that early. My brain takes a few hours to warm up.

              2. ARS*

                The only thing I do the night before is mentally prepare my outfit. I know in my head what I’m going to wear the next day. Weird thing is if I don’t do that the night before, I am completely thrown off the next morning.

            2. Cruella DaBoss*

              Try getting an army of people ready every morning! Planning ahead is a very big help. Otherwise, we would never get anywhere, much less on time!

              Since I have 4 children (including one with Asperger’s, who can really test one’s patience if the schedule is disrupted) preparing for the week ahead actually takes place on Sunday afternoons. This way if anything needs to be found, repaired, washed, etc… it can be done then. There is still the occasional surprise, but mornings have been much more managable.

              We pack any lunch items that can be packed ahead (i.e. microwave cups of chili, juice boxes, pudding cups, etc…), pick out outfits for the week (including underwear, socks, and accessories) and each child has an organizer like this


              that holds everything in one place.

              For myself, I have an over-the-door hook that will hold 5 coat hangers and it hangs on the back of my closet door. I pick out all of my outfits, including accessories (which I put in my pockets), and hang them on this hook. Then I can get ready in a snap, and I’m not searching for anything.

              We also have a staging area for our phones, laptops, school projects, notes, etc…so that no matter how bleary-eyed we may be, nothing gets left behind.
              Made my life so much easier!

              A habit takes roughly three weeks to establish. Don’t give up!

            3. Laura L*

              “I don’t know how I will feel in the morning, and so it’s hard to plan food and outfits.”

              I’m exactly the same way. Sometimes I plan an outfit ahead of time and end up going with something entirely different in the morning!

          2. Lulu*

            Nope, I didn’t really, partly b/c I was too tired in the evening to deal with it then, too! Or I had other plans that would get me home super late and bed was a priority over thinking about the next day. I also didn’t have much to “get together”, so unless I had something special the next day, there wasn’t much advance prep required – I ate oatmeal at my desk at work, had my coffee there, bought lunch, and dressed casually. Totally agree with the “who knows what I’ll feel like wearing tomorrow?!” people ;)

          3. Carrie*

            It sounds so passive-aggressive… “Doesn’t everyone do things my way, which is obviously the correct way?”

            No, not everyone is organized and motivated enough to lay out their clothes and pack their lunch the night before work.

            1. Laura L*

              Also, some people ARE morning people and can do that stuff much better in the morning than in the evening. It’s way quicker for me to make those decisions in the morning than in the evening, even though I have less time in the morning.

        3. Another Jamie*

          Ha! I actually watch tv while I get ready, and that helps wake me up. I think it’s the light from the tv screen and doing several things at once. If I sat and read the paper in the morning, I’d fall right back to sleep.

          1. Job seeker*

            I get my second energy in the late evening. I have always stayed up later. I think it goes back to being up all hours of the night raising our three. You are up when they are babies, up when they are teenagers for prom, out of town trips etc. But, I find I get more done if I make myself get up early and make a list. I don’t think working late would work for me. I would rather go in at the crack of dawn and get off earlier so I could plan dinner, exercise, walk, do computer stuff, laundry etc.

        4. non-paper reader*

          My husband has a nearly 1.5hr routine on a weekday morning due to this – he’s reading the paper etc – and yet has programmed himself to think he can’t eat or get ready faster. If I try to prod him gently out of this I can guarantee a day or two of him “not feeling well” or “tiredness”. >.<

          This comes more into play on the weekend where it takes nearly 2.5hrs and considering I'm the Flash in comparison (I can be up, washed, dressed, bag packed, breakfast eaten and out the door in 20 minutes) waiting that extra time for him to catch up is torture!

          1. Rana*

            I have sympathy for your husband. I too am, if allowed, a slow waker. I can, if pushed (as in, my flight leaves at 6am and I want just 15 more minutes of sleep), speed up the routine, but it really throws me off for the rest of the day. And that feeling of tiredness or sickness? For me, it is real. I often get what I call “puke” headaches in the evening on days where I had to rush in the morning. I hate, hate being jarred out of my own usual pace.

            Maybe you should use this as an excuse to sleep in? ;)

            1. non-paper reader*

              wish I could – unfortunately I’m an early riser myself and can’t sleep in even if I go to bed much much later than he does! Many have been the nights I’ve gone to bed at 3am and woken up at 5-6am and not been able to stay in bed. He on the other hand can go to bed at normal time and sleep in to 2-3pm without a problem

              I’m fully aware the feeling is real and not imagined btw, there are just days when I can’t leave him be and do have to prod him anyway. I try not to and feel guilty when I have to!

            2. BW*

              Me too. I don’t move too fast in the morning, and when I try to pick up the pace, I don’t feel well. I could hustle when I was young, but it seems like the older I get the longer it takes. I get annoyed when people try to rush me in the morning, as if I’m just being lazy. Um no, I’m just sluggish as hell, physically and mentally, and I have to absolutely have something to eat. Don’t rush me out without eating. I don’t care if the person I am staying with doesn’t eat breakfast. *I* need to eat (something with protein, not just anything either!) or I feel sick from really low blood sugar.

          2. HR Anon*

            My fiance is like this too! I can be ready in 20 minutes, he takes at least an hour and a half, and longer if he didn’t shower the night before and wants to do it in the morning. I have to work way before him on the weekdays, but if we have something on the weekend, this means his alarm is waking me hours before I need to get up to get ready. I understand that he needs the slow wake up because rushing just won’t work for him, but it’s hard to remember that when I was woken early but now we’re late for something starting at noon, and he is still in morning coffee mode.

      3. twentymilehike*

        Isn’t this how everyone does it?

        hahaha .. this made me giggle. To be to work on time I have to leave my house at 7 am. I am usually picking out my outfit at 6:55. However, while I have never forgotten my underwear, I have noticed later that it was on inside out!

        Seriously, though, I WISH I was motivated enough to do these things, but I like someone else mentioned … I can never really predict how I’ll feel in the morning and I’d probably end up changing three times anyways (BTW, changing your outfit three times in the morning is a terrible way to be late for work …).

        Anyhow, great recommendations here and I think the OP has a lot of ideas to fuel her mission! Personally, I had a lot less trouble getting up in the morning when I was single because I’d make so much more noise … I’d let the radio on the alarm clock stay on and I’d end up interperative dancing to classical music in front of the mirror while brushing my teeth. Now that I’m married, my husband doesn’t even wake up until after I leave in the morning, and even though he’s given me permission to make a racket, I just can’t seem to do it. He’s just too darn cute when he’s asleep …

        1. Diane*

          I once had underwear staticaly (sp?) clinging to my pants. On the outside.

          I noticed it before I got into work, barely.

      4. JessB*

        A similar system works for me, but my alarm goes off at 9:30pm and reminds me to spend 30 minutes cleaning up after dinner, getting ready for the next day and then to go to bed. One of my best mates jokes about my bedtime alarm, and that’s essentially what it is. I just found that I kept getting caught up with things in the evening, and the time would get away from me. I need 8 hours of sleep and this was a good way to make sure I got that, as well as making sure I was prepared for the next day.

    3. Esra*

      Seconding XTreme Free Alarm Clock. I have it on my phone and it is probably the only reason I make it into work. Like OP, I’m not just not a morning person, I tend to feel ill and not be able to eat or really get going until 9:30-10. I’ve tried going to bed earlier, preparing things the night before, but it’s still really, really hard.

      Currently I’m seeking another remote position, because working from home made it so much easier to accomodate these issues.

      1. Jessica*

        I’m the same way. I am very much a night person, and I feel ill in the mornings, especially if I eat. When I was a kid, my mom kept taking me to the doctors, because I was always either ill or feeling ill in the morning. She had heard that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, so she practically forced me to eat every morning. (And, being a kid, you usually do what your mom says.) My first childhood doctor gave her this nasty green medicine that would literally make me get sick. (I usually felt better after I got sick, probably because it got the food out of my stomach.) Finally (finally!!), my second doctor just said, “So she feels sick in the mornings, but only actually gets sick if she eats? Well, then don’t make her eat breakfast!”

        He said I have a “nervous stomach,” which I do (every time I am nervous, I do tend to feel ill), and it is just worse in the morning as I’m thinking of everything I have to do. The worst part is that I only feel this way early in the morning. No matter what is going on that day, if I can get up and get going at 9:00 or 10:00 instead of 6:00 or so, I never feel ill and never have those “nervous stomach” issues in the morning. One woman I work with always makes a comment on how I don’t eat breakfast when we have early morning meetings where it is provided, always saying that it is the most important meal and I should eat it to be healthier. I finally told her that I’ve had several doctors tell me that it’s healthier to not eat breakfast than it is to eat it every morning and vomit it back up. She finally left me alone. (Seriously, quit judging people’s eating habits! Sheesh.)

        It never has mattered when I go to bed, unfortunately. I’ve tried melatonin (at my doctor’s recommendation), but it doesn’t really help. I’m surprised to see so many people who have the same issues on here, because most people I’ve talked to about this just think I’m lazy in the mornings or something, when something very truly physical is going on that I can’t control. (And I’ve always had jobs with early morning start hours, which is unfortunate for me. I’m never late, but I’m not really all there until mid-morning. I have my morning “get ready” schedule down to 20 minutes, just so I can get up as late as I possibly can, though.)

    4. louise*

      my spouse would kill me for an alarm that annoying, but I think it’s ingenious.

      The cookie on a plate, though? Completely brilliant! I could see my husband trying to lure me out of bed by threatening to eat it…so I could get a workout, too, by racing him to the kitchen. I may have to implement this!

    5. Marie*

      I also bribe myself to get up! Mornings are not my time. I have actually moved a coffee machine with a timer right into my bedroom, so that about 10 minutes before my alarm goes off, it starts burbling and the room smells like coffee. When I remember, I also have croissants on plates and a chapter of an audiobook also ready. The coffee and croissants are the bribe, and the audiobook forces my brain to stay awake until the coffee has kicked in.

      I LOVE your night-time alarm idea, though – I generally only remember to prepare outfit and coffee when I’m too tired to do much other than roll into bed, so this could work for me.

      Now, if I could only get the audiobook to start playing automatically when the coffee is ready, I might be set!

  4. MissC*

    Ooh, I so understand this. For me, there’s actually no business reason why I would have to be there at a certain early hour, and flexibility in hours is supposedly possible, but in practice is rather frowned upon.

    I am trying to slowly adjust my body by going to bed 10 minutes earlier every night, and establishing a routine where 30 minutes before bedtime, I power down, enjoy my last cup of herbal tea, maybe with some reading material, and then brush up and go to bed. I used to take my laptop to bed with me and powering down is the last thing I do, but I found it really helps with getting to sleep by winding down earlier. Good luck!

    1. B.*

      I have this same problem. It seems like hours are flexible where I could just walk in after 10 a.m. but I feel like there would be strange vibes if I actually did it. I am a huge night owl like the OP and Alison and it’s so hard to break the habit. And I don’t drink caffeine at all.

      I’ve found that setting myself up for work the night before really helps. I also set at least 4 alarms about 10 minutes apart with messages to wake myself up. I’m realizing that if I go to bed super early (think 7 pm), I’ll wake up super early (3-5 am)and be able to do the same things I was doing at night, it’s just before work instead of after. This will only work if there aren’t after work events or obligations.

      Good luck!

    2. The IT Manager*

      Some research indicates screens (TV, phone, computer) keep people from winding down because they are so bright it tricks the brain. Like everything else YMMV, but it may be a good idea when you are trying to establish a schedule where you have wind down time without any screens before hitting the sack.

      1. Natalie*

        I wonder if screens like the Kindle (dim light that is aimed across the surface of the screen, rather than shining on your face) have this same effect… If not, that might be a good option for someone who wants to read themselves to sleep.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I have the kindle with eInk and I think it is different. It doesn’t generate it’s own light, and I have to leave a lamp on to read it just like a real book.

        2. Tax Nerd*

          It probably depends on which Kindle. I have the old keyboard Kindle with the pearl ink, and it’s in a cover that has a light pointing at the screen. I can read (or play Monopoly) on it, then turn it off and go right to sleep. Amazon even advertised that the pearl ink versions were good for bedtime reading. I also have the Kindle Fire, which will keep me up for a while because it’s backlit. Something to do with the backlight is directed at your eyes, or being too stimulating, or somesuch. (Obviously I have no need of the new paperwhite version.)

      2. Elizabeth*

        It’s not just the brightness, but the wavelength – “bluer” light signals to the brain “Hey, it’s morning!” and wakes you up. At the very least, installing something like f.lux (Google it) can help make your screen less glaring. It’s best to put away the computer/iPad/phone about an hour before bed, though.

        1. Rana*

          f.lux is pretty nifty. However! It can only do so much if there are other lights on in the house; those need to be dimmed as you approach sleeping time, too.

  5. Anlyn*

    From one night owl to another…one of the best bits of advice my mother gave me was what to do when I slept late. She said not to rush…I’m already late, so I might as well take my time and not panic, because that will actually slow me down. And sure enough, when I followed that advice, I was quicker with my morning routine and out the door without a lot of anxiety.

    I also sometimes get a sick feeling when I wake up too early. A very bland breakfast often helps with that…plain oatmeal or toast with butter, or dry cereal. It settles the stomach and helps wake you up.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good one, Anlyn. Yes, OP definitely watch what you eat especially at night. Big heavy dinners with lots of protein MIGHT be helping you to stay up at night and not be able to get up in the morning. I think this gets more noticeable as the years roll by.
      Watch the sugar and the caffine- tastes great going down but in the morning- uh, not so hot.

      I would also be tempted to try something for my stomach if I were having morning upset on a regular basis. Maybe some Pepto at bed time? Make a preemptive strike at the problem. Just a short term idea- to see if you can lessen the problem.

      One thing I have done for years now is I get up at the same time every day. Even on days off- it helps me to think less about “sleeping in.” I miss it less. BUT I do allow myself a nap on my days off and that is a luxury on a par with chocolate….

  6. BCW*

    Did they actually tell you that you could have a different schedule, or did they say they would take your request into consideration? I think those are really 2 different things. I mean, I could tell a company I’d prefer to work 7-3 and they could consider it, but then realize its just not feasible.

    Aside from that though, how long have you been there? I’ve heard, and it seems about right in my experience, that it takes your body 2 weeks to adjust to a new schedule. So maybe for the first few weeks it will be tough, but I would guess it will get better. I have a nurse friend who got a new job and she had to start working nights when she had never done so before. She said the first month was tough, but she mostly got used to it.

  7. The IT Manager*

    Unfortunately I don’t have much else to add to what Allison said except that unfortunately you do have to try to adjust your sleep patterns and that includes the weekends so if you stick with this job, in order to maintain a sucessful schedule, you will have to become an early riser full time. No sleeping in late on weekends because that just blows the sleep schedule your trying to create.

    For falling asleep early it may help if you get room darkening shades and dim or turn off electronic equipment that glowing lights or LEDs in order to make your room very dark for falling asleep. And then use an alarm clock that has a wake up light to help you rise.

    1. Chinook*

      I have an alarm clock with a wake up light and I love it. There are days I wake up before the noise portion of the alarm and it feels much less jarring, especially since traditional alarm clocks in a different room will have me in the hall, grabbing my purse and looking for the fire.

    2. Mints*

      The weekends thing is really key. You’ll end up sleeping four hours or so on weekdays because you’re counting on weekends to make up the sleep debt. Then THAT becomes your sleep cycle, which sucks
      So force yourself to wake up at 5am or whatever it is every single day for a month. Eventually you’ll just be getting sleepy around 9.

      Also sleep hygiene that every one has suggested, or go to a doctor to get sleep hygiene prescribed.

      1. KellyK*

        Very good addition. It might help on weekends if you wake up exhausted to remind yourself that you can nap later.

    3. twentymilehike*

      And then use an alarm clock that has a wake up light to help you rise.

      OMG that is brilliant!! I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I need it! DH and I sleep with the curtains open and just love waking up with the sun … unfortunately the sun sleeps in too late in the winter, so I really REALLY struggle to get out of bed with my early work schedule.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        Or you could put a timer on a lamp in your bedroom. It’s not as high techie, but it works.

  8. Sydney*

    Wow, that’s pretty awful of your supervisors.

    However, I used to be a night owl and now I’m an early bird. My husband is responsible for the change in me because he has always woken up early. He would bug me until I got up every morning and then it eventually started being my normal. So there is hope, OP. But it takes a lot of discipline and time. I don’t really recommend this is as your course of action.

    If I were in your shoes, I would tell your supervisors that this is a deal breaker for you. That’s why you were up front about it when interviewing and they assured it wouldn’t be a problem. If they refuse to accommodate you, I’d start looking for a new position.

    1. Piper*

      This sort of happened to me, too. My husband is an extremely early riser and once he’s up, so are the dogs. And after they’ve been outside and fed, they come bounding back into the bedroom to get me out of bed. So, over the years, I’ve been forced to become more of an early riser than I ever was before.

      That said, if left to my own devices, I’m still a night owl. If I have off work for a week and/or my husband is out of town on business, I’ll be burning the 2 am oil and not rolling out of bed until 9 or 10. It’s just my body’s natural rhythm. And even now, if I’m not up super late, I’m still not “morning person” in the sense that I’m more productive in the early hours. I’m not. I never will be. I hate working out in the morning. I hate thinking in the morning. The former I’m not forced to do because I just go for a run when I get home from work; the latter, I have to manage to do because I work a regular 9-5 job.

  9. Jackie*

    I have two things that make getting up easier:

    1. To keep the alarm-clock panic at bay (and seriously, marching band could come through my bedroom and I’d sleep through it), I got one of those alarm clocks that lights up a few minutes before the alarm itself goes off. They can be a little spendy; a lamp timer on your bedside lamp would accomplish the same thing.

    2. Exercise. No, really. If I make it to the gym in the morning, or even just throw in a cheesy Tony Horton DVD and prance around the living room for 30 minutes, I’m more solidly awake all day.

    1. Pamela*

      I have use the light on a timer before and it works really well. I had a lamp which is an opaque white rectangle-shape type lamp that really brightens up my room on those dark cold mornings. I noticed it helps to wake up to a well-lit room than a dark one. I set my light time to turn on 10 minutes before my alarm clock goes off and I noticed I wake up better than if I had woken up in the dark.

    2. AMG*

      Yes–exercise. I am a early-rising person not by choice, but because I have to be. I will be on the verge of throwing up and have flu-like symptoms if I am up too early or don’t get enough sleep. Exercise is a gigantic pain in the ass if you are already tired, but it goes away fast and you have so much more natural energy.

      I have to put my workout clothes on top of the alarm clock and move the alarm clock to the other side of the room. If I could, I would put it in another part of the house but my husband would kill me.

      I also like to listen to NPR, the tv or something to get my mind going. And good old-fashioned caffeine. Also, take vitamins, an irom supplement, and drink lots of water. It will help.

      Nothing worked as well as the exercise–it completely changed mornings for me.

      Good Luck.

    3. Bwmn*

      If exercise in the morning isn’t possible (for whatever reason), having a regular exercise routine in general does help with sleep in general. Obviously, working out an hour before you want to be asleep isn’t helpful – but if you’re exercising even after work it does overall help with making the body more fatigued/ready to sleep at night.

    4. LW6*

      There are also cell phone alarm apps that have the option of lighting up the screen a set time before the alarm. I believe the app already mentioned upthread, Xtreme Free Alarm or something, has that option.

  10. Laurie*

    OP, it’s not just you. I’ve tried endless variations of ‘my productivity peaks between 3 – 6 pm the way you early birds love 7 – 11 am’ but I don’t think my audience of early birds ever really believes me. Thankfully I’ve managed to get jobs with understanding managers and no hard and fast requirements to be in at 9 am. I feel your pain and I hope you are able to get it resolved in a way that doesn’t cut out your socializing time completely.

    1. Jen in RO*

      My early bird coworker always gives me an unbelieving look when I tell her that! I’m more productive in the afternoon – not to mention that after 6 pm everyone goes home and I can work in peace.

    2. Lanya*

      My most creative hours are from 5 to 11am. So during an 8 to 5 job, I’m only really naturally productive for the first three hours of the day. I slug through the rest of it. I wish I could shift my “optimal creativity time” but so far no luck.

  11. Glen Harness*

    I think this person should definitely quit, because there are a 1000 people who are out of work that would love the job and wouldn’t complain because they had to, you know, work during business hours. Give me a break. I used to love staying up and going out at night, and when I’m off work I tend to do that. But when I’m working, then I’m there during the hours I’m supposed to be.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      So do you not think that employers should be held to agreements they make during the hiring process, and that it’s unreasonable to be frustrated when someone misleads you about the terms of your employment?

      (And more to the point, I’m the one who suggested it could be a deal-breaker. The OP was asking about ways to make it work.)

      1. Glen Harness*

        Sorry, but work conditions change. During the hiring process, they may have intended on letting this person work whenever they wanted to. To me the real is that this person doesn’t want to acknowledge that the world doesn’t revolve around their schedule. Given my choice, I’d rather work later in the day and stay up later at night, but I don’t.

        1. Angela*

          Wow, Glen… way to be completely judgmental over something that could very well be a medical condition. I struggle with DSPS (Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome), where I am physically unable to sleep and wake up at a “normal” time under any circumstances. It’s people like you who make it even more difficult to deal with (and seek help for) a real, disruptive, and difficult condition. Lighten up and have some empathy for your fellow human beings.

        2. KellyK*

          To me the real is that this person doesn’t want to acknowledge that the world doesn’t revolve around their schedule.

          I don’t know how you got that from a letter asking them for suggestions on adjusting to the schedule their job requires, where they talk about making a good impression. Expressing frustration when you were promised A and given B is totally normal.

          I kind of doubt that if you showed up on day 1 of a job and were told, “Sorry, but your pay is going to be less than we previously agreed on, and you won’t be getting those vacation days after all. Oh, and you don’t mind working a double shift today, do you?” you’d smile and say, “No problem, I’m just thrilled to have a job.”

          1. Carla*

            I agree – I am sick of people assuming that we as workers must do anything to keep a job.

            OP never agreed to working those hours and its the same thing as being hired as a VP and then suddenly finding yourself being given janitor tasks. Of course Glen would be happy to get a VP salary and work as a janitor so that analogy doesn’t work.

            So let’s try this … (not true, just an extreme example)
            If my boss wanted to have sex with me, do I just “suck it up” cause there are a 1000 people who are out of work that would love the job and wouldn’t complain ??? Just like the new work hours, the job I signed up for has changed and now requires me to have sex with the boss. Does that mean I just shut up and do it? According to Glen, yes.

    2. B.*

      I think the problem is that that’s not what the OP was told in the beginning. What if you were told you were working 9a-5p, then they switched on you when you got there and said you were working from 1a-10a?

      1. Glen Harness*

        Then I would need to make a decision: do I need to work bad enough to stay under the new conditions?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, and it would be absolutely reasonable for you to decide that you didn’t and to move on, without being accused of being a whiner or complainer.

        2. Kathryn T.*

          . . .isn’t that just what Allison said?

          It’s like anything else: “Oh, sorry, conditions changed. Now instead of working in this office that’s a 5 minute commute, you’re working across town, two hours each way!” “Oh, sorry, conditions changed. Instead of 5 weeks vacation, now you get 5 days.” “Oh, sorry, conditions changed. Instead of working M-F, now you’re working Th-M.”

          All of those are legal, all of those are “real world scenarios,” and all of them would be cause for some pretty reasonable irritation if they dropped it on you after assuring you otherwise in the interiew.

    3. SJ*

      Why you so judgey about a non-conventional schedule? There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, and nowhere did the OP say he liked to have a night owl schedule to facilitate partying on his days off. But hey, if you like your employers going back on their word, that’s your prerogative. I just call it shitty.

      1. Glen Harness*

        One summer during college, I worked 4 pm to 4 am. Then they changed me to 4 am to 4 pm, even though they told me originally I’d be working the night shift. Work conditions change, and employers have to adjust to that. If the employee can’t adjust to the changing conditions, then as I’ve said, they need to decide if that’s the job for them.

        1. Natalie*

          The OP is clearly trying to adjust (“Do you have any tips, tricks or advice for a night owl trying to fly with the early birds?”). It’s probably a bit early to declare that they should quit.

        2. KellyK*

          And it’s an employer’s job to be up front about the work conditions with the employee. Yes, it’s totally possible that something unforeseen changed, but it’s just as possible that they made promises they couldn’t keep or failed to keep track of what they’d offered. And that’s crappy management.

    4. Wubbie*

      Well spoken by someone who does not have a sleep disorder. Congrats on that!

      Some of us don’t stay up cause we “like to”. We simply cannot fall asleep sleep at normal hours.

      There were tons of times I’d have worked a full day after sleeping no more than an hour or two and then when I got home I was still unable to sleep that night.

      1. Glen Harness*

        I took melatonin for close to three years because I could not get to sleep before 2 or 3 am if I didn’t take it (and my company still insisted I be at work at 8 am). I had a sleep study done and changed some sleep hygiene items, and now I can get to sleep before 11. So, I guess you’re right, I don’t have a sleep disorder (any longer).

          1. Glen Harness*

            Whether or not I have empathy with this person isn’t the issue. The issue is does this person want or need a job bad enough to work under these apparently horrible conditions. As I mentioned in my original comment, there are probably a thousand people who would love to work at this job without complaining. Those jobless folks are the ones who get my empathy.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              In that case, the answer to nearly every letter I receive here should be “suck it up and be glad you have a job.”

              But come on — it seems like you think less of people who aren’t early risers because, like a lot of people, you associate it with being sluggish or lazy. But lots of people are highly productive, and just have different circadian rhythms than others. Can most of them suck it up and deal? Yes — and in fact that seems to be the OP’s plan. But it doesn’t make it any less crappy that the employer did a bait and switch.

              1. KellyK*

                I’m very happy that you’re not adding “suck it up and be glad you have a job” to your standard list of short answers. :)

            2. TL*

              Um, other people being out of work isn’t a good excuse for a company’s bad management and/or lying/dismissing verbal agreements. Pretty sure that’s the reason we have labor laws, as a matter of fact.
              None of them apply in this situation, of course, but the OP still has a good reason to be upset.
              The OP is also doing the smart thing by seeking tips on how to deal.

        1. bearing*

          In other words, you *could* have replied to OP in a positive and empathetic manner. It would have sounded like this:

          “Gosh, that happened to me once — my company insisted I be at work at 8 am, but I was struggling with a sleep disorder. I didn’t have the luxury of quitting, so I tried a number of things — I had a sleep study done, for instance, and made a few changes, and took melatonin. After a while I got over the sleep disorder — so there’s hope. You might want to try some of those things, too!”

          But instead you chose to go with the dismissive mockery. To each his own, I guess.

          1. Glen Harness*

            That’s right. To each his own. If you read my original comment as “dismissive mockery” then that’s your prerogative. I call it making an observation.

            1. Adam V*

              Utterly shocking that people think you’re being dismissive when you say “Give me a break” and mocking the OP when you say “there are a 1000 people who are out of work that would love the job and wouldn’t complain because they had to, you know, work during business hours”

            2. EmpatheticOwl*

              … English teacher here to inform you that a) everyone is going to read that as dismissive mockery. That’s what it was. And b) the number is probably closer to 80,00 people who want his job. This economy sucks.

              P.S. “Fire Glen Harness!” is my new phrase; I think it’s catchy. I’m going to mentally chant it while I do yoga in the mornings.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              Well, that’s how it came across. Trying to defend it now isn’t working.

              OP is trying to adjust; that’s why she came here for advice on how to do that. Guess you didn’t read it all the way through, or misread it.

  12. Anon*

    As someone who has the opposite problem (get physically ill when staying up too late, like 1 am, though it’s gotten better through the years) I hear your frustrations. My tips are a)talk to your doctor. They may be able to recommend some ways to help. b)what calms you down? does listening to music? watching TV, working out? It’s important to train body that this is an okay time to sleep. Don’t go cold turkey either, slowly start dimming the lights, etc. If you can, I HIGHLY recommend the CD “Bedtime beats”. It’s a cd of classical music that is specifically picked to train your body to slow down it’s heart rate and it works wonders! just plug it in and put in your earphones and close your eyes.

    good luck!

    1. TL*

      My sunrise alarm clock will slowly fade down the light once I turn it on at night. And that usually knocks me out so fast!

        1. A Bug!*

          I use a Phillips Wake-Up Light in my home. It wasn’t cheap, even on sale, but according to its specs it has a “sleep” mode that dims the light down before finally turning it off.

          I like it a lot for waking up, but I’d note that the dimmest setting on my model (which has been replaced once or twice since I bought it) is still fairly bright, so you’d want to pick it up from a place with a good return policy to make sure it works for you.

          1. TL*

            Okay, I just googled it and found it! I have the Soleil brand one (the midrange one, I think.) The only thing I don’t like about it is when the alarm is completely off, like on the weekends, the digital clock face is brighter and it bugs me for a minute or two. I could just turn it around, though.
            But the light fades on and off very soothingly and it makes it so much easier to get out of bed/get to sleep.

        2. TL*

          Uh, I have no idea but I’m super in love with it. I’ll look it up in a couple of hours when I’m home.

          1. TL*

            And also my dimmest setting is very dim. I think it’s set right now to a 20 minute shut down and 10-15 minutes in it gets very hard to read.

      1. Diane (the other one)*

        I love my sunrise alarm clock. Before I’d heard of such a thing, I put my living room lamps on timers so my house gradually got brighter, until the bedroom light clicked after my alarm went off. It helped immensely.

  13. Mela*

    My spouse just switched from working overnights to early mornings, and it was harder to go this way than to switch to overnights.

    Melatonin and valerian may help, as can proper sleep hygiene (I think that’s the most hilarious term ever, as though you dig in the dirt while snoozing). This means that you train yourself that your bed is only for sleeping by not reading or websurfing or texting or watching TV, avoid caffeine after noon, exercise during the day so your body is tired, and so on.

    It is possible to switch to being a morning person, but it means you need to wake up early on weekend days, too, because sleeping in just sets you up for another week of not being able to sleep early enough at night. It’s an investment in this job, and it’s your choice if you want to make it or not.

    I agree with AAM — you were baited and switched and that sucks, and that may be a reason to find a job that works with your natural schedule better. I hope my suggestions help, though!

    1. Liz T*

      Be careful with valerian root, though–it can interact badly with certain medications. Definitely research it before you use it. (I’m sure one would do that anyway, but it bears mentioning.)

      1. Elizabeth*

        Seconding that. Valerian root is how they originally got Valium. Good stuff, but it is definitely capable of interactions.

        Years ago, a friend found the black candle his wife had bought and lit it in the bedroom, in anticipation of happy fun times. Instead, they both conked out after about 15 minutes of breathing the valerian root in the burning candle. Ooops.

  14. Cruciatus*

    I started reading this and wondering when I wrote in a letter… This is what’s happening to me right now! Though I knew to expect early hours. Just 2 weeks ago I was working 2:30-11pm. I would get home, get ready for bed, fall asleep around 1:30 or so. Wake up whenever I wanted to (usually 9:30ish). I actually didn’t mind my night hours–it was working weekend nights that prompted me to get a better job within my company (and I have more responsibilities too, but that’s neither here nor there). I’m still having difficulty getting used to the first shift lifestyle. Last week, my first week in these new hours, I became nauseated while or after I ate. My family thought maybe I was just too anxious about the job but I think my body just wasn’t ready to eat at 7am (though I was hungry). So, it’s 2 days into the 2nd week and each day it’s a little better. I do miss waking up whenever I wanted…but each night I sleep a little better and fall asleep a little sooner. I’m actually getting less sleep now than I did on 2nd shift (because I just cannot handle being in bed by 10pm in order to get a full 8 hours), but each day I wake up slightly more awake.

    Right now it’s worth it, for me, to have an earlier start. But if you do decide to stay at your job, just keep trying to be consistent with your sleep schedule. I actually read something that said don’t try to force yourself to go to bed early because that just makes it worse. Go to bed at your normal time and, yeah, you probably won’t wake up feeling fully rested, but that night you may be ready for bed a little earlier and the next day earlier, and so on until your body acclimates. I’m hoping that by the end of the month I’ll actually start waking up before my alarm–and that when I do it I’ll feel awake. Right now I’m still at “Bugger! The alarm is going off already!” But I do feel good enough to wake up and get through the day. I guess, long story short…you just need time. If at the end of the month you still feel the same way, then maybe it’s worth it to try to find something else. I’m most definitely a night owl by nature and I kind of didn’t want to change that, but for me, getting out of work at 4:30 and having weekends off is worth it. But if I could work Sunday-Thursday, 2nd shift…I probably would!

    1. Jen in RO*

      I can’t eat for about an hour after I wake up, so I just have breakfast at my desk after I get to work. trying to eat earlier usually just makes me sick.

      1. BeenThere*

        Oh I’m similar, I cannot eat until I’ve been awake for 2 hours! I don’t feel hungry and if I try to eat I feel ill. Fortunately most of my work environments have been places that provide breakfast items along with tea/ coffee/milo. It was quiet common at 9am to see everyone munching on toast or cereal. Plus for most of our morning meetings if was perfect acceptable to bring your breakfast in with you.

      2. Jessica*

        I’m the exact same way, except it’s probably 2-3 hours after I wake up. I’m not hungry, and I am physically ill if I do eat.

    2. jesicka309*

      Eating on a weird schedule is so hard!

      I put on so much weight in uni – I was working 2 jobs, with weird hours. I would get up at 5.30, gobble down some toast, then go off to work. Then, by 9 am, I’d be actually hungry for real breakfast, and would buy something from the shops and a coffee. I was having four or more meals a day, because I was under the assumption that you should eat when you get up….but the 9 hours between breakfast and l;unch was killing me!

      Took a while to train my body not to want food the second I woke up, but it’s helped my weight (and sanity) in the long run!

  15. Katie*

    This probably won’t be useful for this current position, but for future roles, you might want to consider consulting a sleep specialist. I’d bet my money that sleep disorders (though I’m hesitant to classify them this way merely because you aren’t a happy functional worker bee when someone else wants you to be) are covered by the ADA. It’s tricky, because an employer could always claim later work hours are an unreasonable accommodation, but it would make it much harder to back out of a late hours arrangement in the future.

    In the meantime, like other posters have said, try your best to avoid screens before bed. It takes a pathetic amount of willpower to tear me away from my Zite feed at night, but I know it keeps me awake.

  16. Torden*

    Ugh, sorry OP. I feel your pain. My schedule also changed unexpectedly, and I had to start coming in about two hours before I used to get up in the morning. I struggled for a month, and my performance suffered. I ended up having to take Trazodone for a few weeks to adjust to a new sleep schedule. I only had to use a tiny dose, and didn’t have any side effects. After a year, I find myself enjoying mornings and an empty gym at 4 a.m., but on weekends I still stay up waaaay later than I ought to keep the routine. Good luck.

  17. Carla*

    My mother tells me I was a night owl even as a baby. My natural sleep cycle is from around 02:00-10:00. I know the pain of working in a morning-person-oriented world, and it is especially difficult in the winter when it’s dark out in the early morning.

    Which brings me to my advice: bright light, and lots of it, as soon as you wake up. Sunlight works best, but if you can’t get that, just make sure that you turn on plenty of lights. You could even try plugging a lamp into a timer in your bedroom so that it will switch on before you’re even out of bed. It definitely helps!

    To help yourself sleep earlier in the night, minimize the amount of light you are exposed to in the evening. About an hour before you want to go to sleep, tuck yourself into bed with a dim lamp and a book, and don’t look at the screens of any electronics like the tv, computer, cell phone, etc. We’re exposed to too much artificial light in the evenings, and if you are like me, it just makes the problem worse.

    1. KayDay*

      I was the most well rested person ever the semester in college that I had a class schedule that allowed me to sleep from 2-10. It was just perfect for me.

  18. Jen*

    My body, left to it’s own devices, wants to stay up late AND get up early(ish)… and take a nap! Oh well!
    I hear you can get lights (an app??) that mimic dawn… I can’t sleep with a light on or past day break to save my life, so this is on my list to try. This free online calculator ( takes the length of the average sleep cycle, the time you need to wake up, and calculates when you should go to bed… so that you wake up in between sleep cycles (not in the middle of heavy dreamy sleep!). I naturally want to wake up at 7; 6am is the worst, but at a certain point of ridiculousness (5am) it’s okay again… I feel kinda tweaky, but I’m Awake. You know? I think it must be a sleep cycle thing.
    Exercise, Bedtime Routine, Melatonin…no electronics…
    Also, my friend did it by buying really good coffee and a coffee pot with an automatic timer… her alarm would go off, and the coffee would just start brewing, and she could smell it (I like the cookie idea too!)
    I am going to tell my husband about the app with the math problems… and maybe when he has an early shift he can sleep in the spare room!

    1. AP*

      Ooh, the SleepCycle iPhone app will track your sleeping patterns and wake you up at the best point in your cycle as well! It has a movement sensor so it wakes you up right when you’re at your lightest sleep level instead of 15 minutes later when you’ve fallen back into heavy dreams. And its like $2.

      1. FreeThinkerTX*

        See… this is why I love AAM! I first came here for job search advice, but I stay for all the extras. Melatonin, SleepCycle, f.lux, and Alarm Clock Xtreme, all in this one section of comments.

        We should start a “Extra Things I Learned at AAM” thread over on Linkedin!

        1. Jessica*

          Ditto! I’ve learned that I’m not as much of a weirdo as I thought I was with my eating and sleeping habits over the past year at this blog (or with some of the super-annoying things that bother me that other people think are just odd). I figure if a bunch of other people on AAM have the same issues, it must be somewhat normal. ;~)

  19. Pamela*

    I too am a night owl. I am unemployed at the moment and I always seem to slip into a 1AM – 3AM bedtime despite the best of intentions. I actually find it hard to sleep any earlier. If I go to bed a 9pm and actually manage to fall asleep, I will wake up at 1AM-ish…feeling refreshed and I will stay up for another couple of hours until I feel tired again and then I will go back to bed. It’s terrible when I need to wake up early the next morning.

    I just interviewed for a job and I am looking at this same situation if I get it. So, excellent article timing batman! :)

    1. Rana*

      That two-part sleep schedule is apparently something that most people did historically; it’s only the last hundred years or so that we’ve expected ourselves to just sleep for eight or so hours straight. Here’s Wikipedia on it, but I really recommend Ekirch’s book on it, as it’s a lot of fun to read.

  20. SJ*

    Ugh, I feel you. When left to my own devices, like Alison, I’ll stay up until 4 am easily. Like you, I now have a regular 9-5 job (used to have an 8-5 job…that was really hard). I’ve installed f.lux on my computer at home; it tints the screen a little so the daylight glow that screens emit is tempered. I do think it’s made a difference and I’m going to bed earlier. It’s free and really easy to download and install:

    One thing my therapist suggested that I thought was really interesting might be to, instead of trying to reset your sleep patterns by going to bed earlier, is to stay awake longer – basically, go the opposite direction. If you haven’t adjusted to the schedule, maybe on a Monday after you’ve inevitably slipped back into your patterns and woken up at 1 pm or whatever on Sunday(if you’re anything like me!), stay up all night (since you’d be naturally falling asleep hella late anyway) and go into work. Maybe even go in early, if possible, to get done earlier. Ideally you’d be able to do this method in increments so it’s not quite so painful, and that may not be possible, but it might be worth a try. Then you will really be tired enough to go to bed early. It’s always way easier to stay up late than it is to make yourself go to bed early.

    Also, here are some pretty solid tips on transitioning to a more ‘regular’ schedule – I think the artificial light stuff is a big one:

  21. KellyK*

    First off, I definitely sympathize. You were promised something that turned out not to be the case, and it’s more than reasonable to be frustrated. Anyone criticizing you for complaining would probably be similarly frustrated if the job they were hired for was suddenly in a different office 50 miles away, or their pay or vacation was different than what they were promised. This is the same kind of bait and switch (not that it was necessarily deliberate).

    Unfortunately, we just have this cultural association of “rising early” with virtue and productivity, when it’s really just different circadian rhythms. So, yes, people will judge you for it. It’s stupid, but it is what it is.

    Avoid screen time an hour before you go to sleep, and maybe drink decaf tea or a similar warm, comforting beverage in the evening to relax.

    Assume that you will be a complete zombie in the morning and set out everything you need the day before, from prepping the coffee machine to picking clothes, to packing a lunch. Take your shower in the evening if possible.

    Try to avoid compensating with caffeine in the first month or two while you’re adjusting. That is, try to keep to whatever your current caffeine intake is rather than drinking a bunch of coffee to function. I developed a really annoying caffeine dependency for similar reasons (I was just *always* tired), and now that I have medical reasons to minimize my caffeine intake, the lingering caffeine dependency is really unpleasant. (Though, if you need it to be safe driving to or from work, do what you have to do.)

    1. Jamie*

      Yes – circadian rhythms – I was trying to remember the name for those when discussing this yesterday.

      I have no advice, but I’m voraciously tearing through the comments to get some for myself. Since carpooling with my husband recently (and for a few more weeks) I’ve been working 5:30 – 2:30. Would be great if I didn’t need to be asleep by 7:00.

      Spent Sunday sleeping 18 hours to catch up and then felt sleepy AND like I lost part of my weekend.

      And I realized my brain doesn’t like math before sun-up.

      It’s not better or worse – but I am much higher functioning later in the day. And 5:30 am is a ridiculous time to start work.

  22. Sandrine*

    I used to be a night owl. Going to bed at 3/4 AM, waking up at noon… I did that between jobs (2008-2011) .

    One thing changed, though. I moved in with my BF in April 2010, and I quickly realized we wouldn’t be going anywhere if I spent all my time online at night and zero time cuddling or appreciating time with him in the morning. So gradually I started going to bed at the same time as him, and after a year and a half it had become natural.

    I don’t even need the alarm clock to wake up at 5:30 AM even when going to sleep at 11 PM… ha XD !

    (that’s what you get for having a weird internal alarm clock I guess)

  23. Anonymous*

    I want to recommend 2 things.
    1. Don’t try to make up for it on the weekends. As much as this might feel like your chance to do what you want, get up at the same time on the weekends. It will help your body create a routine so that that 4:30 am doesn’t feel so aweful. Sleeping til noon on saturday and sunday is just like telling your body here’s a little good NOPE I’M TAKING IT AWAY! Just work to do it and there is a little bit of suck it up. I did this while shifting from a natural night shift to a 4:30 am, and it was horrible for the first 3 weeks, then it gradually got better. In large part because I just stuck to the routine and ….
    2. NAPS! Seriously. Take naps. Get home from work and take a couple hour nap even then get into the night life after that. Missing out on 3-6 was rarely a big deal and when working early that lets you have a night life and basically you’re breaking your nights sleep up into 2 parts. Which isn’t entirely bad. But naps make a huge difference and I highly highly recommend them.

    1. BW*

      I’ve tried that not giving myself one day to just wake up naturally when I needed to wake up, and it just made things worse. It doesn’t matter how long or how consistently I get early, it always feels like crap – super crap before 7 AM, a little crappy before 9 AM, and 9 AM or later is perfect. I know keeping consistent even on weekends is helpful to a lot of people, but for those it doesn’t work for – don’t force it on yourself. I am up the same time 6 days a week, and 1 day a week I just need to be able to wake up naturally when I wake up and catch up on the sleep deficit I have built up after 6 days of places to be in the morning. If I don’t get the one day, it negatively affects my physical health.

      Napping is great for some people and for others it is really disruptive. I am a post-lunch napper when left to my own devices. At work I have to struggle through the 1-2 pm hour without a nap. Other people I know like a nap but say it disrupts their ability to sleep at night, even a short one.

  24. SCW*

    See I’m in the opposite boat–I am a morning person. I would be to work at 7 am every day if I could! But I’m working at a place right now where I work two evening shifts 12-9, and I am so unproductive in the mornings! I know it is more in my head, but I’m used to getting up at 6, showering and getting ready, and spending a half hour on the internet waking up and then going to work. On my late days, I just end up on the computer all morning doing nothing! And when I get home at quarter to ten I’m to riled up from work to sleep. This is making me sleepy just writing it!

  25. Jen*

    Had another thought! Make sure you’re not anemic (esp. if you’re a young female – like me). I had full blown iron-deficiency anemia (was offered an initial blood transfusion!) and feel WAY better – sleep better, wake up better, more energy – taking iron supplements. DO get a blood test… taking iron when you don’t need it can lead to other health issues, as your body stores iron (it doesn’t “come out” in any way). I’ve had heavy periods for 18 years, and eat a healthy, mostly vegetarian diet… and had completely depleted my iron stores. Ooops. Anyway, I feel very sluggish when I forget my iron for a few days in a row. I like FabIron or Floradix, as I had no side effects with them (constipation), and they have added vitamin B’s and Zinc. I started taking them twice a day and tapered off, and will go in for another blood test soon.

  26. Sascha*

    I’m a night owl by nature but for some reason I like working early in the day…I think it’s because there are less people in my office and it’s quieter. Regardless, suggestions on how to handle the early mornings. When I first started working full-time, and having to get up rather early (around 530am or 6am), I started out by going to be really early, and I just kept tossing and turning, and got anxious, and was exhausted the next day, and this went on for months. I would wake up ill, as you said – so nauseated I wouldn’t want to eat for hours. What helped me are a few things:

    1. A gentle alarm clock. Others have suggested light clocks, those are good – I use the “smart alarm” on my phone which fades in as a magical foresty tune plays, so it’s not a blaring honking noise, but a gentle wake-up.

    2. As soon as I get up, I have some water and a little juice. The physically ill part was due to low blood sugar. Everyone wakes up with low blood sugar – some are more sensitive to the low than others. Try having a carby snack before bed or having some juice right after you get up.

    3. Go to bed when you’re sleepy, not when you think you ought to. Obviously there is a balance to this – if you’re not sleepy until 2am and have to get up at 5am, you probably need to go to bed anyway. What I mean is, I would try to be in bed at 9pm and it just wouldn’t work. So I would just wind down and read a book or watch some light TV until about 1030pm or 11pm, when I was actually sleepy. This helped tremendously.

    4. The attitude change that comes with accepting that you will be tired, no matter what. Not in a defeated way, but just recognizing that you will be tired for a while – acceptance of the situation. I kept trying to fight the tired and thought something was wrong with me, but when I let go and accepted it, this helped me.

    I hope these suggestions help! I do feel your pain!

  27. KayDay*

    I can’t help the OP much, as I’m a night owl but I have found a few things do help me get up earlier:
    1.) make it a big dramatic chance, instead of trying to get up earlier incrementally. Need me to get in a half hour early? Not going to happen. Need me at work 2 hours early. I’ll make it work (but hate my life). This goes against all the advice I’ve ever been given, but it works for me (ymmv).
    2.) Get a digital time for a desk light and set the light for about 15 minutes before your regular alarm. (or less is if you are really sensitive to light.) This makes waking up a lot more pleasant.
    3.) Find a way to get your blood moving a bit before work. There is no way in hell I’m going to get up to go to the gym in the AM, but I do frequently walk to work–for me, this is the best combination of relaxing and blood-pumping, and really helps me feel better. You’ll have to find something that works for you.
    4.) put a coffee maker with a start timer on your nightstand.

  28. Nurse B*

    I have the opposite problem, preferring a daylight schedule but am currently working nights out of necessity. While I thought I would have a really hard time with it, it didn’t take all that long for me to adjust. What helped was finding some good points about working the night shift. For example, since my husband is in bed I have the living room all to myself and can therefore spend a lot more time on dance practice. I’ll have more time to get my schoolwork done too on my nights off, since there really won’t be much else to do. The other thing you need to do is make sure you stay consistent. The degree of your being nocturnal wasn’t specified, but for me I can’t go to bed until 6-8 AM. That means that’s what I have to do every day, even when I’m off. There are exceptions to that rule of course, but generally, it’s not a good idea to have your sleep schedule be too erratic as that’s really hard on your body. Those are just my ways of coping- good luck!

  29. Natalie*

    I am a night owl, too, OP, although not a “severe” one – after about 3 years at an 8 am start time it got easier for me to get to bed at a reasonable hour. That said, I’ve found a couple of things helpful.

    I avoid video games or especially engaging TV/movies about 60-90 minutes before bedtime. For me, that includes any new TV or movies – if I watch reruns it’s really easy for me to just fall asleep, but if it’s new I stay too engaged and my brain can’t really wind down.

    If I do watch TV while falling asleep I dim the screen as low as it will go and I set my computer to go to sleep automatically later. From what I have read, light on your face while sleeping isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep, although it is great to help you wake up. I’ve thought about getting a timer for my bedside lamp for reading myself to sleep, but usually my night owl partner comes in sometime after I’ve fallen asleep and turns off the light.

    Sunlight really helps me wake up. We lived in an apartment with a really bad window situation for 3 years and mornings were very difficult for me. If your bedroom is situated such that people can see into your windows easily, lightweight white curtains will probably be thin enough to let light in but thick enough that people can’t see you naked or whatever. You can always get something heavier to draw over them when you’re awake if you are especially concerned.

  30. jmkenrick*

    This is a weird suggestion, but it worked for me: practice!

    As in, take naps during the weekends and set your alarm so you can practice getting up right when it goes off. None of that snooze nonsense. Set your alarm on weekends and don’t sleep in. Get up right when the alarm goes off.

    Also, my grandfather is a doctor who specializes in children’s sleep, and his big thing is that sleep deprivation is cumulative, and your body adjusts to a schedule. So you really want to not be letting yourself sleep in for hours on the weekends, it will just make things much more difficult during the week.

    Also, snooze buttons, although tempting, just disturb REM cycles and leave you more tired in the long run. If you’re super sleepy in the morning, do jumping jacks or crunches.

    1. Jamie*

      Advising me against weekend sleep ins and advocating excercize is not fun advice.

      I hate that I know you’re right.

      I am so excited to try melatonin – I caught my husband before he left the store so I’ll be able to start tonight.

  31. Jen in RO*

    If it helps, I was a complete zombie for the first week in my regular-hours job (I had to be there at 9ish). It got better after that, and about a year later I started naturally waking up before the alarm went off. I don’t even set my alarm anymore nowadays.

    That being said, I wake up at 8. I could probably do 7, but anything earlier would be horrible…

    (Before I got the job, I told them I’m not a morning person and they were OK with it. luckily, no surprises for me, I can get to work at 10 and it’s fine!)

  32. Julie*

    If one of your problems is waking up while it’s still dark outside, you might want to investigate a “dawn simulator” alarm clock, which gradually brightens the room for a half-hour or an hour before you wake up. Try to find one with full-spectrum light if you can.

    Another thing you might look into is an alarm clock that works with a brain-wave monitoring headband. The idea is that you give it a range of times you’re willing to wake up, and it monitors your brainwaves until it registers that you’re in your lightest cycle of sleep, and then wakes you up. So no more harsh wake-ups from REM or deep sleep. I haven’t tried one myself, but it sounds very interesting.

    1. Natalie*

      There’s an app for the iPhone (and possibly other smart phones) that works like the alarm clock you’re describing. I guess you put it under your pillow or something, and it monitors you for the best time to wake up.

      (I haven’t personally used it but it’s well reviewed.)

      1. AP*

        SleepCycle! I have it! It’s great! (Also not a morning person…)

        I think it has a motion detector that measures how much you’re moving around, not your brainwaves, but then again it is a $2 app. Not sure how it works if there is more than one person in the bed?

    2. Tina*

      There are apps that do a similar thing by tracking how much you move around while your asleep: while you’re in deep sleep you’re pretty still so it won’t set off the alarm. I’ve got one called Sleep As Android on my Android phone but there will be loads of iPhone versions as well. I now wake up naturally before my alarm goes off but find myself trying to not move and set off the alarm because my bed’s too comfy! There’s also loads of alarm settings like reducing snooze periods, maths problems to turn it off etc even if you don’t use the sleep tracking.

    3. Shoshie*

      Another recommendation for a dawn simulator. I have the Phillips one and it’s amazing. I was never a morning person until I got one. Having the gradual light means that I’m almost always awake or nearly awake by the time the alarm goes off and it’s not an annoying beep beep, but a gentle chiming sound that starts off pretty softly. So you’re not jarred awake at all.

      I also recommend turning off screens an hour or two before bedtime. It really helps me get ready for bed.

  33. Ellie H.*

    I have some tips for how to make yourself go to bed earlier (not necessarily fall asleep – Melatonin has worked well for me with that – but just go to bed which is a big issue for me sometimes.)
    – Dim the lights in your room (or apartment or wherever you are) like a half hour-20 min before you want to go to bed as a visual/brain signal that it is bedtime soon.
    – Turn off the computer or any screen device at that time too – the light from screens is really disruptive to sleep and keeps you up longer.
    – Brush your teeth, wash your face etc. the moment you think that you would like to get in bed sometime soon. Otherwise you might lose energy to and end up being paradoxically too tired to go to bed (something I’m susceptible to). This is really key for me.
    – Don’t talk on the phone or do high energy things within an hour of going to bed.
    – Remove sources of light in your room that can interrupt your sleep e.g. screens, blinking chargers, etc.

    Any other suggestions?

    1. The IT Manager*

      Otherwise you might lose energy to and end up being paradoxically too tired to go to bed (something I’m susceptible to).

      This happens to me fairly regularly. I have to do a few last things before going to bed, and I am too tired to get up and do them. Not good.

  34. Jessica*

    I sympathize big time! For me, it’s a matter of productivity. I have “trained” myself to be an early bird (meaning, I get to work on time and sometimes beat everyone else in) BUT! I have realized that I am more naturally productive in the last afternoon/early evening. When I started my job, the manager bragged on flexible hours, working from home, etc. Then, a year or so in, they explained that I needed to keep more regular hours based on client needs. Ok, I get that. But, I’m struggled over a year trying to be alert, happy, working at 9 a.m., and so far, my tired mind is winning.

    1. Jessica*

      That said, I’m looking forward to reading back through these tips and trying a few. What has “worked” for me is:
      -automatic coffee pot, set for 7:00 am. I live in a loft so wake up gradually to the sound and smell of coffee.
      -Alarm clock across the room. Press snooze once, get back in bed but leave it across the room.
      -Make someone call you in the morning – a friend, your mom, anyone who can talk to you mumbling for a minute or two.

      Good luck! Hope we hear an update in a few months.

      1. Jessica*

        (I’m a different Jessica, the one who was replying above.) The alarm clock across the room never worked for me. I was just as likely to get up, turn it off, and go back to bed without really waking up. I have an alarm clock that will only ring with four snoozes. I use two every day that I have to get up early (they have to be 10 minute snoozes, even though it can be difficult to find an alarm that specifies the snooze count), and if I’m truly beat, I will use a third. I know if I hit it again, the alarm won’t be going off again, so I am forced to get up.

        You do have me wondering if I could find a family member who is willing to talk to me early in the morning, because my husband isn’t a morning person either and usually doesn’t have to get up until later (I work at a school, unfortunately). Most of my friends and family members are night owls too, though, so I’m still debating that. They’d have to be able to listen to me slur my random morning thoughts for a few minutes, though. ;~)

  35. JP*

    I was actually thinking of writing in about this today…does anyone have any suggestions about bringing this up in an interview? I have a really hard time getting up in the morning and being in by 9am, usually finding myself stumbling in around 9:20 or so. I currently work at a place where, as long as you don’t miss any meetings (and you’re available, you get your work done and do it well), you can come and go as you please. I love this situation!

    Unfortunately, my contract is ending and they can’t rehire me (it’s a one-year apprentice situation, and there aren’t any jobs for me to graduate into and there’s no option for renewal). Now I’m interviewing at other companies and having a hard time coming up with the phrasing to ask their policy on coming in late. I don’t want to come off as lazy or entitled, and I will absolutely go above and beyond for any company, staying late and always meeting my deadlines.

    But how do I find out what their policy on this without sounding whiny? (And I’m sure that many people’s answer will be “You can’t! Suck it up!”)

    1. The IT Manager*

      This is not helpful, sorry. Wow, you are lucky to have a 9am start.

      In my experience 9am is an incredibly late start for a normal office-type job. 7:30 is what I think of as normal. In my past job 8am was about as late as you could push it. Many (crazy IMO) people would shift their schedule to 6 or 6:30 in order leave early, but due to culture and availability for meetings I don’t think any one shifted their start time past 8:00.

      Right now I work 8:30 – 5:00 and still feel kind of lazy. I am one of the last to arrive and leave. My office is a ghost town by 5pm every day. Depending on your job (need to partipate in meetings, meet customers, etc), you may not be able to drift very far off the normal schedule.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Depends on field and geographic region, I’ve found. I’ve never had a job that wanted me there before 9 (or maybe they did and I’m repressing it?), but I do know lots of people with 8 or 8:30 starts. Anything before that seems cruel.

        1. Jamie*

          I for one am thrilled so many of you also work best later in the day.

          Makes me think the odds are good that once Chocolate Teapot, Inc. is up and running I’ll be able to keep my flexible schedule.

          And why is it when I try to do math before sun-up nothing calculates properly, but all errors are immediately apparent if I review the formulas after 10:00 am? I honestly think I have a different brain in the morning.

        2. Heather*

          I’d love to see a poll on what the normal office hours are considered to be in your readers’ current positions.

      2. K*

        I’ve found this to be a clear geographic divide. When I lived in Oregon or Phoenix, everyone was in the office by 8am. Here in D.C., when I get in at 9am, I’m often one of the first people here. (Which actually works well for those of us who work with people located elsewhere; it maximizes the hours people on the West and East Coasts are all in the office at the same time.)

        1. Jennifer*

          Yeah, from what I’ve seen there are no office-type jobs in California where you can come in at any time later than 8 a.m. Period. There are the occasional exception jobs that will start at 7 a.m., but later? Oh HELL NO. Not happening, even if your job has nothing to do with having to contact people on the other coast.

          Every time I hear you East Coasters saying 9-5 I pretty much choke. 8-5 is default here, no paid lunch either.

          1. K*

            Well, to be fair, our official hours are 9-6 and I’m often working till 7. I think “9-5” is just an expression as often as not.

            1. Jamie*

              I’ve always assumed it was an expression, too. I’ve never known an office (IME) where there were 8 hour days. Always 9 hrs to include lunch.

              1. Danielle*

                Off topic, but I worked a union job for almost 9 years and we all got a paid lunch. (It was a library; we were only open for 8 hours a day) 8 hours gets you a 1.5 hour break (1 hour for lunch, 2-15 minute breaks, but mostly everyone combined them). So you’re only really working 6.5 hours…I miss that job so much.

            2. Wubbie*

              My hours officially are 9-5 with paid lunch.

              Even for the hourly staff, it’s 35 hours per week, and anything over that is overtime.

              I work for a large university in NYC.

              1. Wubbie*

                Forgot to mention that while those are the official hours, we do tend to work much later than that. Also, I’m in event planning so there’s also lots of evening work (thankfully, very little weekend work).

            3. Jessica*

              I think 9-5 is actually more generally a blue collar thing. While growing up, almost everyone I knew worked what was called a straight-8 (not always 9-5, but office jobs were while factory ones varied). They had 20 minutes for lunch and one or two 10-minute breaks that were all paid due to their short duration. While I was in college and later, I had to get used to the more regular office (white collar) work day, where lunches were generally a bit longer (30 min – 1 hr) and not paid.

          2. Laura L*

            Really? When I worked in Seattle, my office hours were 9-6. In Illinois I worked 8:00-4:30. In DC I work 8:30-5:30 (but I have flextime and I choose that schedule).

            Also, East Coasters don’t get a paid lunch either. At least, not that I’m aware of. :-)

        2. Lulu*

          I think it depends on the industry/job – I’m on the west coast and have had positions where you need to maximize time with people in NY or London, so earlier was better. And more recent positions where it was a ghost town until 9:30 or 10a. I think having to be in earlier than 9a on a regular basis would be a deal-breaker for me – i wouldn’t be able to keep it up for more than a week or so…

      3. Heather*

        Wow! In my 20 years of working (Midwest and East coast) all of the standard hours of my jobs have been 9-5. The exceptions were when I worked 10-6 at a video store with doing occasional closing hours. Even when I had weird hours as a weekends and evenings librarian the regular librarians all worked 9-5 mostly. Of course there is working late to finish a project, teach a class, etc. but those were the normal hours. I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t want to live on the west coast!

    2. Sascha*

      I would start by asking what a typical day is at the company, and what are some typical schedules for people, and is flexible scheduling is allowed. If they seem open to the idea, or if they say yes, you can ask if working your preferred set is possible.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agree with these questions, but I’d hold off on asking about working a specific schedule until you have an offer (and they’ve already decided they want you and now you’re just negotiating the details).

    3. A.*

      If you’re interviewing with a company (after it seems like a fit on both sides) and you think they may be open to flex-time, you could definitely bring it up. I think ideally this would be part of the job offer negotiation phase rather than the interview phase, but you should be up-front if it’s an absolute deal-breaker.

      But please don’t frame the question/concern as wanting to “come in late.” There’s just no way telling a prospective employer that you tend to stumble in 20 minutes later than the agreed upon start time will look or sound good. Even if you aren’t (and even though it’s fine at your current company), you will probably come across as unreliable/flaky.

    4. Laurie*

      “I was actually thinking of writing in about this today…does anyone have any suggestions about bringing this up in an interview?”

      I second this question. Presumable the above question is in the context of asking about flexible in and out times. But, I’ve always wondered if this is appropriate for the ‘name your weaknesses’ part of the interview?

      1. Jen in RO*

        i used it and it worked. I think I was lucky though, because my phrasing sucked: I said I’m not very punctual and they thought I meant I don’t finish my work on time. I clarified that I was talking about being 15 mins late in the morning and they said it’s fine if I don’t get there later than 9.30. in practice, I usually get to work around 9.45-10 (and stay until 7 sometimes).

    5. John Quincy Adding Machine*

      One of the comments on the post about the “What is your biggest weakness?” question mentioned having used this as an example. I doubt that I’d be so bold, but perhaps someone more articulate than me could think of a good way to frame it.

      1. Tax Nerd*

        I wouldn’t frame my biggest weakness as “I’m always late” so much as “I’m a night owl, and vastly more productive later in the day. I get more done, and done more quickly, in situations where I can come in later in the morning, and make up for it by staying later in the evening.” If’ I’m bold, I might add “Does Acme Company allow employees in this job to have some latitude in this area, or is there an expecation that everyone will be in at a set time?” Though if I know I’m going to interview someone lateral to me, I’ll try and ask them what time people come in and what time they leave, to get a sense of the office culture, rather than asking about it to a higher-up before I have an offer.

        At my old job, my boss would sometimes roll in at noon, and work ’til 2:00am, so he was fine with night owls having flexibility. I would sometimes be in at 10:30 am, and be one of the first ones in. But I was often there until 8:30 pm or better. When I was temporarily lent to an office where the boss would leave “It’s 8:05 am – Where are you?” notes… I was not super thrilled with that aspect.

        1. Laurie*

          Ooh, thanks, @Tax Nerd! “… vastly more productive” is a much better way to put it, and as it happens, is also the truth. :)

  36. bobM*

    As a young man, I joined the Marines and during boot camp I HAD to get up at 5am. Did I like it…HELL NO!!!. All this talk about melatonin and other remedies is making me sick. Suck it up and get used to the new work hours. You should be happy you have job when so many good people are struggling to find work.

    Come on people! Stop with this baby talk and show some backbone!!!

    1. LibKae*


      You’ll notice that the OP simply stated his/her situation and is asking for help to trying to find a way to improve said situation. The respondents are trying to offer constructive options. There is no whining or baby talk involved. I do think, however, that it might be time to consider two things: First, unless you are a sleep specialist and have examined the OP in person, it’s a bit presumptuous of you to assume that he/she just needs to “show some backbone”. Everyone’s physiologies are different. I, for instance, become incapable of thought if I get less than 8 hours of sleep a night. If my father gets more than 4 he gets a migraine. Second, the situation you describe is completely different. You were woken at 5am and run off your feet for, I imagine given the Marines I’ve known, the entire day. When it was time for lights out, you were probably exhausted, which would help most anyone get a decent night’s sleep. The OP is not in that situation.

      I would suggest that an attempt to see things from someone else’s perspective wouldn’t be out of line here.

      1. Jessica*

        I was just going to say this. The trolls are out in force tonight– let’s all agree NOT to feed them!

        1. John Quincy Adding Machine*

          I’m actually pleasantly surprised at how little “you people are all entitled babies!” nay-saying there has been on this post. As well as having a high proportion of introverts here, I guess AAM also skews highly towards the night-owl side of things?

  37. Valery*

    So, I didn’t see if this was suggested elsewhere but the website- – has been so helpful for me to get back on a sleep schedule that left me alert when I needed to be up and getting ready. Because I too am a fan of late night Downton Abbey reruns, Netflix marathons and the like. And I don’t really know how sleep cycles work and the science behind it but adjusting when I wake up so that I complete a cycle has made a huge difference.

    Good luck!

  38. Dom*

    I find there is a lot of habits built into places… OP might find that while you try to adapt yourself to the new schedule, as time goes by there may be more and more opportunities to influence things to match your schedule too…First weeks on a job it might be hard to say no, we have to reschedule these experiments to later in the day, but you might be able to influence it more later on. I remember a colleague that after a while, we just started scheduling things that involved him alter in the day, because “Joe” just didn’t do mornings. I’m not sure how long OP has been there, but if its still very new, there might be a smidgen of hope for the future.

    I find turning lights on immediately or relocating the alarm clock to force me out of bed helpful for the first step, but mornings in general are still pretty hard.

  39. LibKae*

    Like a lot of people I second (thirteenth?) the melatonin suggestion. I grew up overseas, and it was a life saver when flying back & forth flipping time zones … which brings me to my main point:

    I tend to default to night owl too. When left to my own devices, my normal bedtime is around 1-2 am, but I need to wake up at 5am to make it to work. I’ve found (when left to my own devices for too long) that it’s absolutely impossible for me to just make the switch overnight — your body just won’t know what time it is, and even if you manage to fall asleep when you turn the lights off, you’ll end up waking up again a few hours later. Instead, think of this as a time zone change. You aren’t waking up earlier, you’re moving your time zone to something east of you. Give your body some time to get acclimated, and then do whatever you have to to keep from slipping (this last is the hardest part, I think, since if you were actually switching time zones things like sunset and TV shows would move along with you, and since they’re not, it’s incredibly tempting to “just stay up another half hour” and then before you know it you’re back to where you started).

    I did want to say, however, that I’m not a sleep disorder specialist, and as some have already stated, you might have a need to see one if this ends up being something that can’t be fixed on your own.

    Best of luck!

  40. DA*

    This sucks for the OP. I myself am a night-owl and love it. I don’t have much to add for dealing with that issue that the others above have said.

    The main issue, is the bait-and-switch the manager pulled on the OP (even worse was the manager’s cavalier attitude about it). Even if you get over the schedule and adapt to it, it’s only a matter of time before the manager does something shady again. Hopefully for you that manager moves on soon, or you yourself move on. Otherwise you can just about guarantee some other shenanigans by your manager.

  41. Stella*

    I made the transition from night owl to morning bird. Until I was in my mid-30s I stayed up regularly until 1 am and slept as long as I could. Three years ago I took up swimming, and the only time I could get a lane was at 5:30 am. Swimming is so important to me that now I go to bed at 9 or 10 pm. It also meant re-adjusting my social life: I leave parties early and only see matinee shows.

    I hate to think I’m one of the “buck up buttercup” folks. I’m just trying to say that we have all priorities in life and we need to decide what is more important. If you’re job is not as important to you as your social life, than I agree with Alison: look for something new. You shouldn’t be missing out on what you enjoy.

    1. Esra*

      I think the problem with this train of thought is assuming someone is a night owl because they like to party etc. As several people have stated above, some of us just don’t feel physically well in the morning time. For me at least, a morning workout just isn’t (physically) going to happen.

      1. Marie*

        Yeah, I tried the morning workouts and found that they left me feeling exhausted and hungry all day. They’re no good for someone who needs to eat constantly to maintain blood sugar levels – in the morning, I am all out of blood sugar, but eating before exercise will give me a stitch. I can manage a 10-minute swim at a pinch, but it hardly seems worth driving to gym for 10 minutes.

        I’ve found afternoon/evening exercise to be ideal for me, and it makes me sleepier, too!

      2. Stella*

        Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply the OP was a partier. I just meant that I respect that she may be different. There’s nothing wrong with staying up late. I think it’s awful that the employer did this and if she doesn’t want to work that schedule, for whatever reason, that I support the decision to find something else.

      3. Laura L*

        Yes! I am a morning person and I could stay up until 2AM, get up at 7:30 the next morning and still be way more productive before 11:00 AM than after.

    2. Natalie*

      Not everyone stays up late to socialize. Both my partner and I are night owls. I’ve been able to mostly adjust my schedule, and he stays up until 1 or 2 completely by his lonesome.

      Sleep/wake cycles are partially habit, but they are also partially genetics and environment. We can’t change our genetics and we can’t change all aspects of our environment (light pollution in urban areas, for example).

    3. Wubbie*

      I was not having my sleep issues because I was out partying. I rarely ever went out after work (often because I was too tired to do anything). I’d just be at home doing nothing and still not falling asleep until some ridiculous hour.

      It’s something I struggled with since childhood and only recently found a solution that worked.

      For more info:

  42. Anonicorn*

    1. Drink plenty of water (before your coffee) when you wake up.

    2. Turn your alarm clock away from you when you go to bed so you can’t see the time. One of the worst things is constantly looking over and stressing about how you aren’t asleep by now.

    3. This is more for your consideration to test or at least lower your stress, but recently historians have discovered that humans used to have two distinct sleeping times–a “first” sleep after dusk, followed by a few active, wakeful hours, then a “second sleep” period that lasted till morning. Check it out:

    1. Editor*

      A friend of mine was recently rereading Wuthering Heights and says that there’s a scene in the book where everyone does this — goes to bed, sleeps for a few hours, gets up and then, later, goes back to bed. I haven’t had the time to go back and skim the book, unfortunately, so I can’t say anything more about the scene.

  43. Rachel B*

    I’m sympathetic! My job strongly encourages late nights. As a morning person, I find it so hard to stay focused at 8 or 9pm in the office, and then being able to unwind afterwards.

    Early on, sleep deprivation made me more forgetful and careless than usual. It helped to write down EVERYTHING and to take more frequent breaks later in the day/early evening. I found advice written for adult ADD/ADHD sufferers to be really effective: write checklists, keep a calendar of routine tasks to follow, etc. Otherwise, projects would swirl in my brain late at night, but I would act like a zombie at the office. Also, I move any optional meetings to early in the day, where I’m more likely to form appropriate responses. Finally, I made deals with myself about performance/extra activities. Yes, I will go to late night outings when my boss was attending, but no more than once per week.

    Having these ground rules help me feel less cranky and overwhelmed until my schedule can move to my more natural rhythm.

  44. G.*

    Thank you for this post!

    Tomorrow I’ll be heading to the pharmacy for melatonin.

    I am a night owl too and I have tried a lot of things also to help make getting up easier. I am exhausted, go to bed every day now at around 21-22 and then toss and turn still until 1-2 am. Have to wake up at 7. Am exhausted all day and the circle repeats itself. Until I am so tired that I collapse one day at 19 and sleep until 7am and then the circle starts again. It’s s real struggle.

  45. Sam*

    Get up early on the weekends, at least for the first month or so. That should help with establishing a new sleep schedule. Sleeping in until 2 or 3 pm on the weekends may be setting you back.

  46. Liz T*

    I’m a night owl, and these things have helped:

    1) In my younger days, my roommate and I would make bedtime pacts. They helped us turn off the TV already.

    2) More recently, I’ve developed a nighttime ritual to wind down my brain. Half an hour before bedtime (if I’m being conscientious) I put on PJs, brush and floss, get in bed, and doodle around a little on my iPad. (You’re not supposed to do that in bed/before bedtime, but for me personally it’s a “bedtime” cue, so it helps.)

    3) Get a dog. Seriously, I just dog-sat for a week, and those bitches did not have a snooze button.

    4) Light light light. Open those curtains as soon as you get up.

    All that being said, I’m still a night owl, and a bit of a sloth. I should really get some more exercise, which is one of the best things you can do.

  47. Editor*

    As someone who once went to working afternoons and evenings to starting at 6 a.m., I sympathize.

    The stuff people have posted about not sleeping in on the weekend, using a light alarm clock, exercising in the morning, laying out your stuff the night before, no TV/computer/gaming before bed, and so on, are good suggestions.

    In addition, you might try:
    1. Taking a vitamin D supplement in the morning when you eat and get up an extra 15 minutes or so earlier than you need to in order to move slowly in the morning and still get in on time.

    2. Eating protein for breakfast, which could include eggs, a bagel with lox, toasted cheese sandwich, leftovers or something. I found that having a protein-heavy breakfast helped that morning nausea go away, but I’m not sure it works for everyone. Then balance it with a salad at lunch.

    3. Eat the last meal of the day well before bedtime — the weight-gain guides say three to four hours is a good window. I find this does help.

    4. Do the tooth-brushing and active bedtime-prep stuff after supper or an hour or more before bedtime. I have a great electric toothbrush, for instance, but I find all that massage and vibration wakes me up when I’m tired and feeling sleepy.

    5. If you have to read before bed to have something to do, reread stuff. Don’t get involved in anything new, so you won’t feel compelled to stay up. I think blue light is supposed to keep people up, but I’ve had good luck getting sleepier in a dark room by aiming a small LED booklight at the page and away from my face. I don’t clip it to the book, I clip it to a folded edge of the blanket or duvet and kind of wedge it against my chest or arm so I can turn the book pages naturally.

    6. If you can control the temperature in the area where you sleep, start lowering it an hour before bedtime during the heating season. I sit in bed and read the last half hour or hour before bed, and in my house the thermostat is set to drop from 68 to 63 an hour before bedtime. It usually doesn’t get down that low now that the windows have been replaced, but I find a one or two degree drop is enough to make me feel sleepier and cozier in bed.

    One odd thing I noticed in my region was that being out so much earlier than most other commuters was safer. Often the plows hadn’t come through when there was snow, but the snow had only just started. Driving a few minutes after 5 a.m. on roads dusted with snow worked fine — then, at 8 a.m., people would be coming in talking about how awful the drive was in dense snowfall with an inch or more on the roads. Weird.

    Now that I’m not going in to work before 6 a.m., I have reverted painlessly to my 1 or 2 a.m. bedtime. I do not call people at midnight to tell them I’ve just vacuumed the living room after rearranging all the furniture while they’ve been dozing in front of the tv, nor do I tell them the cookies just came out of the oven.

    I am a nicer, more tolerant person (unlike my grumpy, early rising self) because at 11 a.m. I do not feel like telling those slackers who started at 8 or 9 a.m. that I’ve been up since before 5 a.m. Now that we aren’t all farming, an early schedule is just a schedule, not a virtue.

  48. Sophie*

    In addition to the mentions above, one thing I’d suggest is that if you do need 8 hours sleep a night, you might need to adjust your expectations about your social life during the work week. When I first shifted to full time work from uni, I had to get up at 6.30. I’m terrible with sleep – 8 hours is the absolute minimum I need, and I found full time work for the first time to be exhausting. So I had to make sure I was home by about 8 so I could dinner /shower / start slowing down so that I could both get to bed early and also be calm enough to fall asleep once I was in bed.

    If you shift your expectations and expect that you won’t be able to go out except on weekends, then you might be less upset / frustrated about the early hours and their impact on your social life.

    I’d also recommend, while your body is getting used to it, setting the alarm early on the weekends too. it doesn’t have to be the same time as your work week wake up, but only allow yourself say an extra hour of sleep. If your body realises it can sleep all day saturday, it’ll be reluctant to fall asleep early in the work week.

    1. The IT Manager*

      :( I know. This discussion inspired me to do the math. Given my work hours, commute time, and time needed to get ready forwork in the morning, I just figured out that I only get four and half hours of “free time” between getting home and needing to go to bed. That includes making dinner and cleaning up after it plus prep for the next day. No wonder I habitually get less sleep than needed and never get a workout in like I know I should.

      I don’t hate my commute time because I usually use it for audiobooks and podcasts, but that’s the place that has the most give (without making me feel like a zombie all the time).

  49. TL*

    I have no advice, but I’m eagerly reading everyone’s comments for suggestions! I’m a night owl, and currently unemployed, which means I’m indulging my night owl tendencies even more, and slightly dreading the early morning hours of an 8-5 job! Unfortunately, the 8-5 schedule tends to make me exhausted in the evenings, and my energy picks up right when I’m supposed to be going to bed. And this needs to happen, because if I don’t sleep, I’m a zombie in the morning. SO frustrating.

    I will second the advice to keep yourself on the same schedule through the weekends, though. It was always better when I kept the same general schedule, instead of giving myself jet lag every weekend.

  50. Anonymous*

    I think you do need to suck it up buttercup! :-) There are so many great suggestions in this thread on how to ease into a new schedule. I think it could also be helpful to look into other ways people break habits/make habits – some of those methods may also work for you.

    I am not a morning person either, but I used another method. As I fall asleep I thought “I will wake up at __” over and over. Helped me fall asleep and a big help in waking up! (Read Steinbeck’s Winter of Our Discontent for the inspiration) I also get everything ready in the morning. The need to do so gets me moving and out of bed.

    1. John Quincy Adding Machine*

      As I fall asleep I thought “I will wake up at __” over and over. Helped me fall asleep and a big help in waking up!

      This works for me too, though it works better if I’m only adjusting my schedule for a few days. Long term it loses its effectiveness. :(

      1. Rana*

        Agreed. I can manage that once in a while (and my sleep that night is usually crap because I keep half-waking to check the clock) but it’s too strenuous to keep doing that on a regular basis.

  51. Terri*

    I, too, have always been a night owl. Because I now have a job that works a “normal” schedule, I use a light box to change my sleep patterns. This therapy has worked so well for me that I found myself waking up at 5:00 AM feeling refreshed and ready to tackle work just like those “morning people”. I use my light box daily. This site was recommended to me by my physician : Scroll down to “Basic Information About Light Therapy” and read to the end. I hope this well help you, too.

  52. FD*

    I don’t know as if this is exactly healthy, but I’ve had a similar problem in the past. I agree that your body starts to adjust after about a month…though for me, I never could get to bed early enough to get a full eight hours. For me, I found that I could functon on 4-6 hours of sleep during the week as long as I slept at least 10-12 on one weekend day. I doubt that’s ideal, but it worked.

    Apart from that, my tricks include setting my alarm 30-45 minutes before I actually need to be up so I can afford to snooze it a few times, taking a cool shower first thing, and having a very loud alarm.

  53. J*

    I think everyone else has addressed tips for trying to get yourself on an earlier schedule, but I wanted to comment on the social life after work thing….

    As someone who’s 1) a night owl and 2) finished a PhD in the biological sciences and has been working in a lab for years, I gotta say you’re just going to have to recognize that if you want a “normal” sleep schedule, you have to get used to NOT having a social life at work.

    Work-life balance is a big issues/debate topic in the sciences, but the current reality is that pretty much every PI got to where they are by being a workaholic and having no social life (and/or their social life mainly revolves around their research/lab).

    All the PIs I know keep a schedule that approximates:
    6:30-9am – working on their computers at home
    9-10am – commute to lab
    9:30/10am-6pm – working in their office/on campus
    8pm-12am – working on their computers at home

    Sooo while you might not be expected to keep up to quite the same standards if you are lab staff, they’re still not going to be sympathetic to the “lack of social life after work” issue.

      1. J*

        Principal Investigator (assuming a university, the professor running the lab, otherwise the person in charge of the lab). We don’t call them managers because “lab manager” generally references a position that’s a mix between lab staff and administrative assistant (in charge of ordering supplies etc).

  54. Anonymous*

    Melatonin. Please try it on a non-work night. While its a great solution for many, it gives me the heebie jeebies. Bizarre night mares. Waking up erratically all night. Sometimes shaking in my skin. Hard to concentrate all the next day, still literally shakey, and ashen. I hope it’s a great success for those who try it – just give yourself a safe trial on a night before a free day. We don’t all respond to supplements the same way.

  55. Jennifer*

    This suggestion has mostly worked for me:
    I wake up earlier than I intend to even on weekends these days, though that’s still somewhat of my sleep-in time.

    Left to my own devices I’d probably go to bed somewhere between 11-1 (so I am probably an “earlier” late bird than most). I force myself to go to bed somewhere between 10-12 these days. I…probably get around 7 hours on weekdays, at best, but I also tend to wake up a bunch of times in the night to check the alarm out of sheer paranoia that I’ll sleep too well and sleep through an alarm.

    I think at this point I am used to being somewhat sleep deprived at this point in my life, though. You get used to being a “quart low.” (And I hear ya on feeling sick in the morning. I do too, but if I say that while female, people assume something else.) I maybe sleep for 8 hours 1-2 times a week due to the early morning paranoia thing. But I can at least get up and go to work and relatively function at 8 a.m. when I have to. And while my office has 8 a.m. meetings all the time (joy), at least I don’t usually have to talk to customers until I am more awake.

  56. nuqotw*

    I am on the night owl end of the spectrum (though I think not as much as OP) and one of the most helpful things for me is commuting on public transportation. My 45 minute nap on the train isn’t deep sleep, but it helps my body and brain to ease into the day.

    OP, I admire your patient attitude. It drives me nuts when a morning person judges me for sleeping.

  57. Laura*

    OP, I recommend checking out this Slate article:

    I followed the same experiment as the author did, and it really has helped. I can’t say I’m completely a morning person (I still sleep in on the weekends), but I’m not up til 3 a.m. on week nights or sleep deprived during the work day.

  58. Lulu*

    This has been my number one stressor all my life – I’ve always been in trouble with people for not being an early morning person (and hence being late for school a lot). I’m always terrified it will be an issue when job searching, because I really just can’t do that super-early wake-up for very long (and tend to feel like it eradicates my non-work life entirely). It finally got so bad I went for a sleep-study, and did a bunch of sessions with a sleep behaviorist.
    I haven’t had a chance to read through all the comments yet, so this may have been mentioned, but wanted to list what she had me doing (in addition to some specific things with her) while I had a moment to share:
    -I was aiming to be up by 8a (I know this is LATE for some of you, but it was a drastic step for me at the time), so had Power Down Hour at 10p – no tv or computer, turn down the lights, do something low key.
    – Establish Bed Time Routine to let your brain/body know “oohhh, when we do this, it means it’s bedtime”
    – Lights out at 11p
    – Keep this schedule 7 days a week until you get yourself on track
    – When you get up in the morning, head straight out the door for a 5-10 minute walk in the sunlight, to help reset your circadian rhythm (easier said than done for those who don’t live in SoCal, I know)
    – make sure to get regular exercise – doesn’t have to be “workout” level for these purposes, but get moving for 20-30min/day
    – keep a meal schedule – eating times help your body establish a rhythm as well. Don’t be eating lunch at 3 and dinner at 9 and expect an early-bird lifestyle… (note this also helps w/jet lag)
    – establish some kind of mindfulness/meditation/breathing practice to help your nervous system regulate itself

    It took a few months of pushing myself to do most of this, but I finally got to a point where I was waking up at 8a on my own for the first time in the history of the world – very exciting! Then I did some travelling out of the country, fell off the wagon in general and started to slide… Time to get back on it. I do not have an answer for not feeling deprived, as I basically eradicated 98% of my social life in order to do this, and was generally cranky about what I perceived as having to live like a small child, but getting to work vaguely on time was important enough to motivate me.

    I’d advise caution re: melatonin, I know some studies have found it’s not something to toss around casually or long term, and there’s specific timing advised for it to be most helpful in the short term – for me, I just wake up in 4hrs and am wide awake, so I stay away from it. YMMV. I’ve tried chamomile tea and magnesium supplements with varying results. I have rx sleeping pills for emergencies, as I’m also excellent with that “up til 5am” insomnia but try to avoid them as much as I can!

    I don’t think morning people appreciate what a significant challenge this can be. I’ve always felt some level of guilt that I don’t naturally pop out of bed at 6a, and it has impacted large portions of my life, particularly when it feels like you’re being judged as a slacker because of it.

    1. Rana*

      I don’t think morning people appreciate what a significant challenge this can be.

      Agreed. I’ve changed or established a number of habits over the years – things like putting dishes away, organizing my work habits, etc. – and while it kinda sucks for a while, it’s pretty much a matter of will and training.

      Sleep stuff? Is HARD. It’s not just dealing with forgetfulness or lapses of willpower; it’s about forcing yourself to do something that feels awful and unnatural until you reach a point where it feels slightly less so. (She says, typing at 12am, knowing that she’ll be up for at least three more hours…)

  59. chikorita*

    Sadly I don’t have that much concrete advice to give to the OP- just wanted to say that I’ve been reading through the comments and picking up some good ideas for helping with my own sleep schedule! I would second all the posters suggesting that you see a doctor- I found myself at one point feeling permanently sleep-deprived, going to bed at 8 pm each night, and still struggling to get up on time in the morning. Turns out, I have a hormone imbalance that needs to be adjusted with medication. So while it’s not always a medical problem, if you’re struggling with sleep there could be another reason behind it.

    Last year I moved to Japan for a job. 9-hour time difference ><. Because of timings, placements etc they flew me and the other newbies out the day before we started work, so we hopped on a 10-hour flight (I think?), landed at about 3 pm, and then started work at 9 am the next day (and our usual start time is actually 8.30 am…). This long and dull anecdote basically boils down to: shifting your sleep pattern is horrible, but it can be done! Don't lose hope! Me and the other newbie almost dropped dead in the first week (and I actually came perilously close to vomiting on my boss's car at one point), but (for me at least) things like mentally preparing yourself, being strict with when you go to bed, and forcing yourself to get into a routine all help.

  60. FreeThinkerTX*

    I’m one of those people who has trouble falling asleep, even if I’m physically and mentally exhausted. My brain gets on a gerbil wheel of tangents. I can toss and turn for hours just trying to shut it off.

    Then I read an article about giving your brain something else to do, something slightly engaging but definitely not exciting… Count backwards from 100 by 3’s. Some nights I have to count backwards from 200, and vary where I start (199 or 198 vs 200), but it always works within a half an hour – which is like some kind of record for me.

    My boyfriend is more mathematically inclined than I am, so he counts backwards by 3, then adds 5 or 7 (i.e., minus 3, plus 5, minus 3, plus 5, etc.)

    1. Some European*

      That would never work for me. When I’m thinking of anything I cant get asleep until I stop it and sometimes I’m doing math for the things I’m thinking about in my head, just so I dont need to get up and take the calculator, but that just keeps me awake even longer.
      What actually helps sometimes is writing down some stuff so I can stop focusing on remembering it and having to think about it.

      1. Editor*

        I count to clear my mind when I’m having trouble sleeping, but I don’t do math. I find repetitive counting that I don’t have to track much helps, so I count as though I was still back in band counting measures of rests: “one, two, three, four; two, two, three, four; three, two, three, four; four, two, three, four; one, two, three, four…”

        I don’t go much over four or six counts of four before I loop back, because I don’t want to have to remember or concentrate on what I’m doing. Sometimes I count this way when I’m mindlessly walking or swimming, too. It’s more like a mental chant than math or counting, and I find it soothing.

        Also, there are some muscle exercises that involve tensing everything and then, starting with the feet, consciously relaxing them. I find that helps sometimes.

  61. Pandora*

    Eat breakfast as soon as you wake up.

    Yur body’s notion of “it’s time to wake up” is geared to your stomach receiving food. You can help reset your wake clock by having a banana, piece of bread, or some other pleasant morning food as soon as you wake up.

    To start out, choose foods that can sit on your nightstand overnight.

  62. BW*

    I feel your pain! I have the same issue, and people assume that I will adjust to an early schedule, but I never do. If I go to bed much before 11 PM I keep waking up – all night. So I stay up until at least 11 just to get a solid night’s sleep instead of a fitful sleep. The earlier I get up, especially when it’s still dark, the sicker I feel. I do eat, and it does not reset my clock. My clock is what it is. For dark mornings, I use a light box. I find my body responds to light some. I do have SAD already. I think that just contributes to waking in the dark being so difficult. Cloudy days are pretty sucktacular as well. Melatonin does nothing for me.

    I have to eat many small meals a day, and I find when I get up really early, I’m eating breakfast x3 or I’m just constantly hungry and it doesn’t matter what I eat. The later I get up, the less it throws off my hunger cycle.

    For me I found I need at least one day a week to sleep in to an hour my body is more agreeable with. I also need the catch-up on what I lose during the work week. I have found when I have to be on early in the morning 7 days a week, I just can’t sustain that. I regularly sleep 11+ hours Fri-Sat – solidly from the time I hit the pillow to the time I wake up naturally. Then I feel okay again. I also force myself to go to bed by midnight, just so I don’t get thrown entirely off.

    I have to run to work myself. I’m interested to read the comments later since I’ve just had to “such it up buttercup”, because my body clock is what it is it, and it’s apparently not so amenable to change. Even the direction in which I have issues with jetlag is opposite of what most people experience (Going east is easy for me. Going west is godawful – and for most people it is the opposite) I feel like a biological freak.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m having the same issues since changing my schedule temporarily – I can go to bed earlier (and do) but I’m waking up all night long…but if I go to bed later it’s not enough.

      Is there a way to train yourself to need less sleep. I know people who for years live in 4-5 hours and they are wide awake all day, plenty of energy. Is this something inherent or something that one can develop – because that would be awesome. Almost like a superpower.

      Just throwing the question out there in case anyone knows a way to legitimately minimize the need for sleep. But this current needing 8 hours of mine is wasting a lot of time.

      1. BW*

        I wish! I find I need 8-9 hours of sleep ideally and this has been the case for years and year and years, and despite being on a schedule where I normally get 6-7 hours Sunday-Friday I have never developed this superpower. I always feel most alert and physically good when I can get at least 8 hours consistently.

      2. Rana*

        My limited experience with the 6 hour people suggests that one of the following conditions is operating:

        1) They’ve always been that way.
        2) They’re older and need less sleep.
        3) They are just naturally hyper and so think that they’re wide awake despite being sleep deprived.
        4) They take mini-naps throughout the day.

        1. Lulu*

          6) They feel like it’s some kind of positive demonstration of fortitude, soldiering through with as little sleep as they can get away with and are so used to being sleep deprived they don’t even realize how compromised they are

  63. OP*

    Hello all. OP here.

    Thank you so much for posting my question, Alison, and thank you to all the commenters who had suggestions. I appreciate it very much.

    There is a lot of good advice, and I’ll definitely be trying some new things. I’ve never tried melatonin, for instance! And a friend has an old L.L.Bean alarm clock with a light component that I just borrowed, to see if that helps too.

    I’d like to add that I don’t have much of a social life, especially during the week. I’m not a partier, I’m a science nerd. It’s been things like cooking dinner, running an errand after work, doing laundry, or taking the dog for a long walk that I’ve been concerned with. Normal low key things that have been affected because I’m anxious about powering down in time to get enough sleep for the next day’s early start.

    Again, I’m very grateful for the time people took to write in advice, and I hope reading through the suggestions is helpful for others, too.

  64. Anonymous Late Riser*

    On a similar topic — I recently transitioned from a job as an event planner (meaning loads of workdays that ended around 10 or 11pm, with a flexible start time between 9-11am depending on what was going on the night before) to a department head role at a different organization where I’m expected to be in at 8 or 8:30 (although many folks arrive as early as 6:30 or 7). While I have been able to physically make it in by 8:30 or 8:45, being mentally “there” is another story entirely.

    Unfortunately, my staff of early risers (10-15 people on any given day) all like to pounce as soon as I walk through the door leading to a lot of half-conscious decision-making and not very productive discussions.

    Any tips for getting my staff to let me have an hour or so of quiet time in the mornings (open office situation means I can’t just close the door)? I’ve already blocked my calendar so that I’m not getting meeting requests for 8:30am — talk about a rough way to start the day!

    1. Shoshie*

      I would just be firm and say that you have some things to take care of for the next hour, and you can give them your full attention at 10:30 or whenever. Or ask them to send you an e-mail. I’m a big fan of getting people to e-mail me when they want to discuss things at an inconvenient time. Then I can be up-to-date on the matter when we actually sit down and discuss it and the discussion is quicker and better thought-out.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Totally agree! Be assertive about interruptions, and it’s totally okay to put limits on when you are and aren’t available to talk to people (barring emergencies, of course).

  65. Danielle*

    I find that taking a leisurely shower with a strong body wash wakes me up. I’ve heard that citrus scents invigorate you, so I have an orange body wash that I use. Take a slow 2o minute shower and that may help. I feel your pain!

    1. BW*

      A friend of mine takes a hot bath first thing in the morning. It wakes her up and she doesn’t feel as achy.

  66. Melissa*

    I’m naturally a late riser and I struggled for years with chronic insomnia, so I get how it feels to lie in bed late at night, tossing and turning and worrying about not getting enough sleep- which, as I bet you’ve seen, only makes it harder to fall asleep. It sounds like that’s part of the problem here. Here are some things that helped me drastically reduce my intense anxiety related to falling asleep and waking up early:

    1. Meditation: I’m surprised more people haven’t mentioned this. I meditate nearly every night- sometimes right before I go to bed, and sometimes up to an hour before. Here is a good place to start: Also consider looking for class in your area that teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

    2. Consistency: It’s tough, I know, but you can’t revert to your old sleeping patterns over the weekend. I have a tendency to sleep in late on the weekends (who doesn’t?), but you need to fight that!

    3. Don’t toss and turn: We hear so much about how important it is to get 8 hours of sleep, which can be stressful when you’re having trouble sleeping. Realize that even if you don’t sleep at all one night, you’ll be okay! It takes 4-5 days for the longer-term cognitive deficits associated with sleep deprivation to kick in. So if you have a lousy night’s sleep, you might feel miserable the next day, but you’ll be functional. Matter of fact, short term sleep deprivation has been shown to elevate mood. (That’s why patients who have just attempted suicide are often not allowed to sleep after being admitted to the hospital.) Realizing that getting a bad night’s sleep is not the end of the world has helped me worry a lot less about falling asleep. So if I can’t fall asleep after 20 or so minutes, I get up and do something else. No need to lie in bed tossing and turning and trying to sleep.

  67. Andrea*

    I gave up caffeine last year, and I find it is so much easier to go to sleep at a reasonable time and get up at a reasonable time. It might be worth a try!

  68. Darcie*

    Do your research about melatonin (you’re a scientist, of course you will) before messing with your brain chemistry. I used to take Valerian root and it helped with sleeping as well. Make sure you don’t take these supplements too late, or you’l be stoned in the morning.

    And I agree that the body will adjust after a month. And don’t sleep in on weekends, for sure. Try giving up caffeine after noon, since it stays in your body for up to 12 hours. Don’t watch TV or listen to music right before bed, either.

    If you can’t sleep after 15 minutes of being in bed, get up and go do something in another room for a few minutes. It’ll keep you from becoming frustrated lying in bed.

    As a teenager I had 3 alarm clocks on other sides of my room. Worked like a charm. The more annoying, the better.

  69. Pam*

    This post has been incredible, I have read every comment – it is my favourite post so far and I have been reading AAM for several months. It is so relevant to me as I have struggled my whole life with getting up early. So many great suggestions, I will be trying some for sure!

    1. Jessica*

      Exactly! That’s how I feel about reading this, and I already am looking at some additional solutions.

  70. Anon*

    I know this post is a little bit old, but just in case the OP or anyone is still checking…

    In regards to your feeling physically ill part: Have you been checked for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) before? I’m not sure what signs of illness you have, but for me, my IBS occurs mostly in the morning, especially if I wake up early. I am definitely a night owl as well. Or at least a late afternoon owl, haha.

    What I do is to wake up earlier than I need to (unfortunately) and allow myself to feel ill while I’m still at home. That way I have access to a toilet or drugs if necessary. I also have been prescribed a medicine that sometimes works. My doctor said that it’s because although my mind is awake, my other nervous system/organs aren’t necessarily, so they more or less flip out.

    You’ll get used to waking up at a certain time after awhile if you’re diligent about it.

  71. thekiltedknitter*

    Only confirming that as a night owl the tendency to stay up late never has gone away. It has also taken me five years of dedicated waking up @ the same time everyday for it not to suck and blow. (Now it mearly sucks.) So you have to decide if the benefits are enough to keep you in the job. They still are for me but if later morning hours were possible I would jump at the chance.

  72. sisterofseven*

    Fellow readers whose internal clocks run out of sync with the “real” world: how do you deal with the moral superiority of those who are NEVER late? Particularly, hr folks (the time clock police) who stand ready to pin on the scarlet T? Though I have been considered an excellent student/employee/family member in most every other way, my tardiness (vexingly consistent in the 3-8 minute range) has drawn unwelcome attention for as long as I can remember and has factored into my exit from more than one job (I’d quit before enduring the disgrace of further disciplinary action). I realize I have been my own worst enemy… I’ve read the stuff about passive aggression and self-sabotage…I don’t think that’s really what’s going on. Yet, it irks me to no end that this highly visible shortcoming eclipses many positive (and–I’ll admit my bias–far more important) qualities. Worst are the co-workers who feel entitled to report/remark upon said shortcoming although ’tis I who remains to handle whatever end-of-day crises they leave too promptly to encounter. Alas, I’m whining…but please, someone restore my hope that jobs exist where my talents matter more than my time chart!

  73. Wendi*

    Reading these comments…it’s just TOO BAD that night owls have to struggle so, when a little more cultural flexibility would result in a lot more productivity.

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