10 Benefits Of Staying Up Late And How To Do It

The Night Sky

For the last 10 years of my life I’ve been only sleeping 4 or less hours a night.  I don’t have insomnia, in fact I love sleeping but it comes down to a simple reason I told myself many years ago: I don’t want to miss out.

This post is the flip side to Zen Habit’s 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How To Do It. I want to share how you can do the same but using the night to your advantage – this one’s for the night owls.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Compared to the average person, I have an extra 4 hours each day dedicated to myself. While many are sleeping, I’m diligently working away or enjoying the quiet in front of the computer.

It all started from a polyphasic sleep experiment I tried many years ago. I always found myself toiling away into the late night hours from the sheer amount of energy I had in my youth.

I found myself taking a nap in the afternoon and jump right back up an hour later. Years would go by before I researched about the idea behind polyphasic sleeping, up until that point I simply found it a great way to get more done in my day.

The benefits were astounding

In a nod to the ZenHabits article, if you’re an early riser that’s excellent. For me, I found an entire new life from burning the midnight oil and you can to.

  1. Welcome the night. The sunrise is a beautiful thing, I think we can all agree on that but do people take the time to absorb the glory of the stars? Each night I spend a few minutes outisde gazing into the universes infinity glory and realize I’m lucky to experience it.
  2. Second Wind. As everyone is settling down for the night, I’m still buzzing with excitement. When the night creeps upon us, I take this time to play relaxing music and work on my personal projects that have been postponed through the day.
  3. Silence. No more chatter, no constant phone calls and email alerts. I love knowing that while I’m still experiencing the world, others are resting, allowing me to explore it on my own.
  4. Moon…rise?. Many people become emotional as the sun rises but I reserve this feeling for the moon. Every time I look at the moon, it inspires me knowing we visited it – take that sun!
  5. Late Night Snack. I love breakfast as much as everyone else but the late night snack is always has a tinge of hedonism. I’ll trade a busy breakfast over a late night round up with my friends at IHop.
  6. Beat the heat. Living in Florida isn’t all sunshine and Disneyland, it can be downright miserable in terms of temperature. Working late at night helps you avoid those uncomfortable moments as you sweat from just standing outside.
  7. People are strange. My single biggest draw to staying up late is the strange and unique people I find. Everyone during the day seems to be on their edge, they’re busy scuffling around and generally have some kind of attitude. When you meet people late at night, there is an aura of relaxation. Strange people come out at night but every one of them has an exciting and unique lifestyle.
  8. The world is yours. One of the heaviest subjects on my mind is what’s going on in the world around me. In this 24/7 connected world, spending the additional time sleeping has always been a second thought to staying up and keeping the world in check. I hate the feeling of being lost in the morning, having to get back up to speed so I opt to stay awake instead.
  9. Plan Tomorrow. While there are certainly benefits of creating a plan in the morning, you’re often in a completely forward thinking mindset for the day. By creating your to-do list before you go to bed, you’ll be able to consider and incorporate what needs to be done and add anything you’ve missed out during the day.
  10. It’s all clear. I hate the rush of traffic, standing in lines and generally being crowded by people. Grocery shopping late at night, filling up your car, taking a walk is completely clear for you to do what you want without interruption.

How To Stay Up Later

Before you go rush off to fill up another pot of coffee, you don’t need the caffeine to stay up longer each night.

I don’t suggest jumping right into a polyphasic sleep schedule or 4 additional hours each night. Take it step by step, here are a few ways to stay up later each night.

  • Have a reason. Don’t stay up just for the hell of it, have a reason why you’re opting out of sleep. Keep a list of goals you’ve been wanting to complete but never had the time.
  • Transition into it. Every night stay up just a little bit later. Staying up a couple extra hours the first night is going to make you extremely tired. Instead, push your boundaries just a little bit each night until you find your rhythm.
  • Stay away from the bed. As soon as you hit the bed, you’re down for the count. You’ll be tempted to sit or lay in bed while you stay up but this is going to cull you into sleep very quickly. Stay at your desk or at least sitting up so you’ll be active and ready to work.
  • Stay stimulated. You don’t need to drink endless amount of coffee to stay up later but you will need something that’s exciting enough. If you plan to work on your projects, put on some music and go at it. Staying up late reading a book is going to eventually wear you down towards sleep. You can still read but break up the sessions so you keep your mind bouncing.
  • Find another night owl. As I mentioned, it’s amazing the people you’ll find late at night. If you know another night owl, take some time to talk and listen to what you’re missing out on. Don’t spend all your time doing this though, you’ll want to at least get something done.
  • Consider a polyphasic sleep schedule. A polyphasic sleep schedule is essentially taking smaller naps throughout the day instead of one long slumber. It can be fit to your own schedule and isn’t set by any rule. This sleep schedule allows you go later into the night and not feel as tired.

I hope you like the idea of staying up later. Even if you were to spend an extra 1 hour up at night, by the end of the year you’ll have an extra 15 days of productivity.

Keep in mind there are health risks without sleeping but for those of us that seek the night, it’s all worth it. Call us crazy but it’s what we choose.

Image by APOD

7 Responses to “10 Benefits Of Staying Up Late And How To Do It”

  1. May 12, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    Do make sure that you get enough REM sleep for the day – I don’t want to be the one to say this, but studies HAVE shown that not getting enough sleep everyday critically weakens the immune system, as well the abilities of your cell to perform checks during dna replication which makes you much more susceptible to getting cancer. Not getting enough sleep also significantly increases your chances of getting type 2 diabetes (so much so that researchers are hypothesizing that even one night of enough sleep makes your body insulin resistant).

    But of course, don’t believe too much into studies since they usually don’t have enough subjects to make a valid experiment anyways….but just know that as a disclaimer, not getting enough sleep can be harmful to your health. :)

    of course I love staying up late coding or working on a project too….seems much more fun than working during the day.

    • Murray Lunn
      May 13, 2010 at 2:11 am #

      Thank you for this valuable insight Cliff.

      Agreed, if staying up too long is showing signs of distress and any symptoms – make sure you get your sleep!

      One of the interesting things about Polyphasic sleeping is that you immediately hit the REM phase of your sleep cycle. Generally the first few hours of sleep is your brain winding down until you hit the REM phase, this puts you right into it so you feel refreshed with less.

      Also keep in mind that there is no ‘catch-up’ sleep so sleeping in late on the weekends won’t make up for the sleep you’ve missed during the week.

      There is something amazing about staying up late, as you said, it could just be the quiet that allows people like us to work more proficiently; either way, if it helps us in our goals, I believe it’s worth trying (within reason).

  2. Murray Lunn
    May 13, 2010 at 9:41 pm #

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article Jonathan and happy to see you know what I mean by all the great things that happen late at night; I’m sure you’ve ran into some very strange but unique people along the way.

    At the moment I’m not “officially” using a polyphasic sleep schedule because I think I’ve somehow broke a barrier (or I’m just too hyper). My old schedule would be something along the lines of: Up at 5:30am, 4-5pm nap, up til 3:30am, nap til 5:30. This was done mostly when I was still attending school virtually from middle to high school.

    Now I mostly seem to have the energy to go from 6:30am – 3am each day. I generally sleep a core 3 1/2 hours and sometimes take a nap just as I get home for an hour. I’m a little groggy in the morning but once I get into “work mode”, I don’t stop haha.

    I think I’ll be covering the subject in a future post, the various cycles you could try, pros/cons and the like.

    Thanks for the comment :)

    • TigerLily
      July 21, 2011 at 1:31 am #

      Hi Murray. Im under 13 and I am really interested in this! I think we all miss out on so much sleeping! I showed this to my dad and he is worried it would not be good for me, but you said you had a similar schedule like this in middle and high school. Has it affected your learning, mental or physical health at all? I want to do this but I need to make my dad sure this is ok for me. He even considered doing this at a time in his life!!

      • Murray Lunn
        July 21, 2011 at 5:43 am #

        Hi TigerLily,

        I don’t think the sleep schedule had a negative impact, overall. However, I can’t rightfully recommend it at your age because you’re mind is still heavily developing. Although I did it in middle and high school the main draw back was that I was very irritable at points throughout the day and this didn’t help much with social life. So, in some ways, it can have a negative effect and one of the most important skills to learn at your age and throughout most of school is social interaction.

        If anything, it could be something you try over the summer break but please don’t take this is me pushing you to do it (for legal purposes, obviously). If you feel that you are having adverse affects of the sleep schedule than I would recommend stopping it immediately.

        Prior to you doing this I would recommend making better use of your normal time. Learn time management tricks and build great habits because there’s really no point to staying up those extra hours if you’re going to waste them, ya know? I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’d spend each night just lazily browsing forums; I wish I had the productivity and time management knowledge I have today back then ha!

        Overall, I would trust your dad’s judgement. It could be something you try out but I wouldn’t recommend it at this time because of the reasons noted above. Hope that answered your questions :)

  3. October 8, 2010 at 2:14 am #

    Wow. You must get heaps done with the extra hours up. I think we all need different amounts of sleep. I have never needed a lot but I have friends who can’t survive without at least 8 hours sleep. I don’t think I have ever slept that long; not even as a baby! Interesting post and I look forward to the next one.
    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Murray Lunn
      October 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

      I’m not sure what I’d do if I couldn’t stay up Patricia haha

      I work best later at night too so usually I start to really pick up between 1 – 3am but what sucks is that once I’m finally really nailing what I’m working on I have to at least turn in for a few hours before work :/. Hopefully I can get to the point that I can work when I want because not all of us do best at the 9 to 5 work style; have to find your own “zone” ya know?

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