How to Maximize the Night Owl vs Early Bird Trade-Off

Written by Laura Waldvogel
How to Maximize the Night Owl vs Early Bird Trade-Off

I’m the early bird. I’m typically awake when the first glimmer of light peeks through the curtains. I lie there and doze, but by 6:00 a.m. I decide it’s a reasonable time to get out of bed, carefully without disturbing my husband. As I pass by the closet, I grab a basket of laundry. By the time the clothes are in the dryer, I’m planning the weekend activities while mentally visualizing what needs to be replaced in the pantry. I move on to watering the garden while enjoying my second cup of coffee.  At 8:30 a.m., it’s time to roust the household to get this laundry put away.

What might seem like work is actually peaceful, quiet time for me to enjoy the early morning. It might sound lonely, but I quite like this time to myself. Once the rest of the household wakes up and starts the day, we move into doing our Saturday “together.” My husband and I walk to the local grocery store and pick up a short list of items for the coming week. Once we get home, we decide to check a few things off the “to-do” list, which includes giving the dogs a bath. We make a new recipe for dinner; actually my husband makes a new recipe, while I follow behind cleaning up the dirty dishes. We end the evening with a glass of wine and movie.

Because of my early start, I tend to end my day early too. I make my way to bed around 9:00 p.m. I’m used to falling asleep alone, as it allows my husband to have some time to himself. He’s the night owl counterpart to my early bird style. A few hours into my sleep, I suddenly wake-up and realize I’m still alone in bed. The clock reads 12:30 a.m. Thinking my husband has fallen asleep with all the electronics wearing down and the lights blazing, I stumble downstairs in a haze only to have him greet me with, “Hi, babe.” He is wide awake. I ask, “What are you doing?” as I see he is paying bills and looking through resort brochures I just happened to leave out hoping he will agree with my choice of family vacations.

Clearly, we’re different. I’m an early bird and he’s a night owl. But we make it work! If you and your partner have different sleeping habits, you can make it work, too. Here are our tips for respecting each other’s patterns and making it work for you:

  • Take advantage of your time alone. I used to waste away the mornings until my husband woke up, but now I find I’m most productive during that time.
  • But don’t forget to make time for intimacy (both physical and emotional!) This can fall by the wayside when you and your partner are operating on somewhat different sleep schedules, but it doesn’t have to be an issue! Communicate your needs and how or when you might set aside a time each day or week during which you both feel present, in order to reconnect and fully enjoy each other’s company.
  • Do something that you enjoy, but is hard to do with your partner. Read a book, check social media, catch up on your guilty pleasure TV show.
  • You’ll have to compromise. Recognize that there will be days that you’ll have to be a night owl and he’ll have to be an early bird. Support each other on these days, whether it’s by having a steaming cup of coffee waiting when they reluctantly crawl out of bed or by taking care of the kids’ bedtime routine so there’s one less nighttime worry for your partner.
  • Habits might change over time. You may learn to like nights or your husband may learn to enjoy early morning hours. Job schedules, seasons, and kids are all likely contributors to why habits might change over time. Welcome the changes and go with the flow.
  • Acknowledge your sleep differences. Each morning, when I leave the bed, I give my husband a quick kiss on the forehead. Each night, when he finally makes it to bed, he kisses my forehead before he snuggles in. Neither of us wakes up from this simple touch, but knowing its part of our morning/night routines is special.

We use our early morning and late night energy to help us fulfill the alone time we both need. The “separate” time our relationship needs to make our “together” time even more special. Talk to each other about balance and how your sleeping habits impact your relationship.

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