Words From a Night Owl in a Room of Early Birds

When I was first writing this, my roommates were in bed, and I walked down to the common room to avoid sleeping. I must admit that college has aided my ability to stay up longer than necessary. And if I could explain how this started, it is a progression. My roommates would probably prefer if I could keep in par with their sleep schedule. And I can definitely keep up with them even if I go to bed late. It just might mean that I will be sleepy for the rest of the day.

They always ask this question: how did a night owl get put with a bunch of early birds? Well, I can answer that question. Keep in mind that first years at Susquehanna University have to fill out a survey so that Residence Life can choose our roommates. I filled out this survey early in 2019. This was back in high school where extra-curriculars and classes kept me away from home until 6 PM. And then, I had other things that would keep me up late at night, but it did not excuse me from waking up early. When you have to catch a bus at 6:30 AM on the week day, you are destined to lose sleep.

Things started changing once we hit mid-2019. By things, I mean I worked at an overnight summer camp for two weeks in a row before going straight to another overnight camp as a camper afterwards. Let’s just say that within those three weeks, I got to challenge the amount of sleep I was able to survive on. I got away with three hours of sleep a couple of times.

It gets even more complicated because our schedule differs so much. In fact, my schedule somehow suits my sleep schedule even though I do not even have a stable sleep schedule anymore. Let’s explain my experiences as a night owl in a room of early birds:

  • Ninja mode every time you come back in the room: When everyone else is asleep, you really need be careful not to wake up anyone. I never have an exact plan. My one extremely early bird roommate has her things set up to make sure she does not wake up anyone. However, I am not perfect. I drop my phone on the ground almost every night. Once I was making noises, and my one roommate was telling me to quiet down. At this time, only one person was asleep, and the lights were still on. Therefore, I nonchalantly said, “<insert my other roommate’s name> is a heavy sleeper. She’s fine.” And right before break, she told me that she was actually half awake, but she found it funny.
  • Training your eyes to develop night vision: It is common curtesy to not wake up people by suddenly turning on a bright light. Therefore, I have learned to basically roam around in the dark. Since I am in a triple, I have less space to roam around in, but it also helps me figure out where everything is. The only problem is when I trip over someone else’s shoes. But then, there is a struggle of finding clothes in my box. In the dark your five senses are limited primarily to touch, so I constantly find myself blindly rummaging in the dark until I feel the right fabric. And that is how I find my pajamas most nights. (But there are times that I cheat and use my lamp on a very dim setting.)
  • Texting your roommates ahead of time about your whereabouts: I’m sure that they trust me to be safe, but it is better than disappearing without a word.
  • Your roommates become your personal alarm clock: Why do I need an alarm clock when I can hear my roommates moving around at a certain time each day (7:30-8:30 AM)? In fact, I bought an alarm clock and did not even use it. Originally, I never turned on any alarms because I forgot my alarm clock was portable. When you’re on the top bunk, nothing really seems to reach your bed unless you have a long enough wire. It was not until I woke up 27 minutes before a morning class that I started to use the alarm clock with a reminder from my parents that it is indeed portable.
  • Wondering when to use the earplugs your roommate gave to you: My roommate felt bad for waking me up and gave me some earplugs to help me sleep. I do not think I will ever get to use them because I already have a sleep schedule that does not allow me to sleep. It is a nice gift nevertheless, so if anyone is in my situation, consider investing in some earplugs.
  • NAPS, NAPS, AND MORE NAPS: I may not be able to sleep at night, but the daytime is perfectly fine for me. The side effects just include wanting more sleep.
  • Caffeine: There is that look of “Oh no” on the faces of my roommates (and my other friends) every time I say I just had some caffeinated drink. Personally, I can survive without coffee, and I'm extremely energetic on my own terms, but there was the one night where I went over to a friend’s room for a latte.

I know other people who have roommates with an opposite sleep schedule. It just means that there needs to be more communication about it and that you need to be more mindful of the others around you when you come back late. In turn, hopefully they are considerate about you sleeping in.

Personally, I am a rather tame Night Owl. Possibly the latest I’ve stayed up during the school week was 2 AM, but that was only a few times. I get the six or seven hours of sleep I need. For the record, I think I am the real early bird. I am the one wide awake in the early, early morning.