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Night Owls vs. Early Birds: The College Conundrum

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

My morning routine looks more or less the same each day: I shoot upright in bed to the blare of my 6:30 am alarm, fumbling to silence it before it wakes my roommate. Dazed from being abruptly yanked from my comatose-like state, I slowly push myself out of bed. As I stumble around the room looking for my workout clothes, I ask myself for the five millionth time why I agreed to stay up so late knowing that I had an early morning.

The previous night, my housemates and I had huddled around our dimly lit kitchen table, playing cards, sipping wine, and debating the issues of the world (a typical routine for us). Did I really need to play that last game of cards? I ask myself. Yes, I decide, I did. I’m graduating soon, the quality time with my friends is worth it. Maybe I should’ve slept in longer, I think. Nonetheless, I pull on my uniform, throw on my helmet, and head to the garage to get ready for bike practice with the triathlon team, half-heartedly thinking I’ll try to take a nap later.

Throughout college, and I’m sure many of you can attest to this, finding the perfect sleep-life balance has been one of my biggest struggles. With loving the social aspect of the evenings but not wanting to sacrifice my beloved mornings, I’m constantly torn between night owl and early bird lifestyles.

Too many times I’ve found myself falling asleep in class or unable to focus throughout the day due to lack of sleep. A study done at Southern New Hampshire University provides an explanation for my consequences and claims that college students should be getting at least seven solid hours of sleep a night. Failure to meet this minimum could lead to sluggishness, inability to absorb information, and more.

Many experts suggest going to bed at the same time every night, but in a time of our lives when we are expected to balance school, jobs, staying active, and planning our future, all while maintaining a social life, a sleep routine isn’t necessarily realistic.

I am of the belief that you don’t have to sacrifice your night owl persona for your early bird ego. Rather, with a few important habits, you can enjoy fun late nights with your friends and still wake up ready to take on the day.

Be honest with yourself and listen to your body.

There will be nights when you feel like hitting the town into the late hours of the night, but there will also be nights when you feel like going to bed at 8 pm. Honor how you’re feeling. It’s never worth it to push your body, especially if it’s going to lead to exhaustion the next day.

With that being said, if you are typically an early riser, don’t be afraid to let yourself sleep in a couple of hours following a long night.

Compromising with yourself is key to balance.   

If you know you’re going to stay up late tomorrow night for your friend’s birthday, for example, take it easy and go to bed early. Being a compromiser with your sleep schedule allows you to keep your body’s battery charged so that on the nights you do decide to stay up late, you have more fun because you’re not exhausted.

Focus on quality over quantity.

No matter how many hours of sleep you get, if you aren’t getting quality sleep, your body won’t reach the important sleep stages that contribute to memory and emotional health. However, quality sleep can be really hard to get, especially in Isla Vista. If you struggle with sleeping through the night, try to find a nightly routine to help settle yourself down like reading, journaling, or meditating. Invest in earplugs and an eye mask if Isla Vista’s nightlife is bothersome. These little steps can be a game changer in helping you sleep deeply through the night.

The struggle of sleep in college can be frustrating, but those late night temptations are also part of what makes college such a fun experience. If you focus on becoming more in touch with your body and finding balance with your sleep, you can still find the energy to take on college—day or night.

Hi, I'm Carlyn! I'm an Environmental Studies major with a professional writing minor at UCSB. I love traveling, hiking, and spending time in nature. I'm excited to be a part of Her Campus UCSB!