This is the next installment in my Twitter-inspired series of posts. Thanks to Bridget Wilson @bridgetstella for the topic!
There’s something interesting that happens to you when you work at night and sleep during the day. You start to feel like a vampire (more on that later). You start to be most effective at night. You start to get real tired in the early afternoon.
Working 9PM – 5AM has a bunch of perks, but I have to admit it unfortunately has its share of disadvantages. I don’t have as much perspective working a traditional job during these hours, but these are the hours I get my client work done and much of my writing. So with that, let’s parse these pros and cons out.
I Thrive At Night.
I’m most creative at night, hands down. Even if I have the exact same situation, something about my circadian rhythm says “be creative” when the sun goes down. When the sun comes up I just want to relax and hang out on Twitter. You’ll notice that if you’re one of my followers.
I’ve heard this rings true for many people, both nocturnal and diurnal. I don’t know exactly the reason behind this, and I’m sure there are multiple theories (leave me your thoughts in the comments), but it’s a phenomenon that seems to happen the vast majority of the time.
Perhaps a big reason for this is the freedom that comes with not being disturbed every three seconds with an email, phone call, or text message. Sure, Twitter proves itself a good distraction for me, but at least I can put my phone face down and not respond to anything until I’m ready to look at it again. Clients don’t like to wait, and neither do my friends, so it’s a lot harder to ignore those notifications. Interestingly, I do tell my clients that I do work nights, and for the most part they respect that. They think that I’m always around 9AM to 5PM though, so I spend a lot of my daylight hours replying to messages and planning out my next night shift.
When Friday night rolls around, though, I’m able to do whatever I want. Sure that typically means sitting on the couch and scrolling through Twitter… but *I* get to choose that. I’m not controlled by that nagging for sleep that comes earlier and earlier at my age. When I was young, this wasn’t a problem at all — I could wake up at 6AM and not go to sleep until the following morning. But the thought of doing that now… I’d be a zombie.
Speaking of supernatural creatures, I’m ready to come out and say it. I’m a vampire. In fact, I’m afflicted with what was known as the vampire disease known as porphyria. It presents in episodes with very severe pain should one of my triggers is tripped. The worst, red meat. I can’t eat red meat which is by far the worst dietary restriction! I loved steak, oh so much. Symptoms include light sensitivity (✔️ sleep during the day) and associated vitamin D deficiency (✔️ paler skin), and in some cases like mine, iron deficiency (✔️ craving blood much?). Some people with severe forms of porphyria are so sensitive to sunlight they literally form boils on their skin within seconds of exposure. Fortunately, I get about five minutes before things get dicey.
I got off topic. Sorry about that.
The Things I Miss Out On.
Not every event is a party at a night club anymore. As me and my friends age, our activities get earlier and earlier. Just the other night we had a “game night” where a bunch of us played Jackbox Games on the TV after dinner. Well 7:45PM rolls around and everyone starts yawning, so we call the game and everyone goes their separate ways. Kind of disappointing. I mean, if I was told as a teenager that my adult “nightlife” would be this, I would have never believed it.
People who work at night often miss out on a lot of outdoor daytime activities — birthday parties, matinee movies with discounts, lunch with some old friends. I think a lot of us take for granted the difficulty people that suffer from shift work sleep disorder often have in maintaining their relationships. They were the original Essential Workers, back before COVID-19. Those graveyard employees have to show up at work when the rest of the world is sleeping, doing work to keep the cogwheels moving, and are often severely underpaid for that.
That’s a subject for another post, I’m sure.
One of the other big reasons I can’t do daytime events is I take a lot of naps. Some of you have noticed that I’m seemingly available 24/7 on social media. And that’s because I don’t ever go to sleep for the night. I live on naps. It’s a sleep pattern referred to as polyphasic. There’s different types of polyphasic sleep — many people are actually biphasic, meaning they sleep six or so hours at night and two or so during other parts of the day. This is especially common in countries that practice the siesta. There’s extreme types too, such as the Uberman schedule, which is six 20-minute naps daily. That’s it, no more than that. Imagine trying to survive on just two hours of total sleep per day!
I’m not as intense as that, so I naturally fell into what’s referred to as the Everyman cycle. I sleep about three hours in the early evening, and then sleep another hour and a half throughout the day at some point. Some days are a little more rough so I’ll throw in an extra nap or two, but I can’t miss those required 4.5 hours of sleep every day or it destroys my schedule. If you think this sounds impractical, try it for yourself! You get a whole world of options opened to you when you don’t have to sleep as much! But be careful. Rumor has it if you try out a polyphasic sleep schedule for more than 30 days straight it can permanently alter your circadian rhythm.
There is Solitude in Silence.
And it’s not really a good thing. Sometimes I’ll look around, down at my phone, scroll through twitter and realize the world is in fact asleep and I’m all alone. All alone with just me and my thoughts. And that’s when I write these blog posts and words in my books. But it can get lonely, and for that, I thank you my friends around the world on social media who show up when I need them most.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Do you have what it takes to join the world of the night? Leave me a comment and let me know.
I don’t know how you do it. I don’t have it what it takes to work all night, because I need my sleep. As I get older that becomes more apparent. I work a full time job during the day for 12 hrs. I’m pretty well dead tired by the end of it all plus I have my two kiddos to take care of.
It took a while to get into the swing of it. Maybe over the course of a year or so I went from a normal 8 hour night to being polyphasic to the extent I am now. It was pretty easy to slowly migrate to it, but I’ve tried sleeping 8 hours straight and I think I’ve managed to do it once since starting this 15 or so years ago. I imagine it would be very difficult to do with kiddos though!
I like how you know what your symptoms are from a scientific perspective.
I’ve never researched or asked abt mine.
All I call it is insomnia. But it all happened coz I felt more creative at night, especially as a teen.
Now I’m mostly sleepy at night, but I scroll through my phone or read ebooks anyways. I sleep all morning, and I admit, I sleep till the afternoon on most days. I have a day time job and when I’m teaching, I’m all awake. But on work days, I know that I’ll fall asleep when I go home.
So I can say I spend most of my time sleeping even if I wasn’t insomniac the night before.
It just helps that I’m calm during the day, coz when I have a work load that needs to be done “tonight”, I can still find the peace of mind to keep going.
So technically, when I don’t go to work, I’m awake from 1:00/2:00 pm till 3:00 AM (sometimes till 8:00 AM). At this moment, it’s 2:00 AM as I send this reply.
Thanks for sharing your story, and it’s the first time I hear of your desease. Somehow you’re lucky that you can survive on just 4.5 hrs of sleep, but I would never know how it feels to be a vampire, lol. I’m sorry for your pain. ((Hugs))
I was not aware of any of this. I need to research this a little more. Very interesting
Yeah working and writing at night really benefited me for a while. It was so quiet and while, like you, I felt isolated, I never felt truly alone. I also had this odd fascination for awhile where around 4am I would stand in my balcony and think, I’m the only person awake. Obviously that wasn’t the case but being outside, in that quiet night time air just gave me that “Last Man on Earth” feeling. I was a club kid for a long time but as I got older I became the “Hey come over and drink wine at my place” guy which brought me more joy. Get some rest and I’ll see you on Twitter.
Nice story, thanks Kaitlyn. I can relate. I used to be a tv news producer and started at midnight or 3am and I believe you when you say that circadian rhythms can become permanently altered. My sleep is crap and I too need to take vitD and iron supplements. Keep writing! You’re good at it x
I learned something, since I hadn’t heard some of these terms before. My sleep pattern is close to biphasic, but it’s not exactly. I typically get sleepy around 9PM or 10PM, and often sleep for about 30 minutes then, though sometimes those 30 minutes of sleep don’t happen. I typically go to bed between 3AM and 5AM and then wake around 5 or 6 hours later, though I seldom wake earlier than 8AM or later than 10:45AM.
On those evenings when I don’t get 30 minutes of sleep around 9PM or 10PM, it usually happens around 1AM, after which I wake at my computer desk to find I’ve laid my head down on the desk. Once I get those 30 minutes, though, I’m usually good to go for another three to four hours.
If I’m really tired, I can go to sleep as early as 1AM, most likely to happen if I didn’t get those 30 minutes the previous day. But then I’ll wake about six hours later. I can’t sleep 8 hours no matter what. And if I try going to bed at 1AM or before that, and I’m not super sleepy, I’ll just lay awake in bed for two to three hours, which is so unproductive, I might as well be up and writing.
Thanks for sharing your story! Cheers.