Last Updated on October 1, 2023 by Louise Carter
Ben Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Unfortunately, not everybody naturally feels tired at night and alert in the morning.
If you don’t sleep well at night, you’ll wake up tired and groggy.
This challenging transition from sleep to waking is known as sleep inertia. Hitting the snooze button on your alarm will prolong this negative feeling, leaving you wanting more rest in the morning.
If you struggle to feel tired at night, consult a doctor to see if you have delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD.) You won’t feel sleepy until late at night or in the morning.
Humans are frequently divided into two chronotypes – “early birds,” who like to sleep and rise early, and “night owls,” who feel mentally sharper and more comfortable staying up late and sleeping in.
Sleeping 7-8 hours daily and avoiding sleep debt is most important. As the world is intended for early birds, you may need to make lifestyle changes to fit into a conventional 9-5 working pattern.
Why Do I Sleep Better in the Morning Than at Night?
Poor sleep hygiene is among the most common reasons for sleeping better in the morning.
An unreliable sleep schedule may lead to you falling asleep and waking up later, making it easier to sleep in the morning, midway through a sleep cycle.
Common explanations for a lack of tiredness at night include the following:
- Caffeine consumption (coffee, energy drinks, etc.) within 6 hours of bedtime.
- Blue light exposure – Avoid TV, computer, tablet, or cellphone screens for 1 hour before bedtime.
- Playing video games online and with friends.
- Stress and anxious racing thoughts prevent you from relaxing and dozing off.
- Side effects of medications.
- Napping during the day resets your circadian rhythms, leaving insufficient time to grow tired again.
You likely have sleep inertia if you’re not sleeping enough at night.
Sometimes referred to as “sleep drunkenness,” sleep inertia is the grogginess experienced upon transitioning from sleep to wakefulness in the morning.
It’s natural to feel bleary-eyed upon waking, but this shouldn’t last longer than an hour.
Sleep inertia can make you increasingly tired in the morning, making the idea of sleep in the morning more appealing than nocturnal sleep.
Are Some People Naturally More Awake at Night?
If you practice sleep hygiene and get 7-8 hours of rest nightly but still ask, “Why am I tired in the morning but not at night?” the explanation may be medical or lie within your genetics.
Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder (DSWPD)
DSWPD is a disorder where people find it difficult to fall asleep at a conventional time.
DSWPD differs from insomnia because it doesn’t prevent people from sleeping entirely. It just influences the time at which sleepiness arrives.
While it isn’t a mental health concern in and of itself, Sleep Medicine claims that up to 70% of people with DSWPD are also diagnosed with at least one psychiatric concern.
Depression is a common side effect of sleep debt linked to DSWPD.
If somebody with DSWPD needs to function during traditional work and school hours, they must wake early in the morning.
Failing to sleep until late at night but still being forced to get up early can make it impossible to get 7-8 hours of sleep, increasing the amount of sleep debt.
The medical element of DSWPD involves melatonin production.
Melatonin is the “sleep hormone, ” which encourages the body and brain to rest. People without DSWPD usually experience a “melatonin window” in the evening, making them increasingly tired.
Somebody with DSWPD won’t experience this melatonin window until much later than many others. While friends and family head to bed, somebody with DSWPD will remain awake.
Treatment for DSWPD revolves around lifestyle changes. You can advance the body clock, potentially through herbal medications or supplements that make you feel tired earlier in the evening.
Some people consciously choose to remain awake later, feeling mentally sharper or simply enjoying the peace of being awake at night.
These people are commonly described as “night owls,” with those preferring to sleep and rise earlier being called “early birds” or “larks.”
A common definition of a night owl is somebody who goes to bed later than 11 PM and rises after 8 AM the following morning.
Some people are more genetically disposed to being night owls due to chronobiology.
However, a chronotype that leans more toward eveningness remains easier to adjust than living with DSWPD through lifestyle changes.
Is it Better to be a Night Owl or an Early Bird?
A study in the BMJ claims that night owls boast a higher income than morning people.
A similar study from Personality and Individual Differences suggests that evening people score higher in cognitive tests related to memory and processing information.
Most sleep experts recommend listening to your body and building a sleep schedule that makes you feel comfortable and productive.
Unfortunately, this may not be possible for night owls with morning-centric responsibilities.
Night owls consume caffeine and stimulants to remain awake and are likelier to skip meals, especially breakfast. This suggests that early birds enjoy superior digestive health.
Does It Matter if You Sleep At Night or Day?
When you don’t have responsibilities that necessitate being awake in the morning, like a 9 to 5 job, you may wonder if it matters if you sleep during the evening or morning.
The most important thing is gaining 7-8 hours of unbroken sleep, regardless of when this occurs.
The Journal of Sleep Research discusses the Two Laws of Sleep devised by the Hungarian pharmacologist Alexander Borbély, which should be embraced if you follow an unconventional sleep pattern.
The Two Laws of Sleep
Borbély’s first law is called sleep homeostasis.
This involves sufficient rest to alleviate sleep pressure and not accruing sleep debt. Every full sleep purges adenosine – an organic compound that promotes drowsiness – from the body.
If you prefer to sleep by day, heading to bed at 6 AM and rising at 2 PM, you’ll theoretically avoid accruing sleep debt. This ensures you abide by Borbély’s first law.
The second law of sleep is related to circadian rhythms.
Your internal body clock will cause peaks and troughs in energy throughout the day, typically linked to your chronobiology.
Early birds will experience a peak in energy mid-morning, with energy dipping in the afternoon, rising again in the early evening before adenosine begins flooding the brain as you wind down.
This is your melatonin window, making it the ideal time to get some sleep.
Night owls will experience these same spikes and drops in energy but at different times of the day. Suppose your chronobiology means you’re naturally more alert in the evening.
In that case, you’ll experience your first energy increase in the early evening, start to dip late at night, and get a second wind in the early hours.
Can a Night Owl Become an Early Bird?
You can change your lifestyle if you’re a natural night owl who would rather be an early bird.
However, if you’re comfortable with your sleep cycle and it’s not negatively impacting your life, following a pattern that works for your body and mind may be better.
Don’t Press The Snooze Button
One mistake when increasing morning alertness is pushing the snooze button on an alarm. If you allow yourself to doze again after hitting snooze, you’ll restart a new sleep cycle.
If you allow it to run its course, this cycle isn’t a concern. Snoozing an alarm means you’ll be wrenched from sleep again within 10 minutes, drastically magnifying the likelihood of sleep inertia.
Immediately leaving your bed may be unappealing, especially if you’re groggy. However, you’ll come around and become alert much faster than if you attempted to gain an extra few minutes of sleep.
Increase Light Exposure
Current Biology explains the connection between daylight and wakefulness. In short, the more natural light you’re exposed to upon waking, the sooner you’ll gain alertness.
Consider sleeping with the blinds or drapes open unless you can’t do so for safety or privacy reasons. This will flood the bedroom with daylight when the sun rises, usually early in the morning.
As the sun rises later in the winter, this won’t increase wakefulness early in the morning. You can attach a SAD lamp to a timed plug socket so that it switches on at a preferred time.
Establish a Routine
Just as sleep hygiene is essential for falling asleep at night, a daily morning routine can be just as critical to waking up and feeling alert upon waking.
Wake up at the same time each morning, ideally 7-8 hours after retiring to bed. When your alarm clock sounds, start your day and don’t press the snooze button.
Once you’ve risen, perform the following actions:
- Make your bed immediately. This will reduce the temptation to fall asleep again and help your brain feel it has achieved something.
- When showering, turn the water to cold for around 30 seconds. According to Medical Hypotheses, cold water increases noradrenaline in the brain, enhancing cognitive function.
- Drink an 8 oz glass of water. This will hydrate the body and brain, lifting any feelings of grogginess.
- Step outside into natural light. This reactivates the circadian rhythms, encouraging the body and brain to reach peak alertness faster.
While it’s difficult to alter your natural chronobiology, and you may always gravitate to staying up late and sleeping in, these steps can make it easier to head to bed at a more traditional time and reduce sleepiness in the morning.