While They Are Sleeping

Are you a night owl who stays up after the household has gone to sleep? Or maybe are you an early bird who enjoys tiptoeing around as the rest of the family slumbers? Perhaps you experience “nocturnal awakenings,” where you are alert for an hour or more in the middle of the night? Regardless of the time of day, being awake while others are asleep can quite a productive habit.  While the rest of the world is dreaming, you can use these hours to make your dreams come true… or maybe just to get some needed tasks completed.

The benefits of being alert when no one else is around include:

  • Quiet

The phone isn’t ringing, the children aren’t fighting, no one is knocking at the door, and the leaf blower from your neighbor’s yard isn’t blaring isn’t blaring.

  • Peace

Typically, these are the only “interruption free” hours of the day, when no one is demanding anything from you or clamoring for your attention.

  • Calm

When the day is in full swing, everything is an “emergency,” drawing you away from things that are important to tackle those that are urgent. When you are the only one up, you can move at a pace that is comfortable to you.

Of course, it is tempting to spend these peaceful moments surfing the internet or watching TV, and there is nothing wrong with this. We all need time to relax. At the same time, since your body seems to like being awake at this time, you might consider using it to your best advantage.

When considering how to optimize your time, consider focusing on items that you struggle to accomplish during the flurry of the day. Some of these may be items from your “to do” list, while others may simply be pleasures that you cannot seem to enjoy when others are around.

Here are a few ideas of how to use these precious moments.


This time can be used to read magazines, books, or other texts for sheer pleasure, or you might find this is a great chance to focus on a contract that you must review in detail, schoolwork that requires focused attention, or paperwork you must read, complete, and/or schedule.


There is no better time to prepare for the upcoming day/week than the stillness before it begins. Always review the next 24 hours in detail (mentally walk through the day) and familiarize yourself with the 3-day horizon. If you see possible conflicts or time crunches, decide in advance how you will manage them.


Many writers find they are most productive in the wee hours when they can fully engage their minds. Writing and multitasking simply don’t play well together.


Have you ever heard someone say, “If I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, it never happens?” This may be a better choice for the early riser than the night owl but checking exercise off the list before the demands of the day start mounting can be the best way to ensure it doesn’t get forgotten.

Creative Endeavors

Creative pursuits flourish when they are not bound by deadlines or disruptions. As much as we may wish, most people find it difficult to be “creative on demand.” Instead, we often have our best ideas when we are relaxed, when our brains are allowed to roam, reflect, and make connections between the disparate elements of our lives. During the pre-dawn or late-night hours, allow your mind to wander and let your creative juices flow.

Prayer & Meditation

When the day is in full swing, it can be difficult to pause and nurture the spirit. Good intentions often get shoved aside so we can face the loud, clanging gong of life’s stresses. Taking even a small portion of these quiet moments to reflect, meditate, pray, and breathe equips us to face whatever is waiting in the day ahead. It may also provide a needed pause for processing problems or challenges through which we may be walking.


This might not sound very glamorous, but there can be joy in checking items off your list, especially if it is a “treat” to work uninterrupted (I hear you parents of little ones!). Whether it is emptying the dishwasher before the kitchen is busy, running (and having the time to fold) a few loads of laundry, or sorting through accumulated paperwork, getting these tasks completed can make you feel in control and confident.

*     *     *

If being awake while the world sleeps (whether by choice or necessity) is a part of your life rhythm, look at it is a blessing. These hours may turn out to be a highlight of your day.

Are you ever awake when those around you are asleep? How do you tend to use this time?

26 thoughts on “While They Are Sleeping”

  1. I am usually awake before everyone in my home in the morning. I take that time to catch up on emails and get a head a bit for the day by tackling smaller tasks before all get up in my home. So, agree these times of being awake while all others are asleep in my home in prime time for me to get stuff done that I wouldn’t be able to when they are awake.

    1. Especially when I had small children, that was often the only time I could count on to get things done. I was never very successful with naps I’m afraid. 🙂

  2. I smiled as I read this post. I am running contrary to this because too many of my clients are night owls and their sleep suffers. Remember night owls that a good night’s rest is always important.

    1. I think it is harder to be a night owl. Your body is awake, but much of the world isn’t. Except when you are in college or if you are a Broadway star, then being a night owl is the best!

  3. Big time. While it’s much more productive to get up earlier than them and get things done, it’s not guaranteed, ya know? There’s always someone who senses the energy and gets up. Late night, though. That’s guaranteed! I do some of my best reading and writing then! And yes, also some of my best TV watching, but we won’t focus on that. Balance.
    Tamara recently posted…Standing in the Light of Your HaloMy Profile

    1. It’s true, you never know when someone is going to jump up early and disrupt that cherished time! I had the reverse, as my oldest just wouldn’t sleep. At 28, she still has insomnia. It was always hard to know when I could count on being alone to focus!

  4. This is me! It has long been my routine (particularly when my children were small) to get up before everyone and get started on my day. I LOVE the early morning hours before the rest of the world is busy. Now, I start my day with an early morning walk with my dogs. It is a form of meditation for me as I allow my mind to wander. Sometimes I come up with a brilliant solution to a problem, sometimes I just admire the changing landscape.

    1. Having the dogs is great, because they will get you up even when you don’t feel like it. I never regret BEING up early, although sometimes I find it hard to GET up early. Walking in the morning is just the best if you can do it somewhere safely. Such a terrific habit that nourishes in so many ways!

  5. There is nothing quite like the quiet of the early morning or evening night. I love the stillness. I remember when our daughters were little, life was especially demanding. I’d wake up early to have some quiet and get a few things done before it was time to be “on.” But what I found was the earlier I woke, the earlier our kids woke. They must have sensed my being up and awake. So instead, that time often turned into extra and sweet time with the girls- reading, snuggling, or just being together before our day got busy.

    1. Isn’t it funny how children can love waking up just to be alive and enjoy the day? They don’t want to miss out on anything, and when they hear you moving around, they want to join in. So terrific that you didn’t resist that, or send them back to bed, but rather just welcomed and loved them. Lucky girls!

  6. Some of my best ideas for blogs or ways to help my clients come in the middle of the night as I lay awake. I often wake 2 or 3 times in a night and I do use that time to plan. Much better to plan than to worry.

    1. I found that whole article on nocturnal awakenings so fascinating. The idea that many people throughout history have found and made the most of this rhythm was super interesting. I don’t often struggle with being awake in the night (although I do wake up), but when I do, now I just get up and do something, and then go back to bed.

  7. I am an early bird. I do find that I can get a lot done in the morning. My favorite things to do at this time are meditation, read articles, doing a two-mile walk, and writing. Doing these things in the morning feeds my soul and allows me to practice self-care before I start “caring” for my hubby, kids, and clients. Thank you for the reminder to make us a priority.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…What to Keep in Your Organized Entryway Landing ZoneMy Profile

    1. The day just goes better when we can start it off in a positive, peaceful mindset, right? I exercise, eat, pray and do my Bible reading in the mornings. I love this precious time!

  8. Spot on advice, though you know I am always awake when EVERYONE is asleep! (And vice versa.) I should probably move to Australia to get in sync with somebody! But I’m the only person in my house, so this isn’t often an issue. But I *did* have a houseguest last month, and I had to consider this exact thing, because his sleep/wake schedule was so at odds with mine. I had to make sure to do noisy things while he was awake, and saved the things that required solitude, quiet, and focus for after he’d gone off to dreamland. And of course, because I’m a night owl, all of my activities will be saved for the wee hours, not the morning.
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Vibrant and Vertical: Organizing Paper for Back-to-SchoolMy Profile

    1. I had some people living with me for awhile and I had to think about doing only quiet things in the morning while they were still sleeping as well! Emptying the dishwasher quietly isn’t easy. 🙂

  9. My problem is that I am neither a night owl or an early riser, although I am prove more toward the latter. I do love having quiet, uninterupted time to focus and get things done. Sometimes, I think we overlook those moments because they aren’t the time of day when we are typically working and miss an opportunity to be truly productive.

    1. Do you maybe wake up in the night? Perhaps you are just one of the lucky ones who sleeps well? Regardless, for the off-times when you are awake while other sleep, you can keep this in mind.

  10. These days, the only time I am up into the wee hours when everyone else is asleep, is when I’m binging on a Netflix series.
    I remember when my oldest daughter was a baby and I would try to get up a little earlier, just to have time to myself, somehow she instinctively knew and would wake up calling for me. It didn’t matter what time I chose, she always woke up too.
    When I want quiet time nowadays, without distractions, I unplug and shut the door. That seems to be working.
    Ronni Eisenberg recently posted…Why You’ll Find an Amazing Back-to-School List of Supplies at AmazonMy Profile

    1. Linda made the same comment about her daughter instinctively knowing when she was up! I hear you on shutting off devices for peace and quiet. I never regret doing it, but it isn’t always easy to do!

  11. Oh, I saw myself in your first couple of sentences. I am an early riser and sometimes tell my clients that I love to get up on Saturday mornings and organize a small space while my family is still asleep. I’m able to do the project – start to finish before being interrupted.
    I also wake up at night for about an hour or so. I used to never do this, but once it started and I could get back to sleeping through the night I looked at it as an opportunity to spend the time reading for enjoyment. I don’t trust myself to do anything important. I’m not that awake, but I get a lot of reading done.
    Janet Schiesl recently posted…7 Awesome Ways to Sell Your StuffMy Profile

    1. Crazy how common these nocturnal awakenings are! I don’t have them every night, but when I realize I’m not going to easily fall back to sleep, I often get up and do a little something, and then I crawl back into bed and typically can get back to sleep easily. Might as well use whatever time I have, right?

  12. CBTI (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) was a lifesaver for the middle of the night waking for me. It’s a tough program while you’re doing it, but it really helped me consolidate my sleep and feel more rested. It did make me laugh though when it suggested taking advantage of the hours you’re awake to get up and “do something unexciting, like organizing a drawer or a cupboard”. For us organizers, that’s when the wheels start turning and we generate all sorts of great organizing strategies and blog post ideas!
    Lucy Kelly recently posted…Ask the organizer: beloved children’s booksMy Profile

    1. CBTI sounds like a very helpful program for those who suffer with insomnia! I found the whole article on nocturnal awakenings interesting, especially the idea that it is fairly common and, at least at one time in history, was considered a normal part of the daily rhythm. I get up when I realize I’m not falling back to sleep. I do something simple, and then usually I can try again and get back to sleep. I agree that if I started organizing I would get focused and probably be up way too long!

  13. Well… for better or worse, I am a night owl – always have been. When I first had kids I thought I needed to adjust my routine to become a morning person but I just ended up being a cranky, unproductive mess in the morning, lol. My husband loves to wake up early so he usually takes the morning shift, and it is amazing! My body naturally prefers exercise later in the day, and all my best writing/ideas come at night before I go to bed. I haven’t found the screens to effect my sleep too much but I do try to allow at least 30 minutes of no screens as a I fall asleep.

    1. I think one of the keys to a content life is working with the biorhythms we have (if we can). How lovely that you and our husband can split the parenting duties so you can each make the most of the time your body is most alert. That’s awesome!

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