How to be a Productive Artist When You Are a Night Owl

Artwork Archive | September 28, 2016 (Updated April 12, 2021)

If your best ideas come to you late at night, you’re not alone. Many creative types do their best work when the rest of the world is asleep. However, it’s important to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, even while you’re burning the midnight oil.

Here are 5 tips that can help you explore creative boundaries at night, but stay functional during business hours. Most of it comes down to treating the wee hours of the morning as just another productive part of the day, instead of a frantic crunch time.

These can also help for the dreaded all-nighter while up against a deadline.  

Set a Bedtime Alarm in Addition to a Morning Alarm

Instead of staying up until you collapse, set a realistic bedtime and stick to it by setting an alarm. A bedtime alarm can be just as important as the alarm you set for yourself in the morning—especially if you try not to hit snooze on either end!

Be Kind to Your Future Self (Set Things Out the Night Before)

If you’re not at your best in the early morning, prepare for the coming day the night before. Consider using a small part of your bedtime ritual to plan what you’ll eat and wear in the morning. This makes it a little easier to get out of out of bed and stumble through something resembling a morning routine.

Go Somewhere Other Than Your Bed

Night owls don’t have to fly solo. If you live near a 24-hour cafe, this can be a great place to work late into the night. You could also pick a spot in your home or studio to use as a comfortable nighttime workspace. Use your bed only as a place for sleep so you’re weary head knows it's time to turn off when it hits the pillow.

Eat a Healthy Midnight Snack

If you’re heading to the fridge after midnight, chances are, you’re looking for something easy to prepare and satisfying to eat. Unfortunately, a lot of food that falls into this category isn’t the best fuel for your brain and body. Make sure you have snackable healthy options to keep yourself going after midnight. Bonus: breakfast foods like fruit, yogurt, and cereal make great midnight snacks!

Don’t Push it Every Night

If morning people get up at the break of dawn every weekday, they will often let themselves sleep in a little on the weekend. Night owls should consider a similar approach. If you’re getting less sleep than you need a few days per week, you’ll start to build up a sleep deficit. Allow a few nights per week to do an owl’s version of sleeping in by getting to bed a couple hours earlier than usual.

Are you a night owl with a morning schedule? For days when you absolutely need to be alert and productive in the morning check out these tips for productive mornings.

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