Night owls: how do you deal with early morning flights?

Yes, I’m a night owl, unfortunately. Well, it’s not really unfortunate, I kind of don’t mind. I find that I’m most productive late at night, so I guess it all works out in the end. The only unfortunate part of being a night owl is that I only take morning flights out of TPA (my home airport), departing anywhere between 6AM and 9AM. Most often I’m on a 7AM flight, as I am tomorrow morning, meaning I have to get up at 4:30AM. That’s maybe an hour or two before when I typically go to bed.

So what’s one to do? I’ve tried just about everything. I find that I’m the most tired in the morning when I do what’s natural, which is going to bed at 3AM and napping for an hour or two. I don’t usually end up sleeping, since I’m scared I’ll miss my alarm. For a while I was just pulling all nighters, and then trying my best to get some sleep on the morning flight. But I’ve developed a new strategy, which, as crazy as it is, works better than the other two strategies I’ve tried in the past.

I typically get tired at around 8PM or so (I guess it’s my version of the afternoon crash), so I decide to go to bed then. While I’m dead tired, I always wake up at around 11:30PM, wide awake. Still that’s usually 3-4 hours of sleep, better than I’d get otherwise. Then I just work all night till it’s time to prepare for my flight.

Anyway, I’ve found it to be the next best thing to being a rational person and going to bed at a reasonable time.

So, fellow night owls, what’s your strategy?

Filed Under: Travel
  1. I find if I alter my sleeping pattern a few days before the flight I have positive results. For example wake up at 7am on friday, saturday, and sunday … usually by monday my body has adjusted and have no problem going to sleep the night before flight. I will admit that I have the same anxiety the night before about missing the alarm clock lol.

  2. Worried about your alarm? Try the ‘nightstand’ app for your iPhone – it’s free. Use the ‘Boat Horn’ alarm – which can wake the dead – and you’ll never worry about missing an alarm again.

  3. I am the same as you, but my problem is that i can’t sleep on planes at all, so every time i do a trans con MR, i pull an all nighter. Its not too bad unless i’m on one of those multi destination MRs that takes 48 hours. In that case what i usually do is say up a couple hours later every night the few nights before. for example, three nights before i’ll stay up till 7, and then 9am and 11am. so on the day of travel, I’m usually perfectly awake after i get to my first destination. Without all crazy routings, i’m usually at the west coast by noon local time, and i try to book next flights as a red eye, and fine a hotel, and sleep for a few hours. I did four trans cons in a row with this strategy last year when the BUF-SFO fares were around $150. I wish we could see those prices again.

  4. Give it 5-10 years – you’ll start going to bed and waking up earlier! I was you a decade ago šŸ™‚

  5. Download the Sleep Cycle App for the iPhone. It uses sleep cycles to wake you up when you are light sleep. I use it to wake up every morning and I am never tired. I think it costs .99 cents but well worth it.

  6. ^IAWTC

    I’m 23 now, lucky and I can’t wake up at 7AM for work unless I sleep around 11PM. Don’t know how I ever managed to get through high school.

  7. Good deal on a hotel near the airport…especially one that will allow you to leave your car there while you fly. That can help the sleep situation. (I am 70 miles from the airport, so it makes a big diff!)

  8. Melatonin works for me if I have to alter my sleep cycle for whatever reason. I use it primarily to counter jet lag but it works just as well if changing sleep schedule. I find that Ambien and any other medication with active chemical ingredients tend to knock me out too deeply and for too long.

  9. There’s another sleeping pill – Sonata (kinda Ambien lite) – works for about 2-4 hours depending your body size, whether you take 5mg or 10mg dose, etc. It PUTS you to sleep, but doesn’t KEEP you asleep – perfect for trans con red-eyes, along with some earplugs and a noise-cancelling headset; or when you have trouble getting to sleep, but have to be up again in 3-6 hours.

  10. Same here. I fly early Monday morning flights every week for work and go to bed for 2, 3 hours the night before. I sleep those hours, wake up, go to the airport, sleep in the cab, sleep on the flight, then get a Grande Starbucks drink to work for the rest of that day. Usually don’t go to bed again till midnight or so.

  11. Well I’m in my 40s and still mostly a night owl. I don’t use an alarm clock for work but usually make it in around 9am generally. I’m with you about not getting much sleep because you are worried about oversleeping. I’ve also tried the stay up all night or adjusting my schedule a week ahead of time (that is seldom practical).

    Unfortunately I don’t have a good solution. I’m especially leery of drugs/alcohol. In case of flight issues or emergencies I’d rather not be on some medication.

    I wish I was one of those who could just sleep on planes but that rarely happens. Hopefully my upcoming Germany trip in December I will be able to sleep for a few hrs. At least it is on Lufthansa and in 1st.

  12. Excellent post – think I’ve tried of all your approaches (granted not normally tired enough at 8 to get that amount of sleep – though will have to experiment further). While a number of earlier comments about adjusting sleeping schedule or pills could potentially work on individual cases, I’m not sure they’re good or desirable for a more regular flying schedule (e.g. 6am weekend flight followed by sleeping in for most of the week, then back 6am) or long term effects of sleeping pills.

    Myself tend to go with the stay up route and sleep on the first few flights. Typically that means first two flights I’m fully asleep (in a good scenario, they’re both at least a couple of hours long each; although more frequently the first is a tiny hop to a hub in which case sleep is shifted to 2nd flight and maybe a nap on the third). Feel fully rested and awake to enjoy the flights back. Slightly annoying for those few hours right before the flight and more importantly right after you wake up (always want to take a shower then, but undoubtedly in some airport without an appropriate lounge). So yes, no good solution.

  13. I will second the melatonin, especially when you pair it with milk, taking it when you want to try to go to sleep. I naturally stay up late, but when working have to leave my apartment shortly after 4am. Generally I force myself to sleep about 11pm at the latest.
    Also, one thing worth trying is going to bed early, and putting a good eye mask on. I’ve found even when off-cycle, the eye masks I’ve gotten at Crowne Plazas help me get to sleep whenever

  14. Depends. Sometimes I will sleep for a couple of hours, and then get up, shower, and then do a few things before heading out. Lately, I’ve been staying at airport hotels when I have early flights 8am, or earlier. This means that I can cut out the 45 minute drive, and get a few extra minutes of sleep.. I also grab a bit of sleep on the flight, if I am an in F, and the meal has already been served.

  15. I’m a night owl and love me some melatonin, especially if I’m taking the 6a flight out of OAK and thus have to catch SuperShuttle from the city at 3a (as I’m doing thus Thursday). My routine is to wake up much earlier than usual the day before, have a productive day and get as much physical activity as possible, take a melatonin pill before a light dinner and a very hot shower, and be in bed by 7p at the latest. It takes discipline but it works every time.

    Sure, I can sleep on the plane if need be. But I mostly only sleep on red-eyes and strongly prefer waking up rested if the night is spent on terra firma and starting the trip with batteries charged. Pre-flight all-nighters are just miserable.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *