“I get a second wind at 11pm. Am I just a night owl?”
"My other problem is that I am a night person. I just pop awake around 11pm and want to do stuff until about 1am. I’m working on this, it’s not easy. Are their just some naturally nighttime people? I’ve heard that it’s an adaption for us as social creatures to have some individuals who are up at night to protect the tribe while the others are sleeping, any validity to this hypothesis?"
My current understanding is yes, there are some naturally nighttime people who are adapted to protect the tribe.
They're called adolescents.
Teenagers have a shifted circadian rhythm which encourages them to stay up later and sleep later in the morning.
The rest of us are optimized to follow natural light and dark cycles. Not doing so is associated with every chronic health disease ever named.
Are there night owls? And morning larks? Genetic differences? My current take is that these nuances are over emphasized in relation to the evolutionarily novel hand grenade of artificial lighting, which is a mere 120 years old compared to our billions of years of evolution.
"But I'm a natural nighttime person."
One interesting study took a group of people with no particular health issues and followed them for a week, looking at their sleep patterns and melatonin levels. They then took them camping for a week where they were only exposed to natural light.
Their sleep shifted 1 hour earlier. Their melatonin peak shifted 2 hours earlier.
"But I'm a natural nighttime person."
Well, do you have a well regulated nervous system? If not, then it's tricky to tease out whether this is your "nature" or an adaptation to ongoing health challenges.
Or another way to ask, do you have a chronic illness? Of any kind? Energy issues? Digestive issues? Autoimmunity? Then I'm unconvinced that you are a "natural nighttime person" and that this is the daily pattern in which you thrive.
But my current opinion on the subject isn't what matters. What matters is your results. Go through the process.
Hypothesis: I am a natural night time person and staying up to 1 am is just how I'm built! This is what suits me best and supports my most vibrant functioning.
And I currently have chronic health problems.
Ok, let's test this. Shift your sleep time forward to more closely align with natural light and dark cycles. I would recommend that anyone serious about optimizing their health aim to be asleep by 10pm at the latest. Do this for a month.
See what happens.
Do your symptoms get worse because you've gone against your "natural pattern"?
Is there no change because sleep and all the vital repair and immune functions are irrelevant to your health?
Or, perhaps, do your repair functions improve and you feel more alert in the morning because your melatonin isn't still elevated and you haven't burned through all of today's cortisol last night . . .
Change your variables -> record the output. Find out for yourself.
If you need help working with your psychology to action this, that's a different matter.
Once we change going to bed on time from a technical challenge ("Is it ideal for my health to stay up until 1am? I'm not sure!") to an adaptive challenge ("I know going to bed on time is vital for my health. But a part of me enjoys this time and helps me meet other needs besides recovering my health") then we change the approach to managing this issue.
Indeed, we become open to the idea that the very questioning of whether going to bed on time is even something you should be aiming for ("Maybe I'm special and don't need to go to bed at a decent time . . .") may be coming from this part who enjoys staying up late . . .
That's why we focus so much on psychology here. We must be vigilant for when we get in our own way and train this out of ourselves. Because we usually are the main blocks to our own healing. If we can learn to spot this and work with this gracefully, everything changes.