I have always been a night owl, preferring to stay up until all hours of the night and sleeping late when my schedule allows. It's not that I'm lazy. I'm liable to do far more work in the hours I am awake than many people do who are on a more "normal" sleep schedule. In fact, part of why I love the night so much is that it offers peace and quiet which allows me to concentrate and get more done. Nonetheless, a number of people have misunderstood this aspect of me and mistakenly believed that either I am awake less hours than them when I am on my natural schedule or that I am not really doing anything productive during those later hours. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A couple years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that her mother was harrassing her about her sleep schedule, which was similar to mine. She was quite upset because she felt there was no way to change this schedule, which felt completely natural to her. That night I started looking for some articles she could give to her mother to help her understand. What I found out was that being a night owl is as natural to some people as being right or left-handed. It is not something we can change and in fact researchers are even discovering genetic explanations for this sleep pattern. I feel that this expectation that all people will share a similar sleep schedule is just another in a long line of examples where our culture tries to override individual differences and the natural drives and instincts, prefering to try to fit them to a mold that serves production better.
I found several resources, some scientific, some humorous, some a bit of both related to this topic:
- Preference for night or morning might be rooted in our genes. From the American Psychological Association Monitor.
- Night owl or early bird? It's in your genes. Agence France-Presse article about a study published in Nature Communications.
- Lark or Night Owl? Blame Your Ancestors. - Anthropologists used "super fit bits" to study sleep times among the Hazda people of Tanzania, a group of hunter-gatherers living similarly to how humans evolved. They found that they almost never all sleep at the same time, likely because it is advantageous to always have someone awake to look out for threats. The article mentions that other social animals also often have a member on guard while others sleep. And it states that past research has shown that 40-70% of human circadian rhythm is genetic.
- Late Sleepers of the World, Arise!
- Article about "Sleep Discrimination" - Describes the bias in our society against those of us who naturally stay up late. From Night Writer Magazine.
- Scientists Say That Starting Work Before 10am Is Similar To Torture
- Night Owl Network - Dedicated to helping night owls live comfortably in an early bird world.
- The Nocturnal Society A non-Profit Organization dedicated to Night owls, Children of the Night, third shift workers, All-Nighters, insomniacs, Midnight Riders and people who just can't "Do" Day Shift.
- "It's at night, when perhaps we should be dreaming, that the mind is most clear, that we are most able to hold all our life in the palm of our skull. I don't know if anyone has ever pointed out that great attraction of insomnia before, but it is so; the night seems to release a little more of our vast backward inheritance of instincts and feelings; as with the dawn, a little honey is allowed to ooze between the lips of the sandwich, a little of the stuff of dreams to drip into the waking mind. I wish I believed, as J. B. Priestley did, that consciousness continues after disembodiment or death, not forever, but for a long while. Three score years and ten is such a stingy ration of time, when there is so much time around. Perhaps that's why some of us are insomniacs; night is so precious that it would be pusillanimous to sleep all through it! A "bad night" is not always a bad thing." - Brian W. Aldiss
- "Sleep - those little slices of death, how I loathe them." - Edgar Allen Poe
- "The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late." - Charles Caleb Colton
- "Most people do not consider dawn to be an attractive experience - unless they are still up." - Ellen Goodman