We who are night owls do our best work and feel most energetic when the day star has gone down. The night is a time of magic and possibility, and we revel in it. Carpe noctem is our motto: we'll do more after midnight than most people do all day.
Unfortunately, the rest of the daywalking world doesn't see things our way; some day folk view us night folk as being suspicious characters who are up to no damn good.
There was a story in my home town newspaper years ago about a woman whose car was been broken into late one night, and she found the teenage robbers on her own by staying up late and cruising the neighborhood to see which houses had lights on, then reporting the night people to the police. When asked why she tried this tactic, she replied something like "Well, everyone knows that people who stay up at night are up to something! God-fearing folk go to bed at a decent hour."
It pains me that her tactic worked. It pains me further that we night owls are suspected of alcoholism, drug use, criminal activity, or just plain ol' laziness. To the daylark mind, we can't possibly be staying up to do honest work or anything mundane like running errands. Thus, we've got to be partying or scheming.
I've gotten used to that kind of prejudice. But to make matters worse, modern medical science quaintly refers to us as suffering from "delayed sleep phase disorder."
I cannot adequately describe the resentment I felt when I discovered that we night owls are seen as having some kind of organic disorder.
We have a "disorder" just because Corporate America has decided that 8 am is the good and right time for those with real careers (and real paychecks) to start their day, even though business has turned into a 24-hour global enterprise and the magic of electricity and the Internet makes it possible for us to do productive work at any time of the day or night. Not only is it possible to do work at night, it is necessary: police, emergency room doctors and nurses, EMTs, firemen, janitors, soldiers, hotel staff, and utilities workers all have vital jobs to do after nightfall.
Unfortunately, if you don't wear a blue collar, evening and night jobs are hard to come by, and don't offer much in the way of advancement or money.
We're offered "treatment" for our "disorder": get up the same unnatural-to-us time every day. Don't ever sleep in. Use bright lights in your room to get yourself out of bed. Don't ever give in to your natural instincts.
The military definitely values the male over the female. I'm waiting for the day when women are labeled as having "testosterone deficiency disorder", given a prescription for steroids, and instructed to lift weights, every day, without fail, to make up for being the "weaker" sex.
I have pale skin. I sunburn easily, get very sick from it, and my situation is only going to get worse as the ozone layer gets more degraded. So, being nocturnal is doubly natural to me because the moonlight doesn't burn. Will I someday be labeled as having "melanin deficiency syndrome"?
Being a night owl instead of a daylark is like having green eyes instead of brown eyes. It's like having curly hair instead of straight hair, being female instead of male. It's part of who you are, part of your biology.
But of course you can fake being something you're not, fake it for years, even. And our society encourages all kinds of faking in the name of conformity; otherwise, breast implants wouldn't be such a booming business, and gay people would never know what the inside of a closet looked like.
My mom faked being a daylark for three decades. I couldn't figure out why I was a night owl for a long time, because my parents were always up at the crack of dawn. But once my mother retired, and could sleep when she wanted to ... suddenly she was staying up 'til 2 a.m.
My dad, on the other hand, is a lark. We will never understand each other.
Sleep is for the weak and sickly. If you don't sleep, you become weak and sickly.
Two night owls living under the same roof can amplify each other's wicked nocturnal tendencies.
My natural sleep schedule is 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., just like my mother's. But on some days, I barely feel human until the sun has gone down.
Braunbeck reported a slightly later natural schedule. But when he moved into our apartment during my long period of unemployment, we'd be up watching movies, or out shopping at the 24-hour stores (3 a.m. shopping is a fine way to beat the crowds), or just hanging out with our other night owl friends. And suddenly we found ourselves going to bed at 4, 5, then 6 in the morning.
It was madness, I tell you.
And it made it very, very difficult to return to a societally-approved sleeping schedule when I finally got a job.
They want me there at 8:30 a.m. I've been doing my best. The problem is, my internal clock makes it hard for me to ever get to sleep before midnight. And there's the issue of living with other night owls. braunbeck doesn't have to be up at 6:30 in the morning, and /jen often doesn't, either. It's hard to get to sleep when your housemates are up and about.
I can't take a sleep aid, because that's a guarantee I'll sleep past my alarm. I put the alarm clock across the room so I have to physically get out of bed to turn it off, but I've developed a knack for doing just that while I'm essentially still asleep and then collapsing back on the bed.
And of course, there's nobody else up in the apartment at that hour to encourage me get my tired carcass into the shower. I only made it to school on time for 12 years because my dad was clanking dishes in the kitchen or opening my door to holler at me to get out of bed. In college, I was mostly able to avoid morning classes.
The working world is totally unreasonable. I would like to ask my coworkers how happy and healthy they'd feel if they had a job that started at 3 a.m. (an hour as unnatural to them as 8 is to me), but that wouldn't be a prudent.
I can't afford to lose this job, so I've felt a lot of stress about waking up at the proper hour. I've internalized the message that I must not sleep past the alarm, that I must get up ... and as a consequence, I've developed real insomnia. Since I've gotten this job, I'm constantly waking up to check the clock: is it time yet? Have I overslept? Am I in trouble? I almost never get any deep, good sleep because it just seems too risky.
When I do wake up, I feel like hell on a stick. I am constantly tired, and I make more mistakes. I don't get to catch up on my sleep until the weekend. I have to violate the prescribed sleep schedule rule because otherwise I wouldn't be getting much sleep at all.
The chronic lack of sleep started making me sick in short order. I've caught more colds and other sundry viruses since I've started this new job than I'd had over the past three years.
Before the .com bust, I'd been able to wrangle afternoon work schedules because I found that employers were willing to be flexible with good webbies, once I pointed out that it really didn't matter when I worked, as long as I got the work done and made it to meetings and otherwise stayed available and in the loop.
But those golden days are over.
Early to bed, early to rise, makes night people cranky, sickly, and cry.
Night Owl Everythingians
LaggedyAnne says This is me, too. I am doubly punished because teaching is in my veins and there isn't a school in the world that opens at 3 pm.
littlerubberfeet says How very true. I work in a sound studio...Usually until 3 AM. I guess I am a lucky one. Indeed!
Jet-Poop says I gots the same problem. On the weekends, I tend to stay up 'til at least 1 or 2. Weekdays mornings are utter torture, though I seem to awaken easily enough once I've had my shower...
Andrew Aguecheek says I sleep naturally from 0230 to 1030 (as proved last summer when I had ten weeks of no commitments whatsoever). Of course, school forces me in early, then complains that I sleep in the common room if I've no lessons until 11. They say I'm wasting time, and react poorly when I point out that I make it up in the small hours.
Andromache01 says I'm usually up til five in the morning, most days. Wake up time is 1PM. ((grins))
exceptinsects says I have the natural 10-2 schedule too. I wonder why that's so common. (well, relatively speaking.) My work schedule at least allows me one day where I work form 1130-8 so I at least get one day to mitigate the pain of the other 4 days where I have to go in at 830 or 930.
pylon says I also am a rabid night owl, not going to sleep until 2 or 3am on weekdays, maybe 4 or 5am on weekends. If left alone, I'll sleep until afternoon without budging. Sadly, the world tends not to operate this way.
DejaMorgana says Apparently I am afflicted by this terrible disorder as well. I hate going to sleep earlier than 2 AM, and usually I'm up until 3. Some of my favourite jobs have been the ones with night shifts. There's nothing nicer than drinking one last cup of coffee on the porch while the sky is just starting to lighten, the birds are singing, and thousands of poor 9-to-5ers will be trying to will themselves out of bed right when you are falling asleep.