Night owl? Embrace it and improve your health.
March 26, 2016 12:08 PM   Subscribe

If you’re just not a morning person, science says you may never be. Morning people and night owls are born that way. It's time we accepted that. An "abnormal" circadian rhythm has been linked with ADHD, mental illnesses, and chronic disease. What if embracing your natural circadian rhythm is the real missing key to improved health?

"It turns out our internal clocks are influenced by genes and are incredibly difficult to change. If you're just not a morning person, it's likely you'll never be, at least until the effects of aging kick in. And what's more, if we try to live out of sync with these clocks, our health likely suffers. The mismatch between internal time and real-world time has been linked to heart disease, obesity, and depression."

The term for when you're forced to sleep on a schedule that doesn't align with your natural circadian rhythms is "social jet lag".

And this isn't just something that affects adults, of course. Social jet lag starts in childhood. Circadian rhythms are influenced by genes, so if you are a long-suffering night owl, your children may be at risk, too.
posted by chaos_theory (93 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
the MEQ* questionnaire of 19 questions is nearly as accurate as other testing, in case you're curious about what you are (if you're not sure).


Wikipedia on the *Morning-eveningness questionnaire
posted by olya at 12:20 PM on March 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


The MEQ questionnaire rejected my entire schedule. :-(

(I like to get up in the afternoon and go to bed in the early morning, if I'm left to my own devices. It was apparently "not designed" for people like me.)
posted by Scattercat at 12:30 PM on March 26, 2016 [20 favorites]


I got the same as Scattercat. But if left to my own internal clock, I end up with non-24 hour sleep-wake syndrome, or whatever it is called. Having a rotating day is not good, even if you have nothing else to do. I never got anything done and couldn't plan anything because I didn't know when I'd be awake.

Sometimes you just have to pick something and stick with it, for mental health. Even if physical health suffers some for it. I make myself get up every day at the same time. Earlier than I prefer, but it is nice to be able to go somewhere in the actual morning and get things done.
posted by monopas at 12:40 PM on March 26, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm a night person with sharp hearing. I've always assumed my ancestors were the cave folk who stayed up listening for cave bears and cave lions in the night.

I wonder if they got shit for being too sleepy to help hunt and gather properly the next day.
posted by homunculus at 12:49 PM on March 26, 2016 [45 favorites]


Interesting that the recommendations at the end seemed to work on a 7-hour sleep schedule: I thought people were supposed to aim for more.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:56 PM on March 26, 2016


Stress (like, say, work) tends to make me want to go to bed later and get up later. When I am on vacation my clock shifts rapidly to waking up with the dawn. This is the opposite of how it would work in a universe that is not cruel.
posted by surlyben at 12:57 PM on March 26, 2016 [40 favorites]


My natural sleep rhythm is neither night or day, but a continuously revolving cycle. I go to bed roughly 2 hours later, and wake up 2 hours later every single day. So throughout the month I am awake and asleep at every part of the day. It is not a choice, it is how my body works.

It took me a long time to figure out what was happening. In elementary school through high school I was frequently sleep deprived at school and thought I was just a night owl. Then in college it was finally possible for me to set all evening classes. But that didn't work either; when I flipped to a night schedule, I found I was sleeping at night just as much as I was sleeping during the day. I still needed to go to class tired a lot of the time.

My sleep cycle makes it impossible to not be a tired mess any time I need to conform to any set schedule. So I've had to organize my life accordingly.
posted by dgaicun at 12:57 PM on March 26, 2016 [16 favorites]


Monopas: having been on a similar treadmill; I would suggest that you're focusing on the wrong end of the problem. Don't make yourself wake up at a fixed time. Rather, focus on making yourself sleepy at a fixed time that is 7-9 hours before your chosen morning time. Ambient light control, remove excess stimulation, melatonin (if necessary for a while to reset that clock), diet and exercise.

I haven't used an alarm clock in a decade, but I'm also a complete disaster the next day if I haven't gotten to bed by 11. (Usually 9:30-10). Business travel is also entirely out of the question.

But, my physical and mental health have never been better. Turns out, I was doing the wrong thing for the first 30 years.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 1:00 PM on March 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'd love to be a night person but 11:30 is my limit no matter how much I try to stay up later. My brain gives me about a ten minute warning before it shuts down for the night so I have to make sure that I'm close enough to the bed before that happens.
posted by octothorpe at 1:00 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yet all the "think pieces" and hectoring "health and wellness" pieces continue to insist that EVERYBODY needs to sleep EXACTLY eight hours a night, at the same time every night as everybody else, OR ELSE chronic illness, pestilence, and death.
posted by blucevalo at 1:03 PM on March 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm another 25-26 hour clock person. Having to conform to a set schedule for very long gives me symptoms remarkably similar to the "chronic fatigue" set of symptoms.
posted by lastobelus at 1:12 PM on March 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


I didn't know it was even "a thing". I've never met anyone else with a treadmill schedule. There really aren't a lot of niches for this in the economy besides total self-employment.
posted by dgaicun at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd love to embrace my normal sleep cycle, but having a 9-5 job means I need to be getting out of bed by 7:30 most days.
posted by KGMoney at 1:17 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


It rejected my preferred schedule too but I chose to proceed anyway. Then the server conked out on one of the later questions.
posted by atoxyl at 1:17 PM on March 26, 2016


Yeah, my problem is that if I embrace my sleep schedule then I end up battling the rest of the world on issues like when is an appropriate time for a hardware store to be open, or to go to the gym, or to schedule a meeting, and then people shame you and you feel like a cave-dwelling reprobate. Plus I really do like seeing the sun. Maybe I can just keep moving between Stockholm and Christchurch.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:26 PM on March 26, 2016 [24 favorites]


Same thing happened here, atoxyl.
posted by aroweofshale at 1:27 PM on March 26, 2016


Based on my preferences during an annual vacation to a cabin in New Hampshire, my ideal schedule is wake up 6 am, go to sleep around nine, and take two naps for a total of 12 hours of sleep per day. Sadly few jobs accommodate my schedule.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:33 PM on March 26, 2016 [32 favorites]


I wonder if they got shit for being too sleepy to help hunt and gather properly the next day.

I imagine there's some evolutionary benefit to having a small percentage of the populace that's up and alert to be on guard duty at night.
posted by Candleman at 1:34 PM on March 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yup, I'm a cycler too, but I find that intensity of sleep fatigue varies with wake up time. When I had to get up before 7am, I literally could not get enough sleep. I started going to bed earlier and earlier - 10, 9 - but felt worse and worse. Switched my schedule to come in at 930 instead of 830 and with that one measly one hour I was back to normal levels of "social jet lag" even with much less sleep.
posted by ohkay at 1:37 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I come from a long line of evening types. Nearly everyone in my family has had several periods where we've become nocturnal, and about a week before the start of school was spent trying to turn our schedules back around. I have a teenaged relative visiting right now who is trying to reset himself to a diurnal schedule, but he keeps slipping back.

And on top of the normal insomnia type symptoms, as an adult, I became almost incapable of sleeping during the day. I've always suspected it was a learned behavior, where I just associated daylight with the panic of waking up and realizing you're already late, but it'd be really interesting if it turned out to be more than just behavioral.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:38 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wonder if they got shit for being too sleepy to help hunt and gather properly the next day.

dammit gary, you HUNT the rabbits and you GATHER the berries get it straight
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2016 [14 favorites]


These types of articles don't fix my sleep issues, but at least they make me feel better about them. People like to frame it as an issue of willpower--as if being fatigued just shouldn't effect you if you're emotionally strong enough.

Yes, staying on a schedule helps me, but it sure makes staying on a schedule harder than people give it credit for. I've never had a regular sleep schedule, and a lot of that is because I'm constantly fighting to maintain a socially acceptable sleep schedule.

Oh well.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:45 PM on March 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


My sleeping schedule started fluctuating after highschool, while I was taking extra courses. (I didn't get all my credits because of a scheduling oversight.) Maybe even before that, really. Something about the combination of exam stress and the knowledge I'll be out of the ecosystem soon. I figured it was insomnia but after a while it felt more than natural and I enjoyed going to sleep as my family woke up in the morning, knowing that I'd see them again when I woke up in the afternoon. It was ... comforting. I felt at peace and before that I never really felt at peace. It's something I'm reluctant to part with.

I got a lot of flack for this and it was always hellish to wake up for family outings and volunteering and whatnot. Someone will invariably mention that I need to sleep earlier, and get all my hours in. But I kind of do when I'm allowed to sleep normally. I drew diagrams to that effect but that was for my own personal benefit; no amount of pushback on my part will change anybody's minds, really.
posted by aroweofshale at 1:46 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Those light-based alarm clocks help me a bit, but I think I need to be much more careful in the evening with exposure to blue light.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:53 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


The MEQ questionnaire rejected my entire schedule. :-(

(I like to get up in the afternoon and go to bed in the early morning, if I'm left to my own devices. It was apparently "not designed" for people like me.)


I got the same as Scattercat.

Beyond owl vs. lark schedules there are also circadian rhythm disorders such as phase delay disorder which result in symptoms such as the ones your describing. If your schedule interferes with your life and you'd like to do something about it I suggest seeing a Behavioral Sleep Medicine specialist.
posted by Jernau at 2:00 PM on March 26, 2016


Interesting that the recommendations at the end seemed to work on a 7-hour sleep schedule: I thought people were supposed to aim for more.

People needing 8 hours of sleep is a myth. It actually variable. Most people fall in the range on this chart at the national sleep foundation.
posted by Jernau at 2:04 PM on March 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


Most of my life, I had a problem with mornings. Never really felt like I could get enough sleep if I had to work or go to school the next morning. Always a chore to drag my sleepy (almost drunk feeling really) ass out of bed, for about 35 years.

Then all of a sudden, around age 35, like a light switch everything flipped. I found myself waking up naturally at like 6 or 7 in the morning. Every day. I could still stay up late as I wanted at night, but I could no longer sleep for more than 6 hours straight. Strangely, I now get less sleep on average and yet I wake up feeling like I COULD NOT POSSIBLY go back to sleep if my life depended on it.

I'm not sure what the explanation is, but I gotta say: this would have been a much more beneficial condition for the first 35 years of my life. By now, it's just kind of a slap in the face.
posted by some loser at 2:04 PM on March 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm a night owl who would definitely thrive on the "two sleep" plan that seems to have been common in earlier centuries: basically, I totally drag from about 8pm to midnight, but if I make it to midnight I am suddenly wired again and good to go until about 4am, if I had my druthers. I'd love to sleep from 8-midnight, then 4am-8am...
posted by TwoStride at 2:05 PM on March 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm a night-owl and since adolescence I've suffered from chronic major depression -- which is exacerbated by but not merely the result of sleep problems. The two combine intensely and from high school onward, almost all of the serious trouble I've gotten into in my life was because I didn't get out of bed in the morning.

In high school I would skip school or, when I had a car, I'd drive to school and sleep in my car until lunch, skipping my morning classes.

As an adult, I was fired from numerous jobs because I repeatedly didn't get out of bed for work. I don't even know how to find the words for what I'd go through in the morning -- it's not that I couldn't wake up, it was that I was very tired and having to get up created this building anxiety that fed on itself and I would quite literally find myself frozen in bed, unable to move, feeling this panic and self-hatred. As the time would approach such that I'd be late, this panic would increase, then there would be a period where I'd be late, then I was going to be a half-hour late. And very rarely would I be able to find a way to call into work -- again, most often I was genuinely frozen in a panic. Then, after about forty-five minutes to an hour after the time I was supposed to be at work (or at school, or in class in college), I'd pass the point of no return, especially if I didn't call, and I'd go back to sleep in exhausted self-destructive self-loathing. There were a number of aspects of this that reminded me of addiction -- the build-up, the self-destructive stuff, the relief when the worst had happened, including eventually being fired. Or, well, never showing up at the job again.

The exceptions to this pattern were invariably the night jobs I had. When I was an overnight radio disc-jockey, I never had any trouble getting out of bed for work. I was never, ever late (though I had an incentive to avoid being late with a radio audience -- the single time I was late, I had to listen to the jock on the radio mock me for it during my drive to work). When I waited tables I never had any problems, either, though I did avoid working lunches. However, getting up at 11AM is totally doable for me in a way that even 9:30AM isn't.

I only really confronted these related problems when I returned to college in my mid-twenties where for the first time I was truly, deeply even deliriously happy in school ... and I started doing this. Always before, I had just had this script playing in my head -- things my father said to me about how I was destined to always be a failure, and so on. I'd assumed that all the problems I'd had, with sleep and depression in general, were situational and brought on by my own moral failings. So when I was truly happy and highly motivated to get out of bed in the morning, it came as a surprise and that was when I first sought help. Treating the depression with therapy and SSRIs made -- at least for awhile -- a huge difference. Mornings were still quite difficult, but difficult in a way that seemed like other people who had trouble with mornings must have. That was a revelation.

Even so, I still struggled and as the years went by the antidepressants stopped being quite as effective.

Luckily for me, I ended up working in the tech industry during the second half of the nineties during the dotcom boom. From that period until I stopped working I had the leverage to insist that my workday didn't start before 10:30AM at the earliest. I still struggled a bit with 10:30, but that was right on the margin and, mostly, I was able to make it to work.

When I stopped working in 2000 because at the time I had dotcom money and my congenital illness was progressively disabling me, I found I didn't have to keep to a schedule for anything and since then it's just floated, though it's very strongly oriented toward late-night. I can look at things like my browser history (which in the past I've kept more than a couple of years of) and Google search history and the like -- I haven't analyzed my MeFi commenting history, though I've been intending to do so -- and it doesn't show a clear schedule at all. The one thing that's most noticeable is that my lowest activity hour is about 7AM. Which is when much of the world is expected to get out of bed.

My life has mostly sucked since I stopped working -- if you're a depressed and disabled person, that's not a good plan -- but it may not be an exaggeration to say that it might be worth it just to not have to deal with fighting this sleep battle every. fucking. day. And my life and relationships were imperiled on a regular basis because it was basically a battle that I never learned how to win. What's been bad about my life in the last sixteen years has been mostly a low-level unpleasantness, a dissatisfaction and isolation and such. But so much of my life between the ages of 12 and 36 was this constant high-wire walk, filled with bone-deep anxiety and frequent falls where everything would come apart. I've never had an addiction, though I've known addicts, and it's always seemed to me that this struggle to fit into a world that expected me to get up by 9AM was like a decades-long struggle with addiction, with many of the things associated with that. For example, I am almost compulsively honest, I hate to lie even by omission. But I lied about being sick when I really couldn't get out of bed. I hated myself for it. I hated myself for letting down my bosses and coworkers, I hated myself for being a person who was fired (neither of my parents were ever fired from a job -- that, to them, is the sign of a serious moral failing). I'd lose jobs and go broke and couldn't pay rent. This was a big part of why my marriage failed.

And I've lived without this -- without even the possibility of it -- for sixteen years. When en forme de poire writes above that "...people shame you and you feel like a cave-dwelling reprobate" I find that to be somewhat true, but, for me, essentially trivial compared to the shame and failure I felt when I tried and failed to live by everyone else's schedule.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:06 PM on March 26, 2016 [62 favorites]


I'm a night owl who would definitely thrive on the "two sleep" plan that seems to have been common in earlier centuries: basically, I totally drag from about 8pm to midnight, but if I make it to midnight I am suddenly wired again and good to go until about 4am, if I had my druthers. I'd love to sleep from 8-midnight, then 4am-8am...

I'm similar, except I drag from about 4pm until 8pm, and then perk up again. I find that if I go to bed during that 4-8 dragging period, by falling asleep on the couch around 7, say, then I can sleep really soundly until about 5 or 6 am. But if I stay up til 11 or 11:30, a normal-person bedtime, I have trouble falling asleep and I find it very difficult to get up before 9 am.

According to the MEQ I'm totally intermediate, but the MEQ doesn't seem to take into account variations in natural sleep duration, since I'm sure that I need at least eight hours and closer to nine hours a night to feel remotely rested. The suggested bedtime of 12:15 plus their suggestion of beginning light therapy at 7 am seems like it would be torture.
posted by Dr. Send at 2:26 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


As someone mentioned melatonin I'd like to leave a note on it's use. Unfortunately melatonin is classed as a vitamin in the US and is typically produced in dosages of 3,5 and 10 and even 20 milligrams (in the vitamin world, higher doses sell better). Melatonin doesn't work that way. MIT researchers found that doses of .3 mg were ideal.

Regular melatonin use has been associated with Gynecomastia (ie breast enlargement in men).

Also, actual vitamin dosages vary much more than what's on the bottle compared to prescription medication dosages so you really never know what your getting.

Lastly Vitamin company's instructions for melatonin are confusing and varied. In Behavioral Sleep Medicine we recommend that people take melatonin 2 hours before bedtime.
posted by Jernau at 2:33 PM on March 26, 2016 [12 favorites]


Also a note on what I mentioned above^, I and my fellow BSM providers only usually recommend melatonin for people with some type of phase delay disorder (i.e. going to bed at 2+am), non-24 hour disorders, jet lag, or shift work. I always recommend talking to your doctor before you start it.
posted by Jernau at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am an extreme night owl, like, even if I am in bed with the lights out, I can't fall asleep until about 6am. If I go to bed at 6am, though, I sleep really well until about 2, so I have arranged my life around that - half the time I work from home, and the days I do work in an office I start at 5pm. It's great. I have occasionally gotten guff from people saying I'm lazy for sleeping in like that, but happily I have a huge natural helping of don't-care-what-people-think, so it's not really an issue. I quite like being out of step with the rest of the world - I don't get sucked into pointless meetings, the phone doesn't ring, there's no-one there at the end of my shift to give me more work and force me to work late...
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:41 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


.People needing 8 hours of sleep is a myth. It actually variable. Most people fall in the range on this chart at the national sleep foundation.

Well, yea. If you read that chart it says 7-9 hours is recommended for adults, a range that implies a significant percentage of them need more than 7 hours, so it doesn't really seem like grounds for a "well actually" like that.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:44 PM on March 26, 2016


Well, yea. If you read that chart it says 7-9 hours is recommended for adults, a range that implies a significant percentage of them need more than 7 hours, so it doesn't really seem like grounds for a "well actually" like that.

The reason I said that is because many cases of insomnia develop from people trying to compensate for lost sleep they don't need because they believe they need 8 hours. If you look at the wider range in NSF link some adults need 6-10 hours. In my research I see people every day who have effectively learned to be insomniacs by trying to extend their sleep. This is why I work to debunk the 8 hour myth every chance I get.

We actually use an instrument to look for this kind of 8 hour thinking called the D-BAS. When I evaluate it, any score greater than 4 usually requires some discussion and I commonly see higher scores on the 8 hour question.
posted by Jernau at 3:01 PM on March 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am a night owl and I've known it since I was in high school. I used to get into screaming fights with my father because he would yank the covers off me at 8 am and pound on the walls to get me out of bed. I've never really forgiven him for it and it certainly didn't make me more of a morning person. My daughter is also a night owl and I've seen her slide into th same sleep schedule I maintained throughout college: wake at 10 am or so and go to bed around 2 am. The advice I've given her over the years is that no one likes to get up early but it's just something responsible people do to keep jobs and other commitments. What a world of difference that advice would have made to me when I was her age.
posted by photoslob at 3:05 PM on March 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


From the questionnaire: Suppose you can choose your own work hours. Assume that you work a five-hour day (including breaks), your job is interesting and you are paid based on your performance.

This sounds like a nice place to live. I'd wake up at pretty much any hour for this world.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2016 [24 favorites]


My body has wanted a siesta every day for the entirety of my working life. It would be humane and civilized if we recognized that different people have different sleep requirements.
posted by newdaddy at 3:10 PM on March 26, 2016 [10 favorites]


My sleep habits have changed a lot since I hit middle age. Up until I was in my early 30s, I slept late, got up late, etc. But when I got to my late 30s and my son was born, my sleep habits really switched. Taking care of a baby is exhausting, and my wife and I didn't get a full night's sleep for months on end. When 10 o'clock came, I was ready for bed. No insomnia, no waiting to fall asleep; now my head hits the pillow and I'm out within 5 minutes. Now staying up late means staying up past 11pm.

I have become a morning person. I wake up at 5, 5:30, 6 every day now. Rarely need an alarm. Partly because I'm getting old and my rhythms are just evolving, and partly because I cherish the hour or so before everyone else wakes up--I have no parental responsibilities and can read! Surf the Internet! Watch TV! These things are hard to do with young children.
posted by zardoz at 3:21 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I lived with someone who would go to bed at 10pm every night and would instantly fall asleep, snoring 30 seconds after head hits the pillow. I was so jealous.
posted by peeedro at 3:31 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick - I'm glad bedtime works for you. It doesn't work for me. I can't force bedtime, but I can encourage it by forcing wakeup time. It is a constant battle that I choose every day because as unpleasant as it is, I am less depressed when I fight my circadian nature.

I found your comment to me rather painful and condescending, though I'm sure you meant well. You assume that I haven't tried every damn thing ever recommended for sleep. You're wrong. I've been at this for years and tried everything. Most of the time, I wouldn't have said anything, but I can't let this go without comment. It is one more echo of everyone who assumes that people like me just haven't found the right thing or aren't trying hard enough. It is the opposite of the point of the articles in the post.
posted by monopas at 3:32 PM on March 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


I used to be a cycler. Then I turned 30, my metabolism started to change, and now I can't stay asleep past 6. Part of it was also changing my living situation. I used to live in a dark room, and now I'm surrounded by sunlight.

I've heard other stories of night owls in my family that became morning people as they aged. Sleep patterns can be fluid, just like sexuality.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:16 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


How these genes push people earlier or later isn't precisely known. One thought is that evening-type people may have a body clock that runs longer than average. Evening types' clocks can run as long as 24.5 or 24.7 hours, Gehrman says. A longer clock means the suprachismatic nucleus has to work harder to make an adjustment. When it fails to readjust, sleep times drift later and later into the evening.
One of the interesting things about these longer clocks is that they tend to sync up with the Moon and therefore the tides better than they do the Sun:
The time between successive moonrises is 24h 50m, or twice the time between high tides.
So if you believe, as a number of scientists do, that human beings did a lot of their migrating around the world on littoral zones (the spaces on beaches between the high and low tides), then you might expect that to have exerted selection favoring a greater frequency of longer clocks.

Which would mean that we sleepyheads are, in fact, beach bums!
posted by jamjam at 4:23 PM on March 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


Those light-based alarm clocks help me a bit, but I think I need to be much more careful in the evening with exposure to blue light.

FWIW, I've written multiple answers in ask mefi about my techniques for blocking blue light in the evening. Most of the changes are pretty small and it's a lot cheaper compared to the light based morning alarm clocks. Here's a pretty comprehensive run down of my techniques.

Not that this has solved my night owl tendencies. No matter how regular a sleep schedule I keep, mornings (and I define morning as any time between 6 am and noon) are always hell. Any sort of physical exertion is excruciating. Interacting with people is excruciating. Existing is terrible. I hate mornings with every fiber of my being. I can't even begin to comprehend what it would be like to work out first thing in the morning, although I would happily go for a run at midnight. In fact, I've totally done that before.

Also, I don't really get that whole MEQ thing. It rejected me too. I don't get how naturally wanting to go to sleep between 5 am and 6 am and wake up around between 12 pm to 2 pm is so much of an outlier that they can't even assess it.

I am happy to see a slight movement towards seeing being a night owl as a true, biological hard wired thing as opposed to a moral failure. Nothing pisses me off more when people pull the whole, "You just have to be disciplined" and "Stick to a schedule" and all that crap. I imagine the way I feel in the morning is how "morning bird" types would feel if they had to wake up at 3 am every day. I bet they would be miserable too.

In fact, I remember every morning in high school, waking up at 6:30 am and feeling so miserable and so desperately wanting to go back to sleep, that I would fantasize about the school burning down or breaking my leg or getting in a car accident or any number of other scenarios that would allow me to crawl back into bed. It was hellish.

Things aren't much better these days, although now I have the benefit of various prescriptions and the techniques I linked to above that at least make it slightly less hellish. But mornings are still The Worst as far as I'm concerned.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:38 PM on March 26, 2016 [16 favorites]


If left on my own, I would wake up at 4am and go to bed at 2pm. I would wake up again at 6-7pm and go back to bed around midnight.

I have a job that can be done without my physical presence in an office and we have an offshore team that is working during our nighttime, yet we've got a 9-5 asses in seats culture. I couldn't even get my hours shifted to 12-8.
posted by asockpuppet at 4:46 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not a morning person OR an evening person. And I like to have a siesta. I have like two short windows of about an hour each when I am fully awake and energised.
posted by lollusc at 7:07 PM on March 26, 2016 [5 favorites]


I lean slightly morning person, but I like the night too. My dream schedule is one where I sleep for about five hours, waking up with the sun, and then get a nap after lunch for a solid couple of hours. Sleeping for an extended amount of time (6+ hours) at once is really very difficult for me, I usually wake up at the 5-6 hour mark and have a tough time getting back to sleep, then several hours later, if I have no commitments, I get drowsy and nap for a couple of hours. After that I'm good to go until late.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 7:21 PM on March 26, 2016


That sleep schedules are often genetically determined and more or less fixed is not news to those of us who are bipolar and cycle wildly from needing 14 hours of sleep a night, with naps during the day, to needing 4 hours or less and having limitless energy. Maybe night owls can be fed medication that slowly destroys the liver or kidneys to let them work a normal 9-5 too.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:34 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


I go to bed between 1am - 4am, wake between 6-7am and once every couple of days I need 1-3 hours of kip to recharge. On average I'd say I manage between 2-5 hours non-disturbed sleep every 24 hours and I've been on that schedule since my teens. It's nearly 3.45am here in the UK as I type this and I'll be up in two to three hours depending on when my daughter wakes up. This is likely not healthy. My wife would sleep 18 hours a day if she could whereas I hate sleep but (just about) recognise it's necessity.
posted by longbaugh at 7:43 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]



I'm a night person with sharp hearing. I've always assumed my ancestors were the cave folk who stayed up listening for cave bears and cave lions in the night.

I wonder if they got shit for being too sleepy to help hunt and gather properly the next day.
posted by homunculus at 3:49 PM on March 26 [13 favorites +] [!]

A night person with sharp hearing and the ability to concentrate on seemingly boring things are all traits of a good scout or night watch-person. I always wondered if autism or even just general night-owlish behavior isn't some epigentic psycological specialization, induced by group factors. The hunt (hard physical labor) happens elsewhere, so back in the cave, scouts are needed.

This is a big leap so give me some leeway. Take the extreme example of Naked Mole Rats which are mammalian ants. They have a queen...
"Once established, the new queen stretches the space between the vertebrae in her backbone to become longer and ready to bear pups."
...
"It is believed that this trait does not occur due to pre-existing morphological differences but to the actual attainment of the dominant female position"
So some mammals have physical dimorphism based on group properties, so I don't think it's impossible that humans have other traits expressed by group distributions / group hormones.

(Ok, that really wasn't necessary we all know internal hormones affect people, while hormones from others is an unlikely stretch. Just throwin' some Naked-Mole-Rat-facts out there, cause they're interesting, the sun has set and I'll still be up for hours)
posted by ecco at 7:59 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Getting up early was always the worst for me in high school (which started at 7:15 a.m.) and still pretty bad in my college classes (earliest usually at 9 a.m. most semesters). I benefitted a lot in high school when I was able to take afternoon dual enrollment classes and skip first and second period. I end up on a sleep schedule that has me going to bed at like 3-5 a.m. and waking from like 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. when I have no obligations, as during breaks between semesters or whatever. I used to especially in high school summers end up doing the thing where your sleep window moves up an hour or two every day, and I'm not sure how much of the switch to a stable but late sleep schedule during off time is because of a conscious effort on my part (because sleeping at dawn and waking in the late afternoon feels weird) or just a natural shift on my body's part.

I also wonder how much of the late schedule is me being a natural night owl and how much of it is me having access to bright screens with lots of social interaction. It occurs to me that I was playing a lot more online games back when my schedule would go completely off the rails during a break -- I'd make friends on like WoW in all sorts of exotic time zones and never want for social stimulation no matter how bizarre the hour. Whereas these days I don't really play online games much, so I don't have any social stimulation beyond what Metafilter/night owl IRL friends/Reddit provide me at weird hours, and so my limit before I get really bored (I have lots of hobbies, but practicing the piano/working out/whatever requires energy/work even if it's fulfilling, whereas chatting with friends can keep me up super late) and hit the hay is like 3 or 4 a.m.

Anyway, so I'm on tour for FARM doing animal rights type outreach on college campuses from 9-3 or 4 each weekday, which between setup and driving to a day's campus means I'll have to get up between 7 and 8 a.m. I've found that unlike with classes (high school or college), I've adapted really well to rising early for this work. Maybe it's because the work is somewhat physically demanding (I deal with 350 lb. kiosks we use to show people a video, plus heavy batteries, plus standing in the sun all day talking to people), although I've usually been physically active in one way or another (weights or swimming or running) from the second half of high school when I started running cross country on. The mental demand of talking to strangers all day about veganism might also contribute. It might also be partly that I'm more motivated by this work (which I really care about) than by classes, although I had a lot of classes I loved in college (including an 8:30 grammar and prose style class, which is believe it or not one of the few things I'd get up that early for ) and still struggled to align my schedule for them. Either way, I easily fall asleep around 9-11 (usually 10:30ish) and can usually wake up for the day without help from my alarm. I feel pretty tired now staying up "late" on a Saturday writing this comment at 11:30ish.

Anyway, this comment is kind of a ramble, but I hope the data point is useful.
posted by Gymnopedist at 8:38 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm a night owl who would definitely thrive on the "two sleep" plan that seems to have been common in earlier centuries: basically, I totally drag from about 8pm to midnight, but if I make it to midnight I am suddenly wired again and good to go until about 4am, if I had my druthers. I'd love to sleep from 8-midnight, then 4am-8am...

This is me. Though I'd be 2-6. It was really cool finding out that at one time this sort of pattern was common. On many days I can easily fall sound asleep between 7 and 8. Be wide awake for a couple of hours around midnight before nodding off again. I'd feel great in the morning. I thought this was wrong and a bad thing for so long. Now if it happens I just go with it.
posted by Jalliah at 8:41 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


So I'm actually up late for me (it's 11:50PM here) possibly because I had a cappuccino at 5:30 this afternoon but wow am I fading fast. I'm sitting here at the kitchen table and sort of sliding forward as I type this. Now my vision is starting to blur, see yinz tomorrow.
posted by octothorpe at 8:56 PM on March 26, 2016


I lived 28-hour days my last two years of college. It was as close to a perfect state of nature as I'll ever get.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:16 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


As a night owl, nights seem to pass faster than days. It's an entirely subjective thing of course, but if I'm awake at noon it can seem like plenty of time until 6 PM while if I'm awake at midnight the next thing I know it's dawn. I used to work a swing shift and the other overnight workers agreed with me about nights seeming faster, but on that job the day shift was much more busy and stressful than the nights so I don't know how much that affected our perceptions. I am very nocturnal by nature, but I am always struggling to push my bedtime earlier. If I allow myself to live by night too much, the days just blink by and the next thing I know it's years later.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:45 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


This thread is full of my people. I love you all.
posted by flabdablet at 10:55 PM on March 26, 2016 [12 favorites]


Getting to bed on time is one of the hardest things for me. It feels silly because no one else I know struggles with it, I got a lot of flack for it growing up, and so I've internalized it as something bad that I do--which if anything only makes me more prone to stay up late when I'm feeling stressed or anxious.

If I manage to get to bed on time one night, the next day I feel so rested that I'm highly unlikely to get to bed at the same time the next night.

It's not that I couldn't fall asleep if I marched myself to bed, but a fun part of me comes out at night that isn't really there earlier in the day, and after a hard day's work I don't want to go to bed before I've had some fun. I want to stay up and enjoy being. And even if I intend to go to bed early, one or two things always come up (with no accompanying sleepiness to encourage me to put them off till the next day) and I'm back to my natural inclination of a much later bedtime than intended.

I think I must be on a 25 or 26 hour clock, but embracing it would make life so difficult. I've tried a lot of things, some work for a few days, but I still have not found anything that's worked to regularize my internal clock.
posted by mantecol at 11:03 PM on March 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Thinking about it some more, for me it may have more to do with my introversion than a specific cycle length. On a recent work trip I spent all waking (working + socializing) hours with my colleagues for 3 days straight. According to them, they were able to fall asleep within 15 minutes of arriving back at the hotel, and were able to wake up 20 or 30 minutes before needing to leave for work.

Me, I need at least an hour to come down and re-center after getting back to my room at night, and I need at least an hour in the morning to ramp up before I'm pleasant to be around. Which meant the choice between a lower quality of sleep than them, or arriving at work significantly later than them and potentially looking like I was slacking.

I have a similar dynamic on family vacations, which makes them rougher than they should be. I haven't lived with a significant other, but I suspect I might have the same problem there.

I'm seriously considering the idea of having my own bedroom even if I get married. It would take a lot of pressure off, not needing to worry about synchronizing sleep schedules or us disrupting each other's sleep. I also think I need to work on leaving group outings before the fun dies down, to give myself enough time to reset for the next day. Social sacrifices to be made for the sake of my own personal wellbeing.
posted by mantecol at 11:34 PM on March 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


God, this post was perfectly timed for me. This morning I had a long conversation with my fiancee about how I really, seriously need to do something to deal with my incredibly painful and disruptive sleep problems.

For the past month I've been steadily getting less and less sleep every night. I've been struggling to stay asleep at night, struggling to stay awake at work, in class, and everywhere else. I'll be feeling OK, and then suddenly I'll start to pass out. Then maybe an hour later I'll feel awake again. If I'm lucky I'll go to bed tired at 9:30 PM, wake up 2 hours later, and be totally unable to fall asleep until maybe an hour before my alarm goes off. If I'm unlucky, I'll just be wide awake until 4 or 5 in the morning. The worst part is being tired and knowing that you want to sleep, but being totally unable to actually fall asleep. I've given up on trying to stick to a regular schedule, so on the weekend I'll end up falling asleep around 6 AM and getting up around noon. Those are pretty much the only nights I get more than 3-4 hours of sleep.

It's validating to hear the suggestion that maybe I was just born like this, since it certainly seems that way. Apparently even as a baby I just didn't sleep. Growing up, my mom always thought all the academic and emotional problems I dealt with would have been solved if I'd have just been able to sleep, but I never could. I've always had this sense that there was just something seriously wrong with me, and that if I were just better at life I'd have a normal schedule and never have to feel tired like I do all the time. Yeah, it's impractical to be be at your most productive in the middle of the night, but what makes it really awful is the sense that it's because you're simply failing to exercise self-discipline, or good sleep hygiene, or whatever. I've tried all of that and it was no good.

As for the genetics, my dad has the same problems I do, including the same adverse reactions to sleep medications. Thanks, Dad.

Ugh, it's after midnight as I write this, but I'm just going to get some work done instead of worrying, yet again, about trying to do all the right things to get tired. The absolute worst thing about being unable to fall asleep at night is feeling like you're in suspended animation, just watching time go by because you're trying to get tired. You end up discounting that time, like it doesn't count as much, and you forget that literally half your waking hours are spent watching Murder, She Wrote reruns in the middle of the night. You end up being too tired to get anything done or think straight, too wide awake to sleep and get things done in the morning. I say - tonight I'll get some work done, and as long as it's the weekend I'll just try to enjoy my waking hours as if it didn't matter. Fuck it! If it feels like the middle of my day it might as well be.
posted by teponaztli at 12:40 AM on March 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm a night owl who would definitely thrive on the "two sleep" plan that seems to have been common in earlier centuries: basically, I totally drag from about 8pm to midnight, but if I make it to midnight I am suddenly wired again and good to go until about 4am, if I had my druthers. I'd love to sleep from 8-midnight, then 4am-8am...

omg, I thought I was the only one this happened to. The worst is when I'm literally nodding off at the end of my workday or on my commute home (don't worry, I don't drive), and yet when I actually get to my house around 11 or 11:30 my brain's all "wide awake lol, let's binge-watch some shit"

Is the lark version of this the normal post-lunch siesta lull? Or do they get another circadian dip around 4?
posted by en forme de poire at 12:59 AM on March 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


For me the main problem has always been that I am never more awake than when I'm trying to go to bed, and never more sleepy than when I'm trying to wake up. That seems fairly constant, no matter what schedule I'm keeping. Left to my own devices I'll go to bed later and later, until I'm going to bed at 6 AM and waking at 2 and hating myself. That schedule doesn't feel right at all. So I'll force myself to start getting up earlier... and the cycle begins anew.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:07 AM on March 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


Where my INTJs at
posted by aydeejones at 1:37 AM on March 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


The worst is when you're tired and you start getting ready for bed, and the act of getting ready for bed wakes you up so much that you can't fall asleep.
posted by teponaztli at 2:54 AM on March 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm with the folks who are like "yeah, this is great news, except that the rest of the world isn't open at times when I happen to be awake if I do this."
posted by Archelaus at 3:35 AM on March 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Morning everyone!
posted by octothorpe at 4:09 AM on March 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Hmm. I guess that you're all still asleep. Come on, it's a beautiful sunny day; you don't want to waste it in bed!
posted by octothorpe at 5:24 AM on March 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Hmm. I guess that you're all still asleep. Come on, it's a beautiful sunny day; you don't want to waste it in bed!

I'm three time zones away and I've been up for more than an hour on a Sunday morning. I'd rather be asleep but when I wake up, I just wake up, with no going back to sleep.

In college I figured out that my circadian cycle was running longer than 24 hours, which no doubt explains how horrible and unlivable I found those early mornings in high school. But a few years later something must have changed in my brain or in whatever body system regulates sleep, because I almost overnight switched to an early-to-bed, early-to-rise cycle. I can believe that it is genetic, because it is the same for most of the adults in my family.

At the same moment that my cycle switched I started suffering from a lot of insomnia as well, both in terms of struggling to get to sleep and in waking up at horribly early hours unable to get back to sleep. I've done a few things to mitigate the worst of it, but right now I am just living with it. I haven't had an extended period of not working in years, so I am not sure what my cycle and sleep habits would look like if I was able to fully decouple from an imposed schedule. My guess is that I would start tracking the sun more, and probably just have a much more broken up sleep schedule with awake times in the middle of the night and naps in the afternoon, but I'm really not sure -- a week off of work isn't long enough to know what a more natural cycle would really be like.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:34 AM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]



Morning octothorpe. Weather channel says it's snowing, but it sounds more like rain on my skylight. Was up at three but forced myself to stay in bed until four.

When I was a kid I would get up with the sun, make myself a sandwich and ride my bicycle around the neighbourhood looking for a place to have an impromptu picnic before I went to school. And, at other times, I would wear my street clothes under my pajamas so I could stay in bed for as long as possible before having to head out. Now I force myself to get up every morning out of habit because if I went by an internal natural rhythm all internal hell would break loose.
posted by squeak at 6:07 AM on March 27, 2016


I just met someone who naturally was a night owl and who worked really heard to switch their schedule so they now wake up at 5 every morning. I was really surprised cause you never hear about about people switching their sleep cycles and liking it. Apparently the transition was hell but they are really pleased with the results.
posted by KernalM at 6:39 AM on March 27, 2016


I learned on my honeymoon — a month in Europe in January — that I am just a plant? In Iceland where there was four hours of sun, I wanted to sleep all the time. Paris and Berlin were okay, but it was hard to pull myself out of bed till the sun peeped through. I didn't really feel normal again till we got to Milan. I knew conceptually of course, and from previous trips, that Europe is much further north than most of the U.S., but man did I really feel it. It also puts my struggle with depression and getting up in college into context: I went from Southern California to Providence, where once the sun did not come out for over twenty days in a row. (I counted. It hurt my little Californian soul.) Now I live in New York, where we have reasonably sunny winters, but man, I still feel it when it is a cloudy day. Cold is fine, but clouds are death. I also like mornings.
posted by dame at 6:53 AM on March 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I actually have no idea what my natural sleep cycle is. I've always had problems with insomnia, both having trouble falling asleep and also waking up in the middle of the night. When I was younger, my sleep patterns were all over the place, but I wouldn't have considered myself a morning person. I often stayed up very late and had trouble getting up in the morning, and I sometimes got very little sleep at all. I've now got myself on a pretty strict schedule where I get in bed at 9:45 PM and wake up at about 6:00 AM. I still have some insomnia issues, but they're much more under control. And I wake up at 6:00 without an alarm and am generally pretty ready to get started on my day, so maybe I'm a morning person who previously had messed up sleep habits.

People act like morning people are smug, but it's actually kind of a pain in the ass. I really start to fade if I try to do things past about 10:00 PM, and there are a lot of fun things that last until later than 10:00 PM. I wish I had the capacity to be a little more flexible, but that apparently isn't how I'm built.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:43 AM on March 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


People act like morning people are smug, but it's actually kind of a pain in the ass. I really start to fade if I try to do things past about 10:00 PM, and there are a lot of fun things that last until later than 10:00 PM. I wish I had the capacity to be a little more flexible, but that apparently isn't how I'm built.

It's also kind of a boring pain in the ass to be awake at five or six am while everyone else sleeps in until 10 or 11.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:07 AM on March 27, 2016


I have also internalized a lot of guilt/shame/fear surrounding my sleep schedule--this thread is a big relief!! It's a revelation on par with the Emotional Labor thing. It makes so much sense.

I'm so tired of feeling like I have less self-discipline, less work ethic, less [something else vague but virtuous] because I don't love to wake up at 6 and be at work by 8. I get so much done in late afternoon and evening. It would be so much better for everyone if I could work that type of schedule. Grad school was dreamy, especially when I was just writing my thesis and working 20 hours a week, because I could set my own schedule that way. I also ran a half-marathon and read a bunch of books--who knew I could be so productive if I didn't have to wake up at 7:30 every day?!

Anyway, I want to wave this around like a banner of pride that it is valid to wake up around 11am and get a ton of shit done.
posted by witchen at 8:15 AM on March 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


If you read that chart it says 7-9 hours is recommended for adults, a range that implies a significant percentage of them need more than 7 hours

Hello it is I, the healthy human adult who needs 8.5 or ideally 9 hours of sleep! (But can function sub-adequately on 7-7.5 hours of sleep.) You know what I thought I was before I started planning my days to get 9 hours of sleep? A night owl. I think it was because I was so tired all the time that of course I was groggily exhausted in the morning, and then I really DID wake up a bit after digesting dinner, but shifting my schedule later didn't ever improve my overall experience, it just solved the short-term discomfort of being tired when I woke up and not wanting to go to bed only a few short hours after dinner. Now I crawl in bed at 10ish, read a little bit, and then pass out hard until 6:30, 7am. In a room that has two windows and translucent curtains. If there isn't any natural light in my bedroom my sleep gets WAY wonkier. But if I'm getting 9 hours of solidly unconscious sleeptime I can flex my schedule 60-90 minutes in either direction without consequences, for a day or two. Stay up later than that and my core temperature starts dropping uncomfortably. Last Saturday I stayed up until 1am and had to come home and take a warm shower so that I wasn't too cold to fall asleep.

In conclusion, I feel pretty amazing now but I wish I had those two hours in my waking day still.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:27 AM on March 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


The MEQ is interesting
If you usually have to get up at a specific time in the morning, how much do you depend on an alarm clock?
*An* alarm clock? How about 1 radio alarm, the alarm on my phone and a 3rd that also has a flashing light.
How easy do you find it to get up in the morning (when you are not awakened unexpectedly)?

People who are depressed may just find it preferable to stay in bed with Netflix, books, the dog, maybe some cookies.
During the first half hour after you wake up in the morning, how do you feel?

Still feel like crap. Ask me in 6 hours. Yep, depression still sitting on my chest.

I'm not enjoying my job, because it has a shitty environment, so getting up is all Jeez, I really don't want to go to that place, but maintaining a pretty regular schedule, getting up by 9, going to bed by 1, helps me manage depression and ADD. I am also chonologically challenged. I have a poor understand of time, and the calendar on my phone makes life much more manageable. I'm still amazed by people who can learn that an event will happen at 7 p.m. next Friday and remember to show up. The only way I made it to an event yesterday evening, an event I genuinely wanted to attend, was to put in multiple reminders. Getting a reminder on my phone before I left for work meant that I was able to make it. and have fun.

I really despise the business of morally shaming people who don't get up early. When I am up early, I like morning. It's pretty, the light can be nice. But I get more done later in the day. There is no moral or spiritual component.
posted by theora55 at 9:54 AM on March 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


I get so much done in late afternoon and evening. It would be so much better for everyone if I could work that type of schedule.

Yes, absolutely. I'm so fortunate to be able to work in the software industry, where it's not unheard of to have 10-11 am start times. I might not be completely useless before noon, but I'm just far more productive from 2-6 pm.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:58 AM on March 27, 2016


I find it interesting that so many here are late people when so little of the general population is supposed to be. I love reading everyone’s experience in this.

I have not had my sleep schedule shift earlier as I get older, quite the opposite as I have more control over it now. I try to make myself go to bed by 2 or 3 (doesn’t always happen). Then I read. I can lie in bed and read with a dim light all night, and only fall asleep mostly since I take melatonin and often Benadryl. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t enforce it I would stay up later and wake up later every day.

Regular melatonin use has been associated with Gynecomastia (ie breast enlargement in men).

They’re real and they’re spectacular.

Falling asleep has always been a problem. I can stay awake pretty much as long as I like without any stimulants, in a quiet room reading, even though I’m a pretty low key person. Once I’m asleep I stay that way.

Napping on the other hand is a completely foreign concept, I can’t do it and on the rare occasions that I have I feel completely out of sorts and terrible. My natural state is to stay up for a really long time and then sleep for a really long time.
posted by bongo_x at 1:35 PM on March 27, 2016


I'm a soft evening person, I guess. Left to my own devices, I shift to a 2-3AM-10-11AM sleeping schedule, but I don't have that much trouble keeping earlier hours if I need to. I currently work from 7AM-3PM, and while I'm definitely groggy when my alarm goes off at 6:45 (I work from home) by the time I'm up and making coffee I'm generally okay.

It's lucky I work from home, though--if I had to be somewhere at 7AM, I'd have to get up at like 5:30, and that would be horrible.
posted by Automocar at 1:42 PM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm slightly envious of the night people here because I naturally wake up at 4 in the morning unless I'm sick. And, if I stay up past 10 PM, there's no way for me to get to sleep; therefore, I miss out on so much fun and social opportunities. Even as a teenager, I needed to be in bed by 10. Everyone made fun of me.

But, I now understand how difficult the flip side can be. At least I have no problem showing up for work on time and I loved early classes in college. The world favors us early risers, even though we're dull by day's end.
posted by mightshould at 3:07 PM on March 27, 2016


It seems like very, very few people thrive with a schedule where they have to wake up at 7 AM every day. Most people are staggering into work, trying to wake themselves up with coffee and crabbing about how damn early it is. I've often wondered if humanity would do better if the average work day was more like 11-7. There would be some inconveniences, but I have a feeling the majority of workers would be happy to make the change. As it is now, the work day starts too early for way too many people.

Presumably employers prefer it the way it is, for some reason. But why?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:30 PM on March 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I’ve noticed that reading the Sherlock Holmes books and others from the time that they did not get up that early, and stayed up late, even in the stories before electric lights. There are mentions of certain workers in the mostly deserted streets at the hour most people would be at work now. I don’t know what the context for this historically is though.
posted by bongo_x at 3:34 PM on March 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


It seems like very, very few people thrive with a schedule where they have to wake up at 7 AM every day. Most people are staggering into work, trying to wake themselves up with coffee and crabbing about how damn early it is. I've often wondered if humanity would do better if the average work day was more like 11-7.

I think the problem is more that many of the jobs that end at 7pm start a lot earlier than 11am... Americans are working longer hours for less pay than we have in a while, historically speaking, without having our non-work responsibilities proportionally lessened.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:25 PM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Yes, you get eight hours. But it's the wrong eight hours!" - my mother, for years.

Here's what would make the 9-5 (well, 10-6) world optimal for this intermediate night owl: naps. Specifically, a post-lunch, mid-day nap. If I woke up feeling like crap, the assurance of a mid-day nap would sustain me through the morning shift. Even if it meant I'd have to be at work from 10 - 8.

Sometime during the '90s I wrote up a business plan intended to convince the powers-that-be at the business consultancy whose library I tended that a space in the capacious two floors it occupied should/could be set aside for naps. The MBAs and assistants were coming through with research requests and looking ragged. The report didn't convince, but during the oughts when I worked as a freelance librarian, I noticed that smaller offices, often non-profits,would set aside rooms for breast-pumping that doubled, or could double, as quiet rooms for naps. That's humane.

I learned to power-nap - a concept that's probably been debunked but still works for me - at my desk. But that's not a solution for most people.
posted by goofyfoot at 5:30 PM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm a moderate evening person! Well, that's no surprise at all.

My father was an owl, a psychiatric nurse who worked the 3 pm - midnight shift, whose habit of sleeping in caused no end of angst for my lark mother. She ended up with two owlish daughters and though she tried to mold us to daytime wakefulness, by high school it was clear it was a lost cause. My senior year, my school did block scheduling, and I ended up in the morning block which started at 6:10 a.m.. I took a "study hall" so I didn't have to come in first period, and still had to be there at 6:50. It was awful. I have a very distinct memory of waking up and sitting down at the edge of my bed and just . . . losing time. I had no idea what happened. Maybe I fell asleep. I was late all the time.

When I started to work, I favored night jobs--video store evening manager (taking my dad's ol' 3 - midnight shift), evening library clerk at a college library. That was rough, because even though I worked late nights four days a week, once a week they wanted me there at 9. Usually I can do a morning wake-up once (anxiety will get my butt in gear on time) but over time I start drifting later and later, no matter what I do. I'll be up at 10 and know I need to go to sleep but instead start cleaning or writing.

Having a kid, and weathering all the attendant sleep advice that comes with that, has been interesting. So far Toddler WanKenobi's sleep has every indication of being like mine. We're still co-sleeping at 2, and she's already dropped naps. She goes to bed painlessly and quickly by 9, and sleeps exactly 12 hours (sometimes with a few non-disruptive wake-ups). I usually stay up until about 1 doing work, then wake with her. Sometimes she still wants a nap in the car; she takes a brief one. When I just follow her cues--like I follow my own, as a self-employed person--it's fine. We're both well rested and cheery.

I have no idea what life would be like if I tried to get her to conform to the 7 pm - 7 am schedule that so many sleep training people advocate, especially since at her age they're usually recommending a long nap, too. No, wait, I do have an idea of what it would be like: miserable.

God help me if I ever have a lark kid, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:32 PM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Evening person here married to a night owl. When our kids were born we were worried they would be larks because the rest of his family are. Fortunately they are not but all the years of getting everyone up for school have definitely limited my ability to be productive late. Now that kids are out of house and we're both self employed I'm sliding later but am not useful as late as I once was. My adult kids are all night owls too.
posted by leslies at 7:09 PM on March 27, 2016


"It seems like very, very few people thrive with a schedule where they have to wake up at 7 AM every day. "

Sadly, half of my coworkers wake up voluntarily at 3 a.m. every day chirping with the birds and they got special dispensation to work 7 a.m.-4 p.m. because they are exhausted and go to bed at 7 p.m. So basically, most places I've worked have been filled with larks, though this place has the most extreme ones for some reason.

"I'm not sure what the explanation is, but I gotta say: this would have been a much more beneficial condition for the first 35 years of my life. By now, it's just kind of a slap in the face."


It is really unfair that the only people in the world allowed to sleep in are retirees, who always wake up at 5 a.m. happily no matter what, and everyone else isn't allowed to sleep in until they no longer physically CAN. I hate our world.

I have been trying to think of an equivalent experience for larks to explain to them how I feel: how I am NOT AT ALL GODDAMNED TIRED at the time I have to sleep, how I'm exhausted when I have to wake up and feel outright ill for the first 3-4 hours of every morning. What time would a lark have to be forced up at in order to have that experience? I suspect the answer is "no time at all would force them to feel like that," as per my experiences listening to the 3 a.m. larks at work because as long as they wake up before the sun they are happy little puppies. Maybe the equivalent for them is being forced to be awake past 10 or 11 p.m. while the night owls are dragging them out partying and refuse to let them go home and sleep and bug them to go have some fun already.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:27 PM on March 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Mars has a day closer to 25 hrs. Just sayin.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:48 PM on March 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have been trying to think of an equivalent experience for larks to explain to them how I feel: how I am NOT AT ALL GODDAMNED TIRED at the time I have to sleep, how I'm exhausted when I have to wake up and feel outright ill for the first 3-4 hours of every morning

The equivalent for me would be night school. I got both my undergrad and graduate degrees part-time by taking night classes that would go until nine o'clock at night and trying to be intelligent and alert until that time of night is brutal. I'm currently taking photography classes at night and by eight I'm getting woosey and heavy-lidded.
posted by octothorpe at 4:35 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm currently taking photography classes at night and by eight I'm getting woosey and heavy-lidded.

I love hearing this stuff, like reporting from a foreign country I know little about. I know it’s out there, but I don’t understand the particulars. I don’t finish my coffee until 5 in the afternoon and have dinner at 10 or 11. Work until midnight, watch TV for a bit, read until 3 or 4 (or last night 6, but that’s not a good thing).
posted by bongo_x at 11:18 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


More from Vox on the topic.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:58 PM on March 28, 2016


The only schedule I can keep comfortably long term is going to sleep at or just before sunrise and waking between noon and two. Thankfully, I can wake up earlier if need be and can even keep a normalish schedule fairly easily fit a few days and with some minor difficulty for up to a week. Otherwise work trips would be impossible.

If I'm not trying to keep a schedule, my day is 26 to 28 hours long. It's been like that since puberty. Before then I was up before the sun (and everyone else in my family) Back then, that also meant being up before TV.

Funny thing is, I actually enjoy the early morning. I just prefer to see it before bed, not immediately upon waking. As I've gotten into the mid-30s, I've started taking afternoon naps more often, that way I can sleep from 4 or 5 in the morning to 8 or 9, then siesta around 2 and be fine. If I'm on my own schedule, 6 hours seems to be plenty of sleep and even 4 is fine as long as it isn't a daily thing.

The other odd thing is that I do actually get somewhat tired around 10PM and can fall asleep then without any trouble, but if I do I'm back up by midnight or shortly after and then want to go back to bed at 8 or 9 in the morning, so it's kinda pointless.

At least I don't have the severe insominia I had for a decade where I couldn't sleep at any time other than the morning and even then still had some difficulty falling asleep. If I tried to sleep at night, I would literally lay in bed for 8 hours straight, around sunup I could usually fall asleep within a couple of hours. My workaround for when I had to be awake during the day was to sleep 12 hours every other day. After 26-30 hours awake, I could finally pass out from sheer exhaustion. That was worse than high school for me, which was pretty much a fog of sleep deprivation for me.
posted by wierdo at 4:51 AM on March 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've been working a schedule that has had me leaving the house by 7:35 am, and it's really not fun. I'm acutely aware that my brain is slow in the morning, and it's a struggle every day to get out of the house on time. Changing to a start time of 10:30 am this week, should be better. I'm glad there's getting to be real recognition that some of us aren't larks, no matter how sweetly they sing.
posted by theora55 at 4:09 PM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I remember there was talk about having high school start later. My school day started at 7:30 AM every morning, which is insane by anyone's standards, let alone teenagers.
posted by teponaztli at 4:20 PM on April 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


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