The owl and the lark

Morning is better than night. After a certain time of night (specifically dusk to sundown), night just looks and feels the same. Until say the middle of the night and then it has a very different quality (there’s a lonely edgy-ness and a depressing pointlessness of being alert at 3am.) Whereas morning has a couple hours of interestingness – peaceful sunrise, followed by quietly stirring world as a prelude to BANG,  Gooooooooooooood Morning Vietnam!

So it’s not that I chose to be a night person because I thought it more interesting to morningness. I was born this way.

A couple of years ago I went to an Energy Management class that was on offer at work. That’s not like me. To sign up for these sorts of things. But I was really tired at the time and thought, what the heck, maybe I’ll learn something.

The workshop was lead by a sports coach and as far as I remember she lost control of the Time and only covered sleep and exercise — we had to read the workbook to glean what we might have learnt about food (blood sugar control) and meditation.

Her sleep lecture was a massive disappointment. It rested on the assumption that all of us would be better off if we got 8 hours of it and planned our lives around a 10pm to 6am sleep schedule. I was expecting something a bit more advanced and in any case what about larks and owls, I asked? They don’t really exist she said. Much too much has been made of this, she said. Scientists believe that only a teeny percent of the population have naturally occuring biorythms that vary from the mean — pretty much everyone can benefit from going to bed when they should (and then she quoted the belief that certain hours of sleep are magical double-duty hours, the ones we get before midnight.)

WAIT A SECOND, I blurted. This cannot be so. Maybe I’m just part of the teeny percent, but then my entire family is. I grew up in a household where half of it couldn’t conduct a conversation after 9 o’clock at night and the other half couldn’t before 9 in the morning.

Part of the problem was that the Energy Management workshop kicked off at 8am. And I hadn’t had any coffee. So, I just wasn’t in the mood for dumb information.

But I also felt that her lecture reinforced the integrity of a universal clock that made more sense when we worked off the land. One of the reasons I prefer living in Europe to America is that nothing happens in America after 10 at night (that weird, soggy awake at the wrong time of night creeps in way too early over there) and far too many people are queuing at Dunkin Donuts from 6 am. Tired of being ostracized, I moved to the land of siestas, restaurants that don’t serve dinner until Americans are asleep, coffee shops that can see no reason to open at 5 or 6 or even 7am, where today’s newspaper is still in stock at lunchtime.

Also Europe puts me on the roughly same morning time as my family in the US — five or six hours behind …when it’s 7am for my mother we’re now on schedule for a quality chat – I’ve had coffee, I’m up, I’ve been functioning for a while — I can do it now.

If you’re curious as to how your schedule, your work and your family might be interrupting the natural flow of your perfect sleeping hours and your optimal highest-functioning awake hours, take this test put together by researchers and scientists that actually accept that people’s biorhythms really do vary.

I posted my own results back in May; but first check it out for yourself, follow this link and select the circadian rythm type questionnaire. It’s 5 minutes of your awake time well spent.


1 Comment

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One response to “The owl and the lark

  1. Liz Athens

    Thanks Nat..I have been preparing for an assault on my natural sleep rhythm coming up this week. Being of the “morning person” variety (BTW, how did we ever manage to have all of those sleepovers if I was up before down with you sleeping until noon?), I am mentally preparing myself for my mom and two aunts visit later on this week. my mom arrives at the airport at a respsectable afternoon hour, but my aunt Jane comes in at 10pm. In an airport 30 minutes away. With a great possibility that her plane will be delayed since it is one of the final planes to arrive in Phoenix. And I not only have to stay awake, I have to go ger her!!!! Then, I get to go to work the next day and give a presentation at 8am. and THEN, I got to do it all over again when my Aunt Cindy comes the nexy day at 9:30pm. Why cant you be here so you can do the airport run? Of course, your flight would probably get in late too… 🙂

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