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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Night Owls Unite!

There’s a quiet little war going on out there. It’s between early birds and night owls. For a long time, I think, the early birds have been winning.

For example, if you’re a night owl – and therefore most likely a person who sleeps in (“in” being any time later in the morning than those who rise at the crack of dawn) – has an early bird ever called you and, upon hearing your heavy-eyed voice, said with disbelief, “Are you still asleep?” Right away, the night owl is on the defensive. “Um, yes… I mean no! I’m up! Been up for hours! I just have a, you know, frog in my throat!”

Why, all you night owls out there, are we made to feel guilty by early birds about being asleep at 9 o’clock in the morning?

I, being a night owl, have gotten the “are you still asleep?” phone call more times than I can count, and for years have answered in defense of my perceived slug-a-bed behavior. The fact is that my particular biological clock requires that I sleep nine hours, which means if I get into bed on my usual timetable…twelve or one a.m....I won’t wake up naturally (that is, without an alarm clock) until nine or ten a.m. I find nothing wrong with this schedule because I work from a home office and because…hello!…we have this new-fangled invention called electricity. We humans don’t have to worry about fitting our work into daylight hours anymore, nor do we need to tuck our heads under a wing like chickens and go to bed at sunset. There’s no reason I can see to spring from bed in the year 2011 unless A) getting up at first light matches your biological rhythms; B) there’s a child or job that requires being conscious at sunrise; or C) you have a bellowing herd of cows in need of daybreak milking. If you’re getting up early because doing so makes you feel somehow superior to people who don’t, it may be time to rethink your motives, not to mention your phone etiquette.

Amazingly enough here in the new millennium, in spite of the fact that there’s no earthly reason to wake up at dawn unless you absolutely have to or want to, I’ve been on the receiving end of astoundingly rude remarks when I stumble to the telephone at 9 a.m., such as:

“It’s a good thing you don’t have kids!”
Some people have to get up in the morning.”
“You’re not out of bed yet!?”
“Did I wake you up?”

And, in my opinion, the most ill-mannered of all: “It must be nice!” 

So on behalf of all night owls, I’ve decided to go to ground in this early bird/night owl battle. No longer will I tolerate the nosy and astonished voice at the other end of the phone. I will no longer defend nor lie about the fact that I’m “still” asleep, nor will I be particularly pleasant about a ringing telephone when repeat early bird callers persist. Instead, when Mr. or Ms. Snarky chirps, “It must be nice!” my response will be: “It is. As a matter of fact, it’s very nice. Too bad you haven’t organized your life in such a way that you can sleep in, too.” I might also start making some phone calls of my own, say around midnight. When I hear the groggy voice at the other end of the line, I’ll yelp: “You’re not already asleep are you?”

Join me night owls! Let's shout out that we're mad as hell and won't take this condescending early bird abuse anymore!


Anonymous said...

I'm reading this at 12:30 a.m. and I heartily embrace this cause. Viva La Night Owls!

Kathleen Yasas said...

Thank you Night Owl! Let's tell those Early Birds to keep their cheeping to themselves!

Kathleen Yasas said...

The following Early Bird was too shy to post, so I've included his emailed comments below...why not stand up and be heard EB? Too tired from getting up at the crack of dawn to take us Night Owls on?

"Before there was electricity there was gaslight, before there was gaslight there was whale oil, and I reckon candles predate everything but a good ol' wood fire. Night owls are fine as long as they don't disturb normal people, though their unnatural habits can frustrate the vast diurnal majority, who may wish to spend more waking time with these disturbed, yet interesting individuals."

edsbath said...

this page does seem to celebrate darkness ..darkness in the background of the authors photo...a photo of her dog shrouded against the light, daylight photos of obviously unhappy owls.....if only Judy and Barbra had sung "Happy Nights are Here Again"....
I think we should bear in mind that a diurnal existence is greener. Every time we throw on a light switch, summoning a paltry recreation of natural light, we send a tiny message to the "power company" (the government), saying: "Please do some more strip mining and hydro-fracking, and please also keep the defense contractors busy so that we may continue to defend human rights in areas where oil is abundant." I know, it sounds like I have a chip on my shoulder, but if you look closely you'll see that it's a rooster. He is always shrieking in my ear.... "WAKE UP!!!!!!!"

Kathleen Yasas said...

Your diurnal thoughts are most appreciated, EB, as are your comments on “being green.” You’re quite a proficient writer, which I’m sure you practice without benefit of throwing a switch. How good of you to work only by candlelight, and with a quill (oh wait, you’ve posted on a blog, which means you use a computer…but I’m sure your computer is powered by all those horses out back). How wonderful you must feel never to turn on an oven, a lamp, a power drill, always instead to summon only natural light as your source of life and employment. Do I see your bonfire from afar, where you roast your home-grown potatoes? Tell us, pray, how you live without electricity? And do I understand correctly that you imply my night owl status and recent events in Libya are somehow related?

FYI, take a look at the circadian rhythm chart. Highest alertness occurs at 10 a.m., best coordination at 2:30 p.m., fastest reaction time at 3:30 p.m., and greatest cardiovascular efficiency and muscle strength at 5:00 p.m. Not surprisingly, highest testosterone is at 9 in the morning, and a half hour earlier is the most likely time for a bowel movement.

Anonymous said...

Edsbath, are you saying that night owls use more electricity than early birds? Folks turn on lights in the daytime, too. Besides, the most smug early birds delight in rising before the sun's up. They're merrily cranking up electric shavers, coffee pots and toasters while it's still dark outside, wasting all sorts of energy. The night owls are sensibly asleep at this time.

edsbath said...

I've tried to follow your advice and have a look at the "chart of circadian rhythms". Your citations of such precise times for peak human performance led me to believe I would surely find a document as immutable and recognized as The Periodic Table of the Elements. No such luck...instead, I found myself aswim in the social-psychiatric debate over what should be considered normal sleep patterns (generally recognized, of course, as patterns leading to swelling bank accounts) and disordered ones (which lead to financial and therefore social decline). These attempts to classify "chronotypes" were of course complete with vast collections of citations and references to brain and endocrine chemistry studies, no doubt undertaken by pharmical companies. I will continue to search for the circadian rhythm chart. My next, best hope is the little shop that sells incense in town, and if that fails I'm afraid I'm going to have to delve into the archives of Women's Day Magazine. In any case, I DO hope your sleep times are not overlapping the most likely time for a bowel movement.

Kathleen Yasas said...

Oooh, I love those incense shops...of course, they're only open late at night. I hope if nothing else you see that I go by candlelight on my blog. We do what we can do, you know?

You have archives of Woman's Day at home? What an interesting man you must be, Ed! And BTW, it's WomAn's Day, in case you decide to flip on that evil electrical switch to search online. As for the circadian rhythm chart, you can take a peek at Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm. Quite a few medical journals listed in the bibliography. Having worked in the pharmaceutical and medical publishing community for 30 years, I think I can safely say there are a few journals as trustworthy as the immutable and recognized Periodic Table of the Elements.

As for bowel movements, I have one every day at 8 a.m. Of course, I don't get up until 10 (old joke).

On a serious note, thanks for your comments. It's always fun to spar with the smart.

edsbath said...

That wiki diagram is captioned "...the biological clock of a person who rises early, eats lunch around noon, and sleeps at night 10 pm..."

Anonymous said...

Oh this is brilliant! Absolutely spot on. I'm tired of excuses as well, so I've been adjusting to slap back remarks for a while now. Those rude, annoying, pesky little larks.

I now tell all when necessary that I'm a night owl and I'm learning not to say it like a little sparrow - more like an eagle. A wise owl will do! Nicely!

When questioned, I even rattle off a few 'famous' names. Even throw in a couple of genius's (I leave out the depression part that goes with a few of course). So, I liken myself to the genius I'm not, but it shuts a few up. The rest are silly, ignorant little larks who don't know 'nufink anyway.

The truth is of course, who would have guarded the cave relatives at night? So it's genetic of course. It's in our dna. If our ancestors back in the time of no light, then carry flaming torch time were all larks, we all simply wouldn't be here. Our ancestors would clubbed themselves to death, and/or been eaten by nocturnal beasts.

Aha! We night owls have tough genes, weekies couldn't have done the job - we're special. It's because of us that mankind survived.

Some respect is well overdue I think.

Ahum yes indeed.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum