Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Tyranny of the Morning People

     On the heels of the filibuster discussion, I wanted to talk about a widespread injustice in which a vocal minority imposes its will on the sleepy majority. I am referring of course to Morning People. Morning People, including Ben Franklin who said, "Early to Bed and Early to Rise Makes a Man Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise", have convinced the world that good people wake up early and bad people wake up late. Workplaces typically run from 8 or 9 am to 5 or 6 pm. Grade schools can start even earlier - 7 or 7:30. Why is this the case?
     This is the case where night people say, "I know!" and think of examples of injustice. Morning people (even ones who say they aren't) say with self-righteousness, "You're just lazy. If you went to sleep earlier, you would be a Morning Person too." OK - I am lazy. But that's absolutely irrelevant. The fact is, as much as I like to lie in bed in the morning, I absolutely hate to be in bed in the afternoon or evening. I once was on the night shift at work and had somewhat flexible hours. I had a 9pm meeting, and the operation ran from about 11pm to 3am. Otherwise, it didn't really matter when I was around. I did this job for a year, and during this time, I didn't use my alarm clock once. My typical day was to leave for work at 8pm, stay there until 5 or 6 (my girlfriend at the time hated it if I got home after she woke up at 6), watch a little History Channel or Discover Channel (because there were no Tivo's then and nothing else was on), go to sleep as the sun was rising, and wake up around noon. If you're doing the math, this worked out to about 6-7 hours of sleep. And I never used an alarm. My next work assignment was supposed to be a 9 to 5'er. But I supported operations running 24 hours and I found it hard to leave at a reasonable time. I typically stayed until 9ish to be able to talk to the night shifters when they came in. I abandoned my alarm clock once more and started rolling into the office at 11am and leaving at 9pm. Now I have a manager who (repeatedly) asks me to try to be in at 8:00 or earlier and I'm finding that to be excruciatingly impossible. I get no work done in the morning anyway and I tend to stay late to get things done. In fact, my department manager will frequently see me in the office at 7pm and demand that I leave. She insists that if I don't start going home earlier, I will end up divorced and unhappy. (That my wife typically works until 7 is apparently beside the point.)
     My point is, who decided that I couldn't work from noon to 8? Who decided that people had to eat dinner at 6:00 and be in bed after Jeopardy? And why on earth does every store close at 5pm on Sunday when they stay open until 9pm during the week? What's the freakin' difference between Sunday night and Tuesday night anyway? I took a Lark and Owl test, which tells you what type of sleep personality you have. I'm an "Extreme Owl", which means I can maintain alertness at 2am a lot easier than I can at 7am. Take the test and let me know what you are. There's considerable evidence that what makes someone a "Night Person" or a "Morning Person" is their Circadian Rhythm. This is a natural cycle in your body that tells you when to wake up and when to go to sleep. Your body temperature fluctuates throughout the day, based on your circadian rhythm. In the "typical" person, aka the Morning Person, body temperature peaks between 8am and 4pm, while a Night Person might peak between 6pm and 2am. You've noticed this at home, probably. I typically can't fall asleep at night because I'm too warm, but I keep the blankets close, because by the time the alarm goes off, I'm freezing. Curiously, my wife is the opposite, snuggling under as many blankets as possible at night, but sweating and kicking off blankets by morning. This obviously isn't a laziness thing or something I can change simply by heading to bed earlier. Despite that, there are any number of people willing to take your money to teach you to "change" into a Morning Person.
     Studies have shown that the best time to exercise may be when your internal temperature is higher, making the workout more effective. I spent the winter of 2003/2004 waking up at 5:30 to workout with a swim team, desperately wishing they practiced at night. There's a sleep disorder called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome or DSPS. Sufferers simply have their circadian rhythms shifted rightward. That is, they are Night People who peak in the afternoon and bottom out around dawn. The opposite, apparently, is ASPS, or Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome. People with ASPS fall asleep *very* early and wake up around 1am. These tend to be the elderly or post-menopausal women. I was a little surprised to see that Night People were sufferers of a disorder. If that's the case, shouldn't accommodations be made for me at work? I think back to grade school where I suffered through morning classes. Would I have done better if my school were in the afternoon instead? (Note to Morning People who are about to tell me to get over it: Imagine being told you have to wake up at 2am every day of your life. Would going to sleep at 6pm make it easier for you? Could you even do it, not for a few weeks, but for 50 years?)
     There's a lot of literature on the internet about DSPS, but it's mostly on diagnosis or temporary treatment (there's no permanent fix). I couldn't find any statistics on how many people actually suffer from it. And this website is a typical resource for Night People with rants and tips. But what I found more helpful have been studies done on Morning People forced to work night shifts. (This is definitely discrimination - who's doing studies on Night People forced to work morning shifts?) They've found that the average person never gets used to working night hours, and tends to become depressed and unproductive if left on the night shift for long. This also applies to DSPS sufferers forced to wake up at the crack of dawn. But nobody cares? It seems everyone at my company has a military-like attitude towards work. They are at their desks early get to work immediately, and the parking deck is half-full by 7:30. Interestingly, it's 90% empty at 7:30pm, and I suspect a good number of the cars there in the evening are custodial workers or people who have left their cars while on business trips. Am I really in a tiny minority? Or is it the case that Night People can't make it in my company and have to become computer programmers or settle for lower-paying jobs on night shifts? Is there any place in the normal world for Night People to have a normal job? Maybe on the applications for engineering school and business school, they should say, "No Night People allowed". Push us into becoming doctors (how great would it be if your doctor or dentist's office was open after work?), artists, restauranteurs, or pirates. (Just kidding about the pirates. No I'm not.) Listen, when we're done with this whole gay discrimination thing in 25 years, maybe we can focus on this for a little while, OK?

15 comments:

Ben said...

Why can't I buy beer on Sunday in Georgia?

I totally understand where you are coming from, as I'm definitely not a morning person. In order for the world to function right, businesses have to have a time when they are, for the most part, all open. That they chose 9-5ish is simply a relic of the days when we didn't have electric lighting and our society was mostly agricultural, when you had to do the work during the day, or you wouldn't be able to see anything.

Katrina said...

I agree as well. I absoutely love waking up when *I* want to, laying in bed another hour to see if even 15% of me wants to slip back into a happy little slumber, and staying up super late at night. I'm gonna get to work 7p-7a shifts at work soon. Maybe I'll actually be alert so I can do my job!

Mike said...

What you are experiencing, my friend, is the oppression of the Baby-boomers against the X'ers. Read the book I suggested and it will tell you all about it.

Another discrimination in society that gets little attention is the oppression of extraverts over the intraverts. All over the media we are told that if you would rather sit at home on a friday night and read a book rather than go out, party, and get laid, then you're a loser. Even in grade school you were graded on participation which clearly favors the extraverts. Discrimination I tell you! Conspiracy!

Scott said...

Mike, clearly in high school I would rather have been getting laid, let me assure you. The problem was that going out didn't necessarily lead to that conclusion.
Katrina, I loved working 8pm-6am. The only problems I encountered were a total lack of social life (unless you are friends with other third-shifters) and the fact that I was already committed to teaching Sunday School that year, so I had to reverse my schedule on weekends to be at school at 8am on Sundays.

Shannon said...

Living in Las Vegas means that almost everything is open 24 hours a day. I experience culture shock and disbelief when I hear you can't buy beer on Sunday. If I travel to other cities, I become irritable when I can't go to the store whenever I want. I'm spoiled.

However, although there are more work options for night people, most higher paying positions are still 9-5.

ORF said...

Shannon,
I experience a similar phenomenon when I leave New York City and then get odd cravings for things like pastrami at 11:00 at night.

Sylvana said...

Mike, quit making sense! You are scaring the shit out of me!:)
I am an Extreme Owl too. Even though I have classes that start at 9am I still stay up until 2am-4am in the morning. I just really have trouble getting to sleep earlier than that (not always, but most nights). I really don't remember what I did at that time before I started blogging. I mean, all they have on TV are infomercials and I really need to stay away from that stuff. It makes so much sense at 3am.

Chemical Billy said...

There are studies coming out now that says that teenagers need more sleep than adults - and that 8 am is a terrible time for teenagers to be trying to stuff things into their heads.

I'm only a moderate night owl, but I've begun to realize that I'm more of a 9-hour a night person than 8....

ORF said...

Chemical Billy,
My chemistry teacher in high school used to argue this all the time b/c she was always irked at how sleepy and inattentive we all were and insisted that the school day should start at like 11:00 instead of 8:30 because we'd all retain more!

Scott, you know this posted twice, right?

The Attractive Nuisance said...

I took the test, and I am neither an owl nor a lark. I knew I was impossible to please.

Dave said...

Rabble rabble, yeah, breakfast sucks!

Ben said...

I understand that the government is thinking about extending daylight savings time by two months, the reasoning being that the majority of Americans are night-owls, not morning people.

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0505/more_daylight_savings.php3

AngryBlackBitch said...

Facinating! A sistah needs to get a night job...

Anonymous said...

I am also an extreme owl. I am in the military. My Life is pure hell.

I went to bed last night @ 0315am I woke up at 0500am (roughly 2 hours sleep) scrambled into my uniform.. battled traffic and made it to duty section muster @ 0645.

I drag myself around until about 1400. My interest in everything peaks. I start surfing the web, and even doing some work. Right now its 0130 again and Im soldering a phone box togethor but the office space I need to install it in is locked becuase some officer decided to go to bed @ 8pm.

When I was self employed.. O LORD was life good!! I fell into my natural cycle. I went to bed as the sun came up around 6-8am and I woke as the sun went down around 8pm. OMFG it was great. I have never felt more alive. However, rejoice and the world does not rejoice with you.. in fact.. it forgets about you. We live in a world where life only happens from 9-5. Truly tragic. I wanna move to vegas now.

Anonymous said...

I despise having to wake up early . About 30 years ago I realized that I seemed to be normal from about 2PM to 10PM and in the morning I couldn't properly do anything. It seems to me that I am not even fully awake. I hate the tyranny of the early rising world. As soon as I could I situated myself so that I did not have to wake up early. Now, unfortunately and because of money trouble, I have had to take a job that starts early. I find myself getting unhappy yet again. Add to this a grerat dread of repetition and schedules and I think you get the picture. It's a kind of abuse.