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?