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Do We Really Have A Night Owl Problem?

night owl

A few days ago I was sitting outside on our front porch having a glass of wine with a friend. As with most women, our conversations are an amalgam of disparate thoughts uttered in rapid succession, somehow all coming full circle at some point to be tied up with a perfect bow — allowing us both to feel heard, understood and satisfied.

I lead with this phenomenon because I honestly cannot remember how or why the subject of Night Owl Discrimination came up. But as often happens with me and my friends, random obscure ideas are discussed.

She led the charge. Honestly, until that moment I had never given the night owl dilemma much thought. 

When she first lamented feeling discrimination about her sleeping patterns from the media she consumes, I guffawed. “What are you talking about?” I blurted out before thinking. She immediately began hitting me with a variety of proverbs and adages.

“The early bird gets the worm.” —17th century English proverb
“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” 15th century proverb
“The early morning has gold in its mouth” —Ben Franklin
“Go to bed early and wake up early. The morning hours are good.” —Jeff Bezos 

Now, I Am An Early Bird.

I go to bed before 10pm and wake up, without an alarm (unless you count the occasional kitty meow in the face), before 5am. I love my mornings. It is when I am most creative. My ability to think strategically, problem-solve and write flourish at dawn.

“Is there any truth to all the propaganda that implores us to be or become morning people?”

When my friend hit me with yet another population that experiences discrimination, I got curious. My own son is the quintessential night owl. It made parenting a veritable nightmare — clearly not a real nightmare since I wasn’t really allowed to sleep much when he was little. I remember countless nights threatening him with bodily harm to get him in bed. And an equal number of countless mornings, begging him to get up. Ugh…

Where was my friend’s grievance coming from? Is there any truth to all the propaganda that implores us to be or become morning people?

I began to poke around to see if I could find data to support my friend’s claim. Honestly, I was hoping to find information to assuage my concern that my kid’s burning the midnight oil tendencies, while different than mine, are not an indicator of how successful he is likely to be.

What did I find?

Sadly, I didn’t find much to allay my apprehensions. Yes, there are outliers in every population. My friend, a self-proclaimed late-riser, is also a hugely successful attorney with her own practice. That being said, most of what I stumbled upon makes a 4AM wake-up call sexy.

I do get that our society is rigged against late risers.”

A survey I came across found that those who wake up earlier tend to feel more productive than those who don’t. In particular, those who woke up around 4:00 am felt the most productive. 

Pushing further, the Harvard Business Review explored the concept of success being positively correlated to an early wake-up. Harvard was no help to me with words such as “waking up early and success may be linked and those who rise early tended to be more proactive in life than those who didn’t.” Harvard Business Review

I do get that our society is rigged against late risers. We Early Birds have leverage by virtue of the fact that we’re most awake and alert at precisely at the same times that work and school start in the ancient Agrarian-Age schedule we’re still using to this day. But what happens now that the world is open 24/7? Do we keep following an ancient practice without question? What if we have no cows to milk or chickens to feed?

Maybe everyone already knows this but whether we rise with the sun or put ourselves to bed by it has much to do with genetics. These traits are extremely hard to change. What’s more, the research is finding that if we fight our chronotypes, our health may suffer.

Is There Actual Shame?

So does my friend have a point? Do we need to stop the night owl shaming? Or are there unquestionable benefits to being up with the sun?

Sadly, I have no definitive conclusions after my very thorough and extensive research on the matter (think about 20 minutes on Google). Yes, some studies show that 90% of executives wake up before 6am on weekdays. And nearly 50% of self-made millionaires wake up at least three hours before their workday actually begins. What’s the other half of the filthy rich doing… Sshhhh, you’ll wake them.

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5 thoughts on “Do We Really Have A Night Owl Problem?

  1. Frannie & Elinor says:

    Interesting article and research. I find that I am a “burn the candle at both ends” person. My schedule does shift into earlier mornings sometimes and exceptionally late nights (aka all nighters) when I am launching a new jewelry collection or needing to get orders out. I find that when I don’t worry about how much time in bed I’m getting and rather how much rest am I getting, I relax and follow the best rhythm for that day. I had such a rigid schedule for decades that it feels good to listen to my needs and do more in

  2. Lori E says:

    there is no data given all the Harvard types are asleep! Night owls have to test night owls! Good job for someone….. haha

  3. Elise Rosenstock says:

    Jack,

    Great article. I really believe I’m much more productive and calm when I start my day around 5am. I like to feel a sense of accomplishment by noon. I get tired around 3 and become mush as rev up again around 5 ! Lol. Great job. Elyse

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