Tuesday, May 8, 2012

OWLS AND LARKS

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I am an OWL. I have been an owl my entire life, even as a baby. And over the years I've developed a considerable resentment for those very annoying people (some of them my best friends) who are LARKS.

There's always been something so puritanically virtuous about morning people. The early bird gets the worm and all that. Writers who get up at four in the morning to get their pages in are universally admired for their dedication.  Writers who STAY up until four in the morning to get their pages done are just weird.

But, at last, it seems I might have some justification for the fact that my brain tends to get the cosmic download about 11 pm. Whether you are a morning or a night person is called "diurnal preference", and according to recent studies, it may be at least partly encoded in our genes. If a group of people are kept on the same light-dark schedule for several weeks, some people will go to bed and wake early, some will go to sleep late and lie-in.  Each person will find their own natural timing within the day - their chronotype--and chronotypes vary within a population. A number of genes have been identified which are associated with sleep timing and sleep preference.

Of course, the whole issue of how and when we sleep is much more complicated than that. It's affected by light/dark cycles and societal attitudes, among many other things.  Sleep deprivation is glorified in much of modern culture, although it costs billions of dollars in work loss and health problems.

I spent a good deal of time in Mexico from childhood through my early twenties, and found life there a perfect fit for my body clock. Up between 8 and 9, a light breakfast, work until 1 or 2, have the main meal of the day, then a siesta, then back to work until 8 or 9 at night after which there would be a light supper. It's still my preference when I can set my own schedule.

Maybe my ancestors were Mediterranean rather than northern European stock. And maybe it's a good thing I'm a writer and not a milkman (or woman) and I get to indulge myself on a fairly regular basis--except when I'm on book tour....

And now, as it's 11:24 pm, I'm going back to work for a bit. I've just figured out a problem with a scene that's been nagging me all day.

What about you, REDS and readers, are you OWLS or LARKS, and do you find one more virtuous than the other?


25 comments:

Rosemary Harris said...

Can I be both? I just like being up when no one else is. I'm writing this before 6 am, but I've already been up for over an hour...

Mare said...

I'm an owl living in a lark's world. I'm now up all odd hours, but left on my own would be doing all the good stuff at 2 am.

Edith Maxwell said...

Totally a lark, always have been. That said, I don't usually get to bed early enough for how early I get up, so have perfected the art of power napping, even in my car during the work day. Recline the driver's seat. Check the time. Take off the glasses. Fall asleep. Wake up almost exactly 15 minutes later, refreshed. Reverse the steps and head back to my desk.

But I don't feel any virtue in my system or in yours! It's just how our bodies work.

Ramona said...

Lark, in a house with owls. If anyone disturbs my happy morning time, I become a crow.

Lucy Burdette said...

LOL, Ramona! I become a crow if someone keeps me up at night! But it's my cat Yoda who's the real lark...we've perfected the art of throwing the dog out of the bedroom with him at 5 so he can't rattle the door with his paw...

Darlene Ryan said...

I'm a lark, always have been. My sister is a born owl. The Munchkin is very much a lark. How many teenagers think staying in bed until 7AM is sleeping in?

Karen in Ohio said...

I've been an owl since childhood, as are most of the women in my family, and in my husband's family.

The funny thing is that we are all married to larks.

Rhys Bowen said...

I'm an absolute lark (so maybe we should never share a room at a convention, Debs). I need to fall asleep by around 10. Then I wake when it's light and I start writing right after a cup of tea.
If I stay awake watching a good program until eleven, I could be awake all night. My brain just won't switch off.

Laura DiSilverio said...

Lark. Rhys and I must be twins switched at birth, right down to the tea. And I can't do caffeine after 3 or 4 in the afternoon or I'm up until the wee hours.

Jan Brogan said...

Debs
I could LIVE in your house. I am an owl, even though I am definitely of Northern European stock.

I can always be prevailed upon to stay up later and I always want to sleep late in the morning. I force myself to get up at 7:30 and think that's the crack of dawn.

And why is it that Larks get all the good PR? And owls get associated with drug use?

bettiek said...

I was an Owl until menopause now I am a Lark. Both have positive points.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I am SUCH an owl. Writers tell me, oh, I get up at the crack of dawn and write. (RO!) I am so impressed. If I got up at the crack of dawn, my head would klonk on the computer screen.

But at 11pm? I am going strong. Maybe its all the years of working for the 11 pm news..

Deb Romano said...

My mother used to tell me that when I was an infant I was wide awake in my crib quite late at night. I was the first child,and she was sure that she was doing something wrong if I did not immediately fall asleep. She talked to the pediatrician about it. He asked if I was fussing in my crib. Mom told him that I seemed quite content,and didn't fuss at all. I just did not get sleepy until later on. The wise pediatrician told her that that was just my own sleep pattern and that I was probably a night owl. He told her about an older child who was a patient of his; she stayed up late reading until she felt drowsy. Maybe that would happen to me. What a prophetic statement! No matter how early I go to bed, I can rarely fall asleep until after ten. I keep a stack of books at my beside and read until I feel sleepy.

I have had to get up before dawn for a gym program that my doctor wants me to follow. It is NOT easy! I do it, but have had to work at it. There have been days when I think I fell asleep driving there, which scares me. I am working at modifying my exercise so I can sleep later. I do all the gym type exercises at the gym,and the other things later in the day.

I wonder if the fact that I was born at 9:30PM has something to do with my being a night person!?

Nancy said...

Definitely an owl! Drove my mother crazy when I was young - she is such a lark! Fortunately, my freshman year, I was assigned a roommate who was also an owl. When we awoke for an early class, we would get ready, go to breakfast, and go to class - all without talking, until after that god-awful early class!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Debs, I am totally an owl. I, like you would do well on a Mexican (or any of the siesta countries) schedule. It's exacerbated now by my lupus and fibromyalgia. If I have to get up early, I must set the alarm for 3-4 houra than most would have to. My body has to have time to wake up and begin functioning. I have to be up for an hour or two before I can take a shower, which requires a lot of reaching and stretching to do properly.

By 9 or 10 pm, my body's warmed up and in as good a shape as it will get all day (if I didn't get up early and wear it out), and my brain and creative juices are cooking on high. We're in a lark's world, though, and owls are seen as lacking in moral fiber.

lil Gluckstern said...

You all seem to have found your rhythms, and I think it's fine. I used to be a lark-taking care of children and pets,but now I am an owl. I find I like the silence, and I can do what i want (read), and there is very little outside noise to bother me.

Reine said...

Deborah, are you saying that I, an owl who was raised by very annoying larks - The Beastie Girls - can relax and stop trying to emulate their wonderful herselfs? May all the blessings of the universe head your way, then.

Zee said...

Owl. Which,as I am a teacher is pure hell. My students know not to ask me complicated questions untill the end of first period.

I hated the job, but for by body clock my job as the evening manager of a large department store was the best. My employees thought I was weird because I was more awake closing the shop at ten than I was when they turned up at 6.

Reine said...

Lucy, my cat, Buffalo, is a lark, too. He (his 22lb Maine Coon self) does chest compressions on me if I'm not out of bed and dressed by 7:00. Once I'm up he takes off to watch the birds eating in the courtyard. My husband, who is an alternating-intermittent chronotype, says I'm lucky Buffalo gives me till 7.

Hallie Ephron said...

May I just say, I LOVE TO SLEEP! And isn't it nice to see so many fellow larks, a downright exaltation.

Rosemary Harris said...

I loved that book An Exhaltation of Larks!

Rosemary Harris said...

....exaltation. And a group of owls is a parliament of owls.

Deb said...

Ro, I love "a parliament of owls"!

I consider myself fortunate that all my animals like a lie-in. Usually I have to wake the dog up.

I'd better start adjusting my body clock if I'm going to walk the dog in the morning however, as we are moving into Texas summer where if you don't get out before 8 am, you roast.

Marni said...

Debs, I'm with you on the owl. Spent my life adjusting to lark schedules for work and now that I'm able to write full time, the owl is here to stay!

Mar (aka mar annabelle jacob) said...

Been an owl from the day I was born - who came up with the crazy idea of setting an alarm to wake you up to start your day????

Don't they realize days go much better when you wake when your body is ready :O)

Confirmed Night Owl and proud of it!!!

hugs
mar