Night owl (person)
A night owl, evening person or simply owl, is a person who tends to stay up until late at night. In several countries, especially in Scandinavia, early birds are called A-people and night owls are called B-people. Night owls who are involuntarily unable to fall asleep for several hours after a normal time may have delayed sleep phase syndrome.
The opposite of a night owl is an early bird – a lark as opposed to an owl – which is someone who tends to begin sleeping at a time that is considered early and also wakes early. Researchers traditionally use the terms morningness and eveningness for the two chronotypes or diurnality and nocturnality in animal behavior.
Origins of term
The term is derived from the primarily nocturnal habits of the owl. Most owls sleep during the day and hunt for food at night.
Usually, people who are night owls stay awake past midnight, and extreme night owls may stay awake until just before or even after dawn. Night owls tend to feel most energetic just before they go to sleep at night.
Some night owls have a preference or habit for staying up late, or stay up to work the night shift. Night owls who work the day shift often have difficulties adapting to standard daytime working hours.
Night owls have often been blamed for unpunctuality or attitude problems. Employers, however, have begun to learn to increase productivity by respecting body clocks through flexible working hours, while the Danish "B-Society" of night owls and the American Start School Later movement lobby actively for more school and workplace flexibility for the post-agricultural world.
Some research has found that night owls are more intelligent and creative and more likely to get high-paying jobs than larks. A study among 1000 adolescents by the University of Madrid found that owls are better than early birds in intuitive intelligence, creative thinking and inductive reasoning. However, they lag behind larks in academic performance, and they tend to have unhealthier eating habits.
Some night owls with great difficulty adopting normal sleeping and waking times may have delayed sleep-phase disorder. Morning light therapy may be helpful in shifting sleep rhythms for the night owl.
The tendency to be a night owl exists on a spectrum, with most people being typical, some people having a small or moderate tendency to be a night owl, and a few having an extreme tendency to be a night owl. An individual's own tendency can change over time and is influenced by multiple factors, including:
- a genetic predisposition, which can cause the tendency to run in families,
- the person's age, with teenagers and young adults tending to be night owls more than young children or elderly people, and
- the environment the person lives in, especially the patterns of light they are exposed to through seasonal changes as well as through lifestyle (such as spending the day indoors and using electric lights in the evening).
The genetic make-up of the circadian timing system underpins the difference between early and late chronotypes, or early birds and night owls. While it has been suggested that circadian rhythms may change over time, including dramatic changes that turn a morning lark to a night owl or vice versa, evidence for familial patterns of early or late waking would seem to contradict this, and individual changes are likely on a smaller scale.
Discussions and studies about the prevalence of morning, evening, and indifferent or intermediate chronotypes use different criteria and come to different results. Some ask what time people do go to sleep and wake up—others ask what time people would prefer to, while researchers like Till Roenneberg's team consider the difference between a person's sleep times on work/school days versus on free days. One survey of over 400 adults showed approximately 15% morning people, 25% evening people, and 60% intermediates.
Night owls tend to thrive in careers that do not require working in the early morning. People who want to work in the evening are often employed at restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, retail stores, and some personal care businesses. Night owls who work the night shift may work in emergency services, in transportation, or at round-the-clock facilities, such as hospitals and some manufacturing plants.
Many businesses that operate in the evening or at night need employees at all levels, from entry-level employees to managers to skilled staff, whenever they are open. For example, most hospitals employ many types of workers around the clock:
- non-medical staff such as security guards, IT specialists, cleaning and maintenance workers, cooks and food service staff, and admissions clerks;
- medical staff such as nurses, paramedics, radiology technicians, pharmacists, and phlebotomists;
- managers for each of the main hospital wards or activities, including janitorial supervisors and head nurses.
A list of famous night owls includes:
- Charles Bukowski
- Fidel Castro
- Michael Chabon
- Winston Churchill
- Bob Dylan
- Gustave Flaubert
- Glenn Gould
- Samuel Johnson
- Carl Jung
- Franz Kafka
- Fran Lebowitz
- Marilyn Manson
- Mao Zedong
- Jean-Pierre Melville
- Frank Meyer
- Barack Obama
- Marcel Proust
- George Sand
- Joseph Stalin
- Hunter S. Thompson
- J.R.R. Tolkien
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- John Travolta
- Linus Torvalds
- Chronobiology – the study of sleep cycles and other time-dependent biological systems
- Circadian rhythm sleep disorder
- Delayed sleep phase disorder – an extreme form of being a night owl
- Insomnia – the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Lark (person) – a person who has difficulty staying awake in the evening, and wakes early
- Morningness–eveningness questionnaire (MEQ)
- Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ)
- Zeitgeber – environmental factors, such as bright light, that reinforce sleep–wake cycles
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- Horne JA, Östberg O (1976). "A self-assessment questionnaire to determine morningness-eveningness in human circadian rhythms". Int J Chronobiol. 4 (2): 97–110. PMID 1027738.
- Stefan Klein, Time (2008) p. 20
- Greene, Gayle (2008). Insomniac. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 345. ISBN 9780520259966. OCLC 85817911.
- Klein, p. 33
- "IF YOU WANT TO GET AHEAD, BE A NIGHT OWL" by Roger Dobson; THE INDEPENDENT March 24, 2013
- Walker, R. J., Christopher, A. N., Wieth, M. B., & Buchanan, J. (2015). Personality, time-of-day preference, and eating behavior: The mediational role of morning-eveningness. Personality and Individual Differences, 77, 13–17.
- Laura H. Smith/Charles H. Elliott, Seasonal Affective Disorder for Dummies (2007) p. 73
- Roenneberg, Till; Merrow, Martha (23 May 2016). "The Circadian Clock and Human Health". Current Biology. 26 (10): R432–R443. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.04.011.
- Philip Lee Williams, On the Morning (2006) p. 41
- Jeff Belanger/Kirsten Dalley, The Nightmare Encyclopedia (2005) p. 83
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- Klein, p. 21
- Schur, Carolyn (1994). "excerpt". Birds of a Different Feather. Saskatoon, Canada: Schur Goode Associates. ISBN 0-9698190-0-5. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
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- "On the Cover: Marilyn Manson". Spin. 2007-05-17. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
- Harrison Salisbury (1992). The New Emperors. HarperCollins. p. 103.
- Buckley, William F. Miles Gone Bye: A Literary Autobiography. Regnery Publishing. ISBN 978-0895260895.
- Buncombe, Andrew (2 July 2016). "Barack Obama: The nocturnal habits of America's 'night guy' president revealed". The Independent. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
- "EXCLUSIVE: Inside Prince's Secret Midnight Outings". Antoinette Bueno.
- McCullough, David. Truman. Simon & Schuster. p. 508. ISBN 978-0671456542.
- McKeen, William. Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-393-06192-5.
Sandy maintained the house, tiptoeing around until three o'clock in the afternoon, Hunter's usual waking hour.
- Carpenter, Humphrey (2014-03-04). J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780547524429.
- Elsworth, Catherine. "Travolta turns night owl to protect privacy". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
- Quoted in Rubinstein p. 211
- Jayne Ann Krentz, Truth and Dare (Penguin 2004) p. 258
- Hilary Rubinstein, The Complete Insomniac (London 1974) p. 19
- Elder, Pliny the (2015-08-29). Delphi Complete Works of Pliny the Elder (Illustrated). Delphi Classics.
- The Little River Band All-Time Greatest Hits 1990 CEMA Special Markets
- Louise Miller, Careers for Night Owls and Other Insomniacs (2002)
- J. Dunlap et al., Chronobiology (2004)
- Sleep Discrimination
- Intelligence and Creativity in Night Owls vs. Early Birds with several references to different studies
- Sleep deprivation impacts night owls and early risers differently