Night owl (person)

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Night owls may make natural amateur astronomers.

A night owl, evening person or simply owl, is a person who tends to stay up until late at night.

The opposite of a night owl is an early bird, a lark as opposed to owl, someone who tends to begin sleeping at a time that is considered early and also wakes early. In several countries, early birds are called "A-people" and night owls are called "B-people."[1][2] Researchers traditionally use the terms "morningness" and "eveningness"[3] for the two chronotypes or diurnality and nocturnality in animal behavior.

Origins of term[edit]

The term is derived from the primarily nocturnal habits of the owl. Usually, people who are night owls stay awake past midnight and extreme night owls may stay awake until just before or after dawn.[4] 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 day-time working hours.

Owls, like this one in Poland, are often nocturnal.
Image of a lark. (Benjamin Franklin said "The early bird gets the worm".)


Researchers have found that the genetic make-up of the circadian timing system underpins the difference between the early bird and the night owl.[5] Some night owls who have great difficulty adopting normal sleeping and waking times may have delayed sleep-phase disorder. Light therapy may be helpful in shifting sleep rhythms for the night owl.[6]

While it has been suggested that circadian rhythms may change over time, turning lark to owl (or vice versa),[7] evidence for familial patterns of early/late waking would seem to contradict this.[8]

Night owls have often been blamed in the past for unpunctuality or attitude problems.[9] Companies, however, have begun to learn to increase productivity by respecting body clocks through flexible working;[10] while the Danish "B-Society" of night owls lobbies actively for more workplace flexibility for the post-agricultural world.[11]

Others like British author Hilary Rubinstein would positively celebrate the status of night-owl: "Blessed are the owls, for they shall inherit the mystery and magic of the night."[12]


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. A survey of over 400 adults showed approximately 15% morning people, 25% evening people, and 60% intermediates.[13]

Famous exemplars[edit]

A list of famous night owls includes:

Literary examples[edit]

For Robert Louis Stevenson, "there is a romance about all those who are abroad in the black hours."[22]

In Jayne Ann Krentz's Truth or Dare, "Arcadia and Harry were both creatures of the night. They managed to appear oddly stylish at one-thirty in the morning."[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ James, Kyle (1 March 2007). "Late Sleepers in Denmark Rally for Societal Change". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  2. ^ Morris, Chris (14 June 2007). "Late risers unite in Denmark". BBC News Channel. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Stefan Klein, Time (2008) p. 20
  5. ^ Philip Lee Williams, On the Morning (2006) p. 41
  6. ^ Laura H. Smith/Charles H. Elliott, Seasonal Affective Disorder for Dummies (2007) p. 73
  7. ^ Jeff Belanger/Kirsten Dalley, The Nightmare Encyclopedia (2005) p. 83
  8. ^ Klein, p. 21
  9. ^ Gayle Greene, Insomniac (2008) p. 345
  10. ^ Klein, p. 33
  11. ^ Greene, p. 345
  12. ^ Hilary Rubinstein, The Complete Insomniac (London 1974) p. 19
  13. ^ Schur, Carolyn (1994). "excerpt". Birds of a Different Feather. Saskatoon, Canada: Schur Goode Associates. ISBN 0-9698190-0-5. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  14. ^ "Authors' sleep patterns & productivity". ShortList. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Daily Rituals: Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, and other artists who did great work in the wee hours.". Slate. 
  16. ^ "11 Bizarre Sleeping Habits Of Highly Successful People". SF Gate. 
  17. ^ "The Vulture Transcript: Fran Lebowitz on Sarah Palin, Keith Richards, Her Side Career As a Law & Order Judge, and Much More". Vulture. 
  18. ^ McCullough, David. Truman. Simon & Shuster. p. 508. ISBN 978-0671456542. 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Robert G. Moeller "The Nazi State and German Society" (Bedford Books, 2010), 169-170.
  21. ^ "J.R.R. Tolkien Quote". Goodreads. 
  22. ^ Quoted in Rubinstein p. 211
  23. ^ Jayne Ann Krentz, Truth and Dare (Penguin 2004) p. 258

Further reading[edit]

Louise Miller, Careers for Night Owls and Other Insomniacs (2002)

J. Dunlap et al., Chronobiology (2004)

External links[edit]