Night owl (person)
A night owl, evening person or simply owl, is a person who tends to stay up until late at night, or the early hours of the morning. 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. In several countries, especially in Scandinavia, early birds are called A-people and night owls are called B-people.
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, except for 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.
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, radiographers, pharmacists, and phlebotomists;
- managers for each of the main hospital wards or activities, including janitorial supervisors and head nurses.
Industries that tend to be less favorable to night owls include farming, construction, education, and working for public utilities. Many employees in these industries start working before 7:00 a.m.
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
- 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
- Frank Zappa
In pop culture
- 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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- The Little River Band All-Time Greatest Hits 1990 CEMA Special Markets
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- 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