Saturday, July 11, 2009

I’m genetically programmed to sleep in: Science is on my side!

I am not a morning person. Never have been. Never will be. So stop trying to make me one. Otherwise I just may not be a peaceful person anymore. I’ll definitely be cranky.

Oh, sure, I can make it to a 7:00 AM meeting on occasion, if I absolutely have to; I just set my dual alarm on nag and nag some more a little later. But don’t expect me to actively participate in the meeting. My brain doesn’t kick in until a little later in the day. I’ll be lucky to show up dressed decently.

Thanks to dear old Benny Franklin, me and my ilk have been ostracized and derided for decades. You know, Ben’s the smart aleck kite-flyer who coined that inane phrase, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Right. What the heck does that even mean? This from the guy who wore wet shirts on hot sunny days to keep cool. Please!

Ever since this daffy motto appeared in Poor Richard’s, those of us who are more nocturnally inclined have been discriminated against. We’re called sleepy heads, lazy, pillow pushers, and worse. Outcasts. Bums. Where’s our on-the-job accommodation?

But now things are going to be different. Science is on our side! Being an anti-morning person, aka night owl, is in our genes! Check it out: "If you have a hard time crawling out of bed in the morning, it could be that your body is biologically programmed to start the day later."

We truly are allergic to morning. It’s not our fault!!! “Experts say a spectrum of natural sleeping and waking rhythms exists, ranging from extreme morning people to extreme ‘night owls.’”

See that? “Experts” are endorsing our anti-early inclinations. It has nothing to do with lazy! We’ve been trying to tell you all along, you snooty, self-righteous, early morning coffee guzzlers.

Seriously. Have you ever been at a truly productive early morning meeting? There is no such thing. And as far as getting to work “promptly” at 7:00 or 8:00 AM – why? What happens in most companies for the first couple of hours or so? Everyone’s getting coffee, hunting down pastries, warming pastries, making oatmeal, getting more coffee, eating cereal, paying an extended visit to the bathroom, chatting, and, well, you know the drill. No one’s working until at least 10:00 AM. And then it’s time to start thinking about lunch.

Later, all those “early birds” who got the proverbial worm (yuck!) are suffering from sugar crashes at 3:00 PM and dawdling as they eye the clock, straining for 5:00 PM to come. Then they’re gone and done.

Us later-in-the-day starters tend to hit the ground running, and then keep going late into the evening. Why? Because we are happy to follow our natural, in-born rhythms rather than conforming to a senseless and exhausting 9-to-5 routine.

But let’s go back to Ben for a minute. Do you really believe that if Ben Franklin were alive now, surrounded by useable electricity, cable TV, iPods, the Internet, thousands of e-books, and a never-sleeping-always-accessible planet, that he’d be in bed early? No way! The guy’s mind was way too active.

When he quill-penned that misguided platitude it’s not like he had a lot of choice but to go to bed when the sun went down and get up when the sun rose. That’s pretty much what everyone did back then in the semi-dark ages. I guarantee that if Ben F. were alive today he would be searching for whatever it took to never sleep. He’d be up all night chugging Red Bull and popping bennies.

And yet, mindlessly, society tries to shame night owls to change who they are implying that their proclivity to late-night endeavors is somehow evil and less than normal. Shame on all you late-night-o-phobes! Where’s your tolerance for those who are different from you?

States Dr. Nancy Collop, Medical Director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center, “’It's very difficult for a night owl to become a morning person.” All hail genetics! We bow to thee!

Given that the world is a 24/7 wonder, it’s senseless that those of us who are not morning people continue to be castigated, chastised, and chastened. It’s time to get over it already. It takes all kinds to make the sleepless world go ‘round. We sleep in and stay up late. So what?

We are not bad! We are merely genetically designed to sleep in and stay up later than the rest of you weird early risers. Frankly, I think anyone who “naturally” wakes up before 9:00 AM is the real freak of nature. What’s wrong with you anyway? Maybe you just need a more comfortable pillow. And people who “love” getting up at 5:00 AM – you really need therapy; that’s just sick. Seriously. You couldn’t do it without massive amounts of caffeine or drugs, I’m sure.

And don’t even get me started about those “bubbly” early morning people who bounce around like they’re main-lining something way more potent than coffee. Anyone who is extremely cheerful and perky before noon is just not right. Frankly, perky is weird any time of the day. That there are perky people is one reason I don’t own a gun. But I am mulling it over.

Anyway, heed my warning. If you insist that anyone who clearly does not do their best work in the morning attend a 7:00 AM meeting and they snap your head off, don’t blame them; they didn’t want to be there in the first place; and you really didn’t need to call that meeting so early.

Go back to bed already! You really look like you could use a lot more sleep. Getting up early is just showing off. It’s not healthy. Did you know early risers are more susceptible to heart attacks? If that’s not true, it should be.

And me? Don’t underestimate my ability to sleep in. And don’t ever call me before 10:00 AM; or else I’m going to buy that gun. I think it’s time for a nap.



  1. This article sure wan't a snoozer. Perhaps it was the time I read it..middle of the day (11:25 p.m.). Hum.


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