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Early birds, nights owls

February 11, 2011

My whole life, I have woken up when the sun comes in my window. My body seems to think that light coming in on my eyelids means it is time to awaken. However, I would not call myself an early bird because if the sun is not coming in my window, I do not wake up. For example, last Saturday, when I had worn a sleep mask over my eyes on Friday night. I woke up and it was nearly 10 a.m. – in other words, I had tricked my body. Well, my room faces East, and the light is coming in earlier and earlier now. I needed some sleep.

I also would not call myself an early bird because, well, I have to admit that I do not like mornings all that much. I have never been a person who leaps out of bed with a smile on my face and a song in my mouth. In fact, I usually lay in bed and turn on either the TV or radio, listen for up to a half hour, and then get myself out of bed. I like the things that go along with mornings – the stillness, the smell after an overnight rainstorm. But the time aspect…my circadian rhythm is not a big fan, sun or no sun.

Back in the late 90s, when I was working for a (well-known) airplane manufacturer, I would get up, get ready, drag myself into work and encounter a co-worker, who always had a big smile and said “GOOD MORNING!!” This man honestly liked life, and liked mornings. I, on the other hand, was living in a perpetual state of exhaustion, as I was working full-time and going to school (effectively) full-time. I was not able to return his greeting, and he thought I was upset, or always in a bad mood. I finally told him that I needed time to be able to wake up before I could speak with any enthusiasm. Though I do not think he understood it, he accepted it.

Does that make me a night owl? Perhaps. In general, I have an easier time staying up late than I do in waking up early, sun or no sun. When I worked in a position that had me getting off at nearly 2 a.m., I was okay driving home. I could function without feeling as if I was about to drop. I have actually stayed up all night more than once and been able to function the next day.

In the morning, I tend to work on auto pilot – I get up, wash my face, brush my teeth, make breakfast, get dressed, and leave. I do not leave a lot of time for other morning activities. I do not leave myself time to work out or shower – I would rather do those things in the evening, before I go to bed. That being said, I have had my days where I am so tired that I am asleep by 9 p.m.

So I ask – am I an early bird, a night owl, or neither? Is this another categorizing exercise where I fit into neither box?

This topic comes up because I seem to be working with morning people again – at least my counterpart seems to be a morning person. Every morning that I arrive to the library, I say my ‘good morning’ to people and my counterpart always asks how I am doing. The answer is always the same – fine. She once asked me why I say fine, and I told her I am not a morning person. This morning, she asked me how I am and I responded “as always in the morning”.

I don’t begrudge morning people their enthusiasm – I just wish they realized that I don’t share it. I like sunshine. I do not like sunshine in my eyes at 5 a.m. (which will happen come June).  I take some time to effectively function in the morning.

So whether I am an early bird, a night owl, or something in between, I don’t really know. Perhaps I need to start following the advice of “fake it until you make it” or something like that – pretend I am awake and chipper, and it will come true?

Or perhaps I should embrace my slowness in the mornings – after all, sometimes I get creative inspiration during those times. Either way, my circadian rhythm is what it is – I just try not to mess with it too much.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Janis permalink
    February 11, 2011 6:28 am

    Karin- If you’re not a morning person, you’re not a morning person. Its OK! Of course, I say that because I’m NOT a morning person either. I’m a classic night owl. I wish the business world started at around 1pm and lasted until 9 or 10pm. I would be a great person to work the 2nd or 3rd shift- if they had those in education 🙂 Maybe you’re a mix- perhaps you were born in the afternoon?? I have a theory that the time you were born determines whether you’re a night owl or early bird.
    Either way- know that there are others like you out there!! And tell those happy, chipper people in the morning- shove it 😉

  2. Mom permalink
    February 13, 2011 10:49 am

    Gee whiz–you’re just normal. Most people tend to sleep longer if the light, an alarm, children, pets or something else doesn’t wake them. Be thankful you are able to sleep.

  3. February 13, 2011 10:57 am

    Actually, most people do not. It depends on a person’s circadian rhythm. And no, often I am not able to sleep. At least not a full night anymore.

    • Mom permalink
      February 15, 2011 9:11 am

      You always stayed up late (11:PM) and got up early (5:AM), since you were a wee child. So nothing has changed.
      Being an “oldster” I have a good frame of reference for sleep issues. I don’t know anything about “circadian rhythm,” but I do know that daily stress, lack of exercise, diet and other things can cause sleep issues. And, factually, the older we become the less sleep we require for some reason. (I am up and down and frequently get only 4-5 hours of sleep per night. However, the harder I work/exercise during the day, the sounder I sleep at night.) Just like everything else in life, there are so many variables…..

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