When it comes to personality traits surrounding the sleep-wake cycle and internal clocks, “normal” depends on your point of reference. In our Western society, and most other societies for that matter, we tend to gauge normal by something I refer to as “larkish” standards. That typically tends to be a diurnal, or two-part, cycle that is divided into day and night, where you are expected to be active during the day, and rest or sleep at night.
That doesn’t happen to be my normal. I march to the tock of a different clock, and I am of the mind that my particular clock is absolutely normal – because I am decidedly “owlish”.
Now that I’ve made reference to being larkish and owlish, I should probably explain. I don’t know which brilliant observer was first to identify these bird-like traits in our human behavior, or what prompted the comparison, but we’re going to just go with that train of thought here.
Let’s start with the Lark, also known in many circles as an Early Bird. This label is assigned to those early risers, up at the butt-crack of dawn, children of the
cor – er, children of the light. The scientific term generally used to apply to this group is diurnal, as mentioned earlier – meaning they prefer to be active during the day and rest at night. It has been reported that Larks tend to reach their peak performance before noon, and begin to feel drained shortly after dinner, winding down in preparation for an early bedtime. Most Larks like to retire as early as they rise, calling it a night by nine, ten at the latest. A quick query using your favorite search engine would most likely lead you to the studies that report one out of every ten people can be classified as a Lark. You may also encounter a missive issued by Ben Franklin that says something about this particular behavior leading to health, wealth, and wisdom. Most people don’t realize that Mr. Franklin was probably leading a ‘do as I say’ lifestyle, as it is rumored that he had a fondness for “socializing” well into the late evening hours.
As far as sleeping habits are concerned, Owls tend to be almost the opposite of Larks, and are often referred to as Night owls – a nod to their proclivity for nighttime activity. The scientific term applied here is nocturnal – meaning this group tends to be active into the wee hours of the night and rest (if they can) during the day. For many Owls, the best part of morning is noon, and they are very likely to become more energetic as the day progresses, reaching peak performance in the early evening. True Owls find it difficult to fall asleep before midnight, routinely staying up until two or three in the morning. It is not unusual to hear them say they rarely get into bed on the same day they got out of bed. If you were to continue reading the results from your previous search engine query, you would find reports that claim two of every ten people can be classified as Owls. Question: if Larks represent the norm, why are there twice as many Owls? Just asking. There was a time when Owls were thought to be lazy and of lesser intellect than Larks. Current reports debunk this myth, and in fact, show that as a whole, members of the Owl category tend to be at least as healthy and wealthy as their Lark counterparts. And let’s face it, how would one actually quantify wisdom?
Hummingbirds, known only as Hummingbirds, is a term used to apply to everybody else – the remaining seventy percent of the population. Hummingbirds don’t actually have a scientific term assigned to their activity and rest cycles, but I don’t want them to feel left out, so we will call them ambiurnal – meaning they may oscillate between preferences for daytime and nighttime activities as needed, and rest whenever they can. Hummingbirds have the ability to move between morningness and eveningness at will, although some may show distinct “larkish” or “owlish” tendencies by hovering closer to one end of the day-night spectrum or the other.
If you were to place these three birds on a continuum that stretched from morning to night, you would find Larks on the morning end, relishing their worms, and Owls on the evening end, exploring opportunities for a bigger payoff. Hummingbirds would flit back and forth in-between. This is generally of necessity – if they don’t flit, they don’t eat.
I realize this report shows a definite bias, but, as a certified Night Owl, I can’t apologize for that. Blame it on the DNA – I hear that the whole Early Bird/Night Owl thing is genetic, but I will explore that issue in another report.
End entry .\ /.