Dear nurses, doctors, bank bookkeepers, police officers, fire fighters, night school teachers, EMTs, paramedics, grocery store clerks, waitresses, waiters, writers (and basically everyone other than bank tellers and school teachers),
Get a job. A real, respectable job. You know, one that happens when 'normal' people are awake, between the hours of 6am and 8pm. Anything else and you're just a freak, weirdo or criminal.
Does that list surprise you? Do you truly think less of the doctor that saves your life when you have your appendix fail at 2am? Do you disdain the firefighter who saves you from the fire caused by a faulty electrical circuit? Do you look down on the police officer that stops the burglar that would have stolen your family heirlooms?
Of course you don't. But most people also don't bring those individuals to mind when they think of 'night owls.' There are countless articles on teaching people how to return to a 'natural' diurnal circadian rhythm. But what happens if that's not your natural rhythm? Just as people with ADHD may just be a holdover from hunter/gatherer days (the restless hunter), so, too are nocturnal people likely a holdover from days when men and women were needed to watch the tribe while it slept; to protect it from tigers and wolves. Maybe it's simply an evolved trait from the ability to break free of the sun's control.
I'm writing this at 5:30 am, on the late side of the sunrise. Meaning, I really need to be in bed. Unfortunately, the time when my mind seems most open to my muse is between 1-6am. I don't know why, really. Maybe it's the peace and quiet. Sometimes it's that part of sleep right before you slip into dreams that wakes me up. Tonight, it was discovering a colony of carpenter ants trying to invade our front porch right before bed that left my mind noisy and too alert.
Late. Long. It's 5:40 now. I'll probably fall asleep at about 6am and most likely not wake until noon. That's six hours of sleep. If you go to bed at, say, 10pm, that would mean you would wake up at 4am. If someone called you lazy or implied that you were privileged for sleeping until 4am, how would you feel? You'd probably be pissed off and rightly so!
Now, if someone wants to growl at me that I'm lucky to get six hours of uninterrupted sleep (like that's going to happen) who also has a young baby, as I do, then I'm not going to be insulted. I'm going to agree wholeheartedly. I remember my every-two-hour waking firstborn quite clearly. But going to bed at 2am and waking up at 10am (my preferred schedule) is not lazy nor 'lucky,' any more than it is for someone to sleep until 4am after going to bed at 8pm.
This is not a sleeping disorder (though people with sleeping disorders may actually be nocturnal people trying to force themselves to be 'normal'). I'm not talking about delayed sleep phase disorder (which, in my humble opinion, may just be a way to label nocturnal people unfavorably--as a 'illness' rather than a natural state, as homosexuality was once categorized)... although that at least admits that some people do not have a diurnal circadian rhythm.
This is probably my favorite article on being nocturnal. It describes the struggles many nocturnal people face, trying to conform to a diurnal world. This one, from Psychology Today, explores the trend in nocturnal behavior in relation to IQ. And just for fun, here's the wiki on the topic.
My husband is also nocturnal, though not to the same hour that I am. His lends more toward falling asleep at 1-3 while mine is closer to 2-4 and he only typically needs about six hours to my eight. Our kids are also nocturnal, which means that my baby not going to sleep until 2-3am is not a bother to me most of the time. Since they are/will be homeschooled, they do not have to worry about catching a bus at 7am, so they can follow their natural circadian rhythms and sleep on their own schedules. And it does vary a bit through the year.
So, the next time a friend tells you that they slept until noon, don't assume that they slept for 10-14 hours (not that hypersomnia isn't quite possible, but if someone needs to sleep that long, then sleeping for 6-8 hours, as most people do, is miserable). Don't assume that they are undisciplined or lazy. Remember that diversity does not end with skin or sex. It continues into the mind. From the non-neurotypical to the nocturnal, just because we are different does not mean we aren't still quite alike in the end.
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Sweet dreams and... good morning.