Compendium | ‘A call to end circadian discrimination’

It’s 6 a.m., and daylight has begun to peer out timidly above the horizon. The morning people are starting their days, sipping their coffee, and tightening their neckties. I, on the other hand, am wrapping up my night, and have long since discounted the possibility of such an early-rising lifestyle…

I’ve done it again, stayed up ridiculously late. Or is it early? My mind is starting to get hazy, my eyes strained. I should be fast asleep right now, deep in the dream-daze of REM sleep, with a few hours to go until a wailing alarm clock jolts me awake for my morning obligations. Instead, I opted to roam the empty city streets, read Hunter S. Thompson (an infamously late riser himself), and browse Wikipedia for hours on end. Not only am I now an expert on the Battle of Thermopylae, but I’ve just passed what I like to call ‘the Threshold’ – that final boundary of drowsiness that fades away when you’ve been tired for so long that you feel wide awake.

A few years ago, the notion of regularly waking at 3 p.m. would have struck me as absurd. Half the day, wasted! Obligations and opportunities, neglected! And what about my education? Well, there’s no denying that the 7:17 a.m. morning bell made it difficult, if not downright unhealthy, to live on the later side of things during my high school career. Many an all-nighter was pulled, and first period passed by blurrily at best. Fortunately, the freedom and independence granted to a university student are much more accommodating to these tendencies. I do applaud McGill for offering an adequate variety of evening courses – one can design a class schedule with no academic commitments before one in the afternoon, which can allow for the sustainment of a 5 a.m. bedtime. I do, however, view 8:30 a.m. classes as a kind of cruel joke, and avoid them like a plague. Even the morning people dread them. It’s a shame, because some of those subjects seem quite interesting. Thus, I call for their immediate abolition (expect a full-scale protest movement to follow suit).

It’s hard to deny that night owls are missing out on the many advantages inherent to the world of daylight. We sacrifice suntans, matinee prices, and if I’m being entirely honest, a few decent career paths. But I genuinely believe that morning people are missing out on just as much. There’s something irreplaceable about being up at those really obscure hours – and if this all seems like crazy talk to you, I’ll do my best to explain. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that many night people form their unorthodox sleeping habits out of an appreciation for night time, rather than some deficiency of motivation. As the great novelist Robert Louis Stevenson once put it, “There is a romance about all those who are abroad in the black hours.” Is it the morning glory of a pastel sunrise? The rare sense of tranquility that can only be felt while the rest of the world sleeps? Or perhaps it’s something else, something deeper, fundamental to the spirit?

Whatever the reason, circadian discrimination has no place in our post-agrarian world.  Waking up with the sun may seem natural to some people, but to those of us who are wired differently, it’s highly unpleasant, both physically and mentally. On the bright side, progress is being made. More and more employers are allowing their workers to telecommute, them the same amount of work but on a much more agreeable itinerary, granting substantial benefits to an employee’s attitude and well being. Groups of compassionate parents across North America, armed with the results of countless contemporary studies, are pushing for more reasonable school hours across the board. No one is trying to force the general public to accept a different sleep pattern. All we’re asking for is a new way of living that better conciliates the preferences of both morning people, night people, and everyone in between.

At the end of the day, my goal is to own my sleep schedule, rather than let it own me.  In the occasional case of an absolutely imperative morning commitment, a few strategically-timed naps get my sleep schedule back on track with little to no fatigue. Others may stand by their regular interval of eight hours nightly, and you know what, more power to ‘em. But for me, the latest hours are the greatest hours. So whether you’re an insomniac, graffiti artist, or graveyard shift worker, here’s to all the people rocking the nocturnal lifestyle out there. Cheers, and good night.


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