The world is divided into two types of people: those who awaken before sunrise, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and those who stay up, and up, and up as night deepens. One group will never understand the other, and getting such disparate biological clocks to sync is a Sisyphean act, as useless as it is exhausting.
I know this perhaps better than most. I’m a true morning lark. I rarely need an alarm and even on the days I delay bedtime for a social event I awaken within minutes of 5 o’clock. Long before most anyone is up and about, I’m prowling the house. I walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, tidy up the TV room, work out at the gym. I read. I write. On the occasional weekend day, I traipse through the darkness to my neighbor’s for a shot of cinnamon-spiked coffee and girlfriend talk. Like me, she’s always up before sunrise.
As a die-hard morning person, I was the dweeb who happily signed up for the 8 a.m. class in college, and after so many years of this habit, I treasure the quiet of those early hours. Now more than ever this is sacred space, the only time devoted to me and me alone.
It’s amazing what you witness when much of the world sleeps. I’ve spotted foxes darting across the street, heard the sonic boom of a military aircraft overhead and smelled the first gardenia blooms in spring. I also know who turns on their porch lights and who keeps their pets outside. I’ve broken up a few cat fights, too.
But here’s the rub: Not everyone is on my schedule. In fact, most of my relatives prefer to sleep in and they’ve actually admonished me for sending texts during those bleary-eyed hours. As a result, I’ve learned to control my twitching fingers. Yet, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this behavior. My best ideas and sharpest thoughts arrive, usually unbidden, during this time and I want to share them while they’re still fresh.
Night owls think morning people are annoying. And chirpy. And arrogant. They may have a point. We early risers like to brag about all we get done while the world sleeps. We proselytize about the benefits: morning people are more productive, make healthier choices, are less stressed, and tend to do better at keeping weight off.
On the other hand, we’re nodding off at dessert just as others are ready to party. Believe me, this up-and-at-’em routine can get in the way of relationships. We’ve sacrificed outings with dear friends who like to stay up past midnight. The horror!
The Hubby is not a morning person, though he wouldn’t qualify as a night owl either. He is more of a hummingbird who has adapted, somewhat, to my schedule, sleeping in as much as he can and rising an hour or two later — probably just to check up on my wanderings. I’ve found it nearly impossible to control my natural circadian rhythm, so when on vacation, he brings along a blindfold and I a little book light, so we can tolerate each other’s habits when trapped in the same hotel room.
Like our squabbles over the thermostat, this ongoing discussion over our contrasting sleep patterns won’t ever be settled. It’s one of those issues a marriage must negotiate, along with in-laws, household budgets and closet space.
Then again, so much of life and relationships is about compromise.