Society has long promoted the notion that early risers are the most productive people, and anyone who keeps late hours is lazy, perhaps even poor at adapting. It’s largely a myth, a relic of humanity’s pastoral history and religious heritage where life revolved around farm chores, and being ready for morning church or equivalent services.
The truth is most morning people are toast by mid afternoon. Forget about a second wind, unless it’s a light breeze, and don’t expect much from them in the evenings. Meanwhile us night folk are having additional bursts of energy, having trouble getting to sleep while the supposed role models are passing out on their couches, halfway through their favourite show or game, wasting their leisure time.
It’s subjective to the industry you work, and I’ve certainly worked some jobs where the days make the nights look trivial. I’ve also worked a lot more where the day staff have a punchclock mentality, knowing they can pass off their unfinished work to the night crew, who only get to leave when the work is done – sometimes, that means a 12 to 16 hour shift with no break.
While the day team are counting down the hours, frequently killing or wasting time, the night squad are hauling ass to make sure they can get home at a reasonable hour, or at all (not an exaggeration, especially for those who rely on public transit past midnight). It’s a different kind of pressure when the morning people leave you with a ton of work, and if you don’t haul ass all night with no meal time, you can choose between losing a good chunk of the day’s wages to a cab ride, or being stuck waiting till dawn, and not even having enough time to get home for a decent sleep before the next shift.
Another, frankly pathetic falsehood is the idea that drinkers are more productive than stoners – thankfully this notion is changing due to cannabis legalization, but we’re still dealing with bogus stereotypes of the slacker idiot pothead who’s always late, and gets nothing done. In reality, that kind of person is more likely to be a heavy drinker, no doubt with a hard working stoner cleaning up after them in the evening, and saving their job.
While I’ve certainly encountered my fair share of amateur stoners (funnily enough, usually low volume users), most who continue to consume cannabis frequently into their late 20’s and beyond do so because they are overworked, stressed, and likely dealing with heavy insomnia. Almost all of them are night people. They don’t get to run away from their problems at 5pm, and instead of being tired most of the day, they have trouble winding down. Their productivity is a constant going concern, not just a daytime one.
There are, of course, a lot of people with seasonal depression who legitimately need sun to function well. I feel for them, but I also know there are plenty who stop putting any effort into anything on the first grey day of fall, and continue to leverage that laziness for months while us late risers and winter lovers, yet again, put out their fires and clean up their messes. Not all of us have the luxury of using fickle things like sunshine (or hangovers) as an excuse, and we’re held to a much different standard, likely by hypocritical day people who can’t even approach such expectations.
Even the early risers I know who are more productive are working 16 to 36 hour shifts, so they are night people as much as morning ones. Every good old fashioned, crack of dawn type I know is tired all the time, whether they’re busy or not. It’s not natural for most people to be up at the proverbial rooster’s crow, mainly because most of us don’t live on a bloody farm anymore, and any old schooler that thinks it’s a manhood thing can fuck off back to the 1800’s where they belong. Most of them wouldn’t last an hour at a lot of the job’s I’ve had.
A lot of industries that require such hours – especially construction – are loaded with fake tough guy time wasters, who only work such long hours because they have nothing better to do. Hard work isn’t long hours, it’s using every moment to the best of your ability, and a lot of these fugazis would be more tired after doing a few hours of evening service in a busy downtown restaurant. You know, where the pace is set for you, and your break time is five minutes (if you’re lucky), not an hour. If you think outdoor manual labour is tough, try doing dishes at a restaurant that seats a few hundred. I’ve done both, and digging eight food holes in the summer sun is child’s play by comparison.
Sleeping past midday, I can work 29 to 30 days a month. Waking up early, by the sixth straight day of work, I’m tapped, no matter what kind of work it is, or how busy it is. The mornings are fine, but I feel like shit from mid afternoon on and it never fully goes away, no matter what I do. Forget working out six days a week, I’m lucky to do four, but with the late energy bursts of a nocturnal schedule, I exercise an average of two hours every day.
Really, the early riser/hard drinker role model is a holdover from our conservative past, and in this day and age, usually an indicator of those without many interests or much of a social life. It ties in with herd mentality, and the idea that night people are inherently sketchy, because we choose the individuality afforded by not letting the sun dictate our lives. It also ties in with a lot of time wasting, be it on the job, at the bar or with a hangover.
This piece isn’t an attack on morning people and drinkers so much as a defense of night folk and stoners, and an acknowledgement of their tireless work, often out of view. You may look at sleeping late as a luxury, but so is leaving work at a set time, instead of when all the work is done. So is allowing productivity to be determined by the sun or a hangover, instead of having to produce at all hours, in all seasons. Nocturnal hours are not a phase to be grown out of, but the assumption that being an early riser is a sign of maturity and productivity is like saying religion makes you inherently ethical – and those two archaic notions are deeply linked.
Night people tend to be more self-motivated, better independent thinkers and far more adaptable in my experience. We’re usually not as codified in the lazy false morality of religious life, as we toil quietly into the night, often with fewer witnesses and less praise, but usually also with fewer interferences and less criticism. We are better at being alone, and often know ourselves better as a result.
When people (usually Boomers) wonder how I work and work out so much despite my late hours and heavy weed habit (22 years and counting), I tell them it’s BECAUSE of those things. I have an edge by taking the edge off with a natural substance suitable for daily use, instead of fermented grains and fruits that fuck with my sleep and kill my cardio more than any amount of pot smoke ever could (and I only use edibles now anyhow).
I don’t try to force myself to bed at some unnatural hour to fit a preconceived idea of how a man is supposed to operate at my age, screwing myself out of sleep by trying to get more. I know damn well my brain and body treats going to bed before 5AM as an utter personal failure, regardless of how much I’ve done and how tired I am. Some of us are genetically predisposed to it; Society always needs nightwatchers and firekeepers, literal or otherwise. We have the responsibility when nobody else is watching, and it often requires a higher level of discipline and dedication to work unsupervised in the proverbial shadows.
To some the sun is an energy source, but to others like me it is an energy leech. I draw from the moon, and I need the privacy a late schedule affords me. Those of us who are most secure in ourselves often crave this kind of nocturnal solitude. Not every great action requires witnesses, or illumination.