North American society isn't friendly to a night owl. I come from a family of late to bed, late to risers, so it took me awhile to realize the rest of Canada was running on a different schedule. When I was in Grade Six, I called my friend at 9:15 p.m. on a Friday night and can still remember the horror in her mother's voice. "It's after nine o'clock," she hissed at me, as if I had just egged their house or committed some other deviant act. I got my payback a few years later when the same friend called me at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning "just to say hi".
By high school, I had noticed a distinct correlation between my lowest grades and the 8:15 a.m. time slot and began arranging my semester schedule to compensate for this built-in handicap. First period spare, anyone? In one unfortunate year when I couldn't push back my start time, I was late so many times that I was threatened with suspension. This led to the ridiculous day where I arrived at 8:17 a.m. and had to skip my class completely, because the consequence of missing all sixty minutes of the class was a detention, but missing the first two minutes meant a three-day suspension.
Around this time I started contemplating a move to Europe, land of the siesta and 9:00 p.m. dinners. My mind drifted to a warm, happy place of dancing all night and sleeping all day, a paradise where I would never need an alarm clock again. Sadly a lack of traveling funds and love for my boyfriend kept me in Canada, where university provided a brief respite from a world ruled by morning people before graduation and full-time employment brought back the tyranny. On top of baggy eyes and dull skin, the return of early mornings promptly added an extra twenty pounds to my exhausted body, as I tried to cope with my violated sleep cycle and obscenely perky co-workers by stuffing myself with doughnuts and chocolate.
Then came parenting, the great leveller. My inner mean girl snickered when I heard all those early birds squawking about how tired they were now that they had kids. Welcome to my world, I wanted to say. Getting up at 2:00 a.m. with a baby has never been overly stressful for me, because my body wants to be awake then anyway. Not being able to sleep in on the weekend could be difficult, but I have a kind husband who gets up with the kids, having been brought up in a household that actually wakes up at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning on purpose before heading out for a grease-laden breakfast.
A smoother adjustment to parenthood is one thing, but I recently learned of the ultimate reward for a lifetime of torturous mornings and being mocked as a sloth. Researchers have discovered a gene mutation that suggests night owls live six hours longer than morning people. Guess the early bird catches more than the worm.