The world is stacked against night owls

Joel Scheneman

I hate it. I absolutely hate it. I hate mornings with all my might.  I’m just not wired to be an “early bird.” As each school week goes on, the struggle intensifies. Even with a cup of coffee and a splash of cold water on my face, my mornings still feel sluggish and dreary. I feel as if no matter what I do, I will always be lethargic for the first hours of my day, and I will always be at a disadvantage because of the inflexibility of society’s schedule.

 Early birds have a serious advantage over night owls when it comes to societal schedules. The typical business hours in the US are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. which caters more towards early birds. Considering a majority of the best-paying jobs are these 9-5 jobs such as attorneys, engineers, and architects, night owls have a larger burden to carry than just hard work. They carry the burden of living in a mismatched world, where they work when their body prefers to sleep, and sleep when their body prefers to work.

 Early birds have even more motivation to have a high-paying job because the hours they work will line up perfectly with their preferred sleep schedule. If night owls pursue a higher paying career that is during first shift, they will most likely struggle to get up for work just as much as I struggle to get up early for school.

 It’s not that night owls can’t have high-paying first shift jobs, it’s that if they do, they may experience “social jet lag,” or fatigue that can result from the difference between sleep and social schedules. My average school morning sees me struggling to pay attention, struggling to do quality work, and struggling to remember information from the past class periods.

 The same would go for a job. If I decide to work a first shift job, which is most likely a higher paying job, I would be just as sluggish and unproductive as I am in school. On the flip side, my early bird coworkers would be at max productivity in the first hours of the day, while I would sit sleepily, having never recovered from my poor start that morning.

 Although second and third shift jobs get a bad rap for being “unconventional” or “non traditional,” there are actually plenty of high-quality and well-paying jobs on the second and third shift. The good part comes when night owls are able to choose what shift they work. They will be able to work when they work best and sleep when they sleep best, increasing productivity. The trouble comes when people aren’t given the freedom to choose.

  West Ottawa swim coach Sam Hoekstra has worked a third shift job, but doesn’t consider himself a night owl and prefers to work during the day. “I always felt like I didn’t get to enjoy my afternoons because I had to start getting ready for work well before the sun went down,” Hoekstra said, “and I always felt tired.” If he was able to choose, Hoekstra would have chosen the day shift, which aligns with his preferred sleep schedule. He would have been able to enjoy his afternoons and he would have had a more productive day because his sleep schedule matched his worked schedule. “I definitely prefer the day shift, I have way more energy throughout the day and I don’t have to sleep as much to have that energy,” Hoekstra mentioned. The ability to choose schedules allows for people to be productive, but the inability, like when Hoekstra had to work the night shift, forces people sacrifice sleep and in turn, productivity.

 The lack of choice when it comes to schedules usually happens as a student, which is the most vulnerable time of people’s lives. If I were able to choose the time of my classes I would be more focused and more productive. Yet I don’t have that freedom, so for the rest of my high school career, and part of my college career, there will be one more obstacle that I will have to deal with: sleep deprivation.

 For most, societal schedules do make sense. School and business start/end times accommodate for many people’s need for time with family and friends, or time for hobbies and chores. Though it doesn’t change the fact that night owls are the ones forced to compromise. A majority of societal activities happen during the preferred times of early birds, leaving night owls behind. Every morning when I attempt to get up for school, I am reminded that because I am a night owl, the world is stacked against me.