Night Owls: Why People Should Say Thanks for Saving Humanity

a digital rendering of a cute owl
a digital rendering of a cute owl

Image created and owned by author with AI drawing tool

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

There goes the damn General Electric Digital Clock Radio, model 7–4612, that everyone had in their homes for decades. The stuff of nightmares, I say.

Because I was, am, and forever will be a night owl.

We, the sleepless beasts of night that hover in the dark alleys smoking, jogging around silently, closing the bars out, and writing the stories of nightmares and dreams. Or sometimes both.

I think it’s about time we are owed a simple “thank you” from humanity.

We didn’t ask for this

Thousands of years ago, when our ancestors huddled in small groups surrounded by scary woods full of dangerous creatures, they slept peacefully.

But we were awake.

Protecting the tribe, crafting our ideas, watching over them. But not in a creepy way, of course. For the most part, anyway.

When they were dreaming of gathering juicy berries in the morning, 24% of us were scribbling on the walls, drawing fascination from humans millennia in the future.

Digital drawing of ancient cave paintings stick figures

Image created and owned by author with AI drawing tool

And yet, we didn’t choose to live this way. Apparently, our affliction might be entirely genetic.

And it makes sense.

When researchers went to look at a tribe that still follows the chic hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the ancient past, they found only 18 minutes of 220 tracked hours when the entire tribe of 33 people were asleep at the same time.

With lions and tigers and bears and oh my god who knows what else stalking us in the distance at night, someone from the tribe was always awake to alert us.

For thousands of years, our genetics ensured we had a mutually protective pact, where regardless of fights and feuds and frisky couples, we collectively stood alert for danger at all times of night and day.

Then they broke the agreement

At some point far in the future, the night owls were betrayed. Society developed. Time was invented. Annoying alarm clocks and required morning brews and office meetings and roll calls and ungodly traffic forced us all into a paradigm of annoyance and incessant sleep deprivation.

They now say we are afflicted.

That we’re lazy. That we just need to go to bed on time and grow up. That we live in chronic jet lag.

Our naturally preferred slumber habits are so egregiously offensive to normal society that we are even deemed deficient! That we have a delayed sleep phase “disorder.

In the eyes of society, we are broken.

And now, with the rules imposed upon us after spending millennia keeping guard at night, are we thanked?

Of course, not!

Rather, because we are perpetually waking up far earlier than we wish to, we night owls suffer from depression and anxiety at far higher rates. We eat poorly. We smoke more cigarettes and drink more boozy bottles of fate undecided.

We go to their schools at the ungodly hours of 7 AM and suffer from lower academic performance as a result. And since our society is ruled by grades and names of schools that often teach us very little, our lifetime income is degraded, too.

And yet paradoxically, research has found we should be the opposite.

That nocturnal creatures such as us are actually the ones with higher IQs on average than our day-walking compatriots. That we night owls are often able to work far longer throughout the day, while our sleepy morning cousins lose steam after the sun draws its last breath. And that we are more creative, crafting the stories, drawing the pictures, and architecting the buildings the sun-eaters consume, awe, and live inside.

They even see the world differently

Remember the infamous blue, black, white, and gold viral dress in 2015? I would post it here but someone decided to make copyright a thing. Probably daylighters.

A digital drawing of a dress

Created and owned by author with AI drawing tool

It was the dress that broke the internet. People all over the world argued that the dress was either white and gold or blue and black.

A scientist named Pascal Wallisch studied the dress intently. Or rather, studied the people who observed the dress. His experiment found what we night owls have long known.

The daylighters saw what they wanted to see — and not what was actually there.

The day walkers, the morning larks, the rest of society, all unconsciously assumed the dress was in a shadow, and therefore the colors were white and gold. But in reality, the dress was black and blue and the picture was simply overexposed.

Around 30% of the 13,000 people surveyed clearly saw the dress as being black and blue. Those same people identified as being one of us, the rulers of the night.

The colors simply matched what we were more exposed to during our life. Daylight versus darkness. A story as old as time.

You know what would be a nice ending to that story?

A simple thanks from the sun eaters.

Thanks for conforming to society’s strict wake-up times. Thanks for fighting those lions all those centuries ago. Thanks for being the first black president of the US, for winning WWII, for Lord of the Rings and “Purple Rain” and “Like a Rolling Stone” and Jungian psychology.

Thanks for adapting to the rest of society’s weird morning-houred whims.

And thanks for that late-night snack one of us prepared one time because we were still awake and wanted to make a day walker a little bit happier.

Or at the very least, a little thanks for writing this weird little rant.


J.J. Pryor

Head over here for more of my written shenanigans.

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