Growing up, many of us were taught that “the early bird catches the worm.” We were advised to “be up with the lark,” to go to bed early and wake up refreshed at 7 or 8 a.m., or even to be up with the sun. That's fine for about a quarter of the population — the percentage of people believed to be early birds, according to research. But another quarter are natural night owls, who like to stay up late.
Some people feel energized and inspired from the darker nighttime hours, and relish the quiet moments when most people are asleep — even if that means waking later than normal or starting the work day in a considerably drowsy fashion. But night owls need not be ashamed. Our circadian rhythms — when we choose to sleep and for how long — are part of our biology and may well be inherited. Some studies suggest that it’s not healthy to fight the natural sleep instinct. In fact, research has even found a link between night owls and increased memory function, imagination, and creativity.
Many famous and successful figures both past and present have prided themselves on being early birds. But the nocturnal among us are in good company, too. Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Barack Obama, and Keith Richards are all well-known night-dwellers, to name just a few. There can be an upside to staying up late, as the following quotes from notable night owls ably attest.
There is a romance about all who are abroad in the black hours.
— Robert Louis Stevenson
What hath night to do with sleep? / Night hath better sweets to prove, / Venus now wakes, and wak’ns Love.
— John Milton
When I am... completely myself, entirely alone… or during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how these ideas come I know not nor can I force them.
— Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock is a scoundrel.
— Samuel Johnson
I seldom went to bed before two or three o'clock in the morning, on the theory that if anything of interest were to happen to a young man it would almost certainly happen late at night.
— E.B. White
I'm a night owl, and luckily my profession supports that. The best ideas come to me in the dead of night.
— Josh Fox, film director and playwright
When the sun goes down, my whole body starts to come alive… I'm still naturally a night owl. If it were up to me, my favorite time to work would be between 3 to 4 a.m., which is what it used to be before my baby was born.
— Christina Aguilera
I do my best thinking at night when everyone else is sleeping. No interruptions. No noise. I like the feeling of being awake when no one else is.
― Jennifer Niven, author
Left to my own devices, with no family, I'd start writing at 7 p.m. and stop at 4 a.m. … Late nights are wonderfully tranquil. No phone calls, no interruptions. I like the feeling of knowing that nobody is trying to reach me.
— Michael Lewis, author and financial journalist
I do most of my writing in bed, late at night after everyone has gone to sleep. I need to be alone with my thoughts, and late at night is about the only time that can actually happen.
— Donald Driver, author and NFL wide receiver
If I have questions about the universe on my mind when I go to bed, I can't turn off. I dream equations all night.
— Stephen Hawking
There’s something magical about that late-night silence that appeals to me. My mind becomes very quiet. I can enter the fictional world much more fully.
— Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author and poet
No civilized person ever goes to bed the same day he gets up.
— Richard Harding Davis, journalist and writer
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