Sunday, March 27, 2005

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Right profession, wrong stage of life

Warren St. John and Alex Williams have a good article in the New York Times Style section about sleep patterns and the character taits that are often incorrectly derived from them. Among the interesting facts:

Whatever the negative associations with sleeping late, scientists say there's good reason to doubt the boasts of the early risers. Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, a sleep researcher at the University of California, San Diego, said that in one study he attached motion sensors to subjects' wrists to determine when they were up and about. While 5 percent of the subjects claimed they were awake before 4 a.m., Dr. Kripke said, the motion sensors suggested none of them were. And while 10 percent reported they were up and at 'em by 5 a.m., only 5 percent were out of bed....

Dr. Kripke said that a 2001 study of adults in San Diego showed no correlation between waking time and income. There's even anecdotal evidence of parity on the world stage; President Bush is said to wake each day at 5 a.m., to be at his desk by 7 and to go to sleep at 10 p.m., while no less an achiever than Russian President Vladimir V. Putin reportedly wakes at 11 a.m. and works until 2 a.m.

Night owls thrive, it seems, by strategizing around the expectations of the early crowd. Bella M. DePaulo, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who goes to sleep around 3 a.m. and wakes about 11 a.m., said that before she answers the phone in the late morning, she practices saying "Hello" out loud until she sounds awake. Ms. DePaulo said she has been a night person since childhood, and that she gravitated toward academia in part of because of her sleep habits.

"Academia is a good place to be if you're out of the mainstream," she said. "If you're doing 80 hours of work a week, what does it matter what 80 hours you work?"

The sleep schedule is certainly one reason why I gravitated towards academia (and blogging, I suppose -- it's a partially nocturnal event). That said, one of the first internal indications I had that I wanted to marry Erika was that I shifted my grad student work habits from a 7PM-2 AM cycle to a 9-5 schedule without complaint.

Unfortunately, the article fails to address the biggest challenge to late-sleepers. It's not the job, it's the children. Any hope of sleeping in for the next decade is pretty much shot to hell.

The advantages for the children are overwhelming, of course -- but that doesn't mean I don't miss the halcyon andbygone era of getting up past ten o'clock in the AM.

posted by Dan on 03.27.05 at 11:52 AM


Yes - one of my favorite colleagues is undergoing MAJOR first child stress. She's an 11 a.m. - 3 a.m. person by preference.

posted by: Michael Tinkler on 03.27.05 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

I'm a French student. I used to be a 9 a.m. - 3 a.m. person, now that I've moved to Edinburgh I'm more 11 a.m. - 5 a.m. I'll be forced to move back to a 7 a.m. - 1 a.m. in a few months, I wonder how I'm going to achieve this.

posted by: Fran├žois on 03.27.05 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Children as such aren't really such an issue. Most will gladly adopt an 11 am - 1 am awake schedule.

The problem with children is the same as for adults on non-traditional sleep schedules: outside insitutions are on 9-5, 8-4, or even worse, 7-3 schedule.

posted by: Ray on 03.27.05 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

There will be sleeping enough in the grave.

posted by: B. Franklin on 03.27.05 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Don't bother lusting after the dream of sleeping late once the kids turn into teen-agers and sleep late themselves. By that time, you'll be so used to getting up early, you won't be able to sleep late anymore.

And then you turn into your own parents and roust your kids out of bed by 11 a.m. at the latest because you don't want them to waste their whole days. Or, maybe, you're just jealous they can sleep.

posted by: anne on 03.27.05 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

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