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RISE AND SHINE The world is made of larks and owls. It’s time the early-rising world understood their late-waking half
RISE AND SHINE The world is made of larks and owls. It’s time the early-rising world understood their late-waking half

Late risers are not sinners, but normal human beings with a differently configured biological sleep clock

Just a few weeks ago, Supriya Jambunathan managed to catch a really early morning (because she stayed up watching three movies back-to-back). After having stayed awake the whole night, the 22-year-old walked up to her balcony and saw, for the first time in her life, what 5 a.m. looked like.

While I can imagine a whole lot of 4 a.m. brisk-walkers and joggers scorning her, I can see a large number of people who will immensely identify with Supriya’s situation. “Even when I have to wake up really early, which is 6 a.m., I wonder why anyone would want to be awake in this kind of weather at this time. I mean, wouldn’t you rather be curled up in bed?” asks Supriya, an RJ and content manager at WorldSpace, who wakes up usually to an alarm at 7 a.m. “Once I wake up, I crib, think of all those people sleeping cosily and look at my husband who works a late shift and sleeps late.”

The world really, seems to be divided into two kinds of people — those that jump out of bed at 4.30 a.m., refreshed and raring to go, and those that can barely drag themselves out of bed with great difficulty by say, 8.30 a.m. Early risers always brag about how they got everything done effortlessly by just waking up early, and pride themselves in getting the worm while late risers… get late-rising worms?!

Non-morning persons

With lifestyle, jobs, entertainment, habits and more undergoing dramatic changes, our 24/7 societies also induce sleep patterns that are altered. Many of us belong to this category of non-morning persons who are just not alive or awake in the morning, trudging through most part of the day in semi-slumber. Morning is at noon and the day has just begun at midnight.

In countries like Denmark, late risers, categorised as B-people, have now started a movement to get employers/schools to allow B-people to walk into work/school when they are fully awake. They already have companies that are B-certified and schools may follow.

Their logic is that we are no longer an agrarian society where people needed to be in the fields that early, and of course the recognition that each person has a highly individualised biological sleep clock.

Girish Datar, a 48-year-old consultant, believes that a move like the one in Denmark will get the best output out of everybody.

“If I have to catch a flight at 6 a.m., I would rather stay awake all night. I am an ardent golfer, but I would even hate to play golf at 6 a.m.,” he declares. While he gets up with difficulty at 8 a.m., he believes he functions better only after mid-day. “I do deliver the goods when required and I pack in a lot later in the day. In fact I prefer to bring work back home and work after 10 p.m.” He schedules client meetings for post-noon and deals with more routine work between 9 and 11 a.m.

Dr. Vikram Prabhu, consultant psychiatrist says that there are two sets of people biologically — the human brain is programmed in such a way that some are simply early risers or larks and the night-birds or owls.

Partly biological

“It’s partly biological and partly how one has conditioned oneself, specially during adolescence.”

He has seen many late risers being brought to him, branded lazy just because they won’t wake up early. “They only have a problem with waking up early. Otherwise they are as productive as early risers,” he asserts. What is bad, though, he explains, is an inconsistency in the time you go to bed and rise.

He also agrees that a lot of our conditioning is cultural, which may be scientific. We are taught when we are children that “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and about the advantages of studying during the Brahma muhurta (two hours before sunrise).

Keerthi Satyanarayana, a 26-year-old sales manager, wakes up by noon sometimes. But that’s a privilege strictly reserved for his day off and on holidays. Because work demands that he be up earlier.

“I keep an alarm and it’s a pretty bad situation,” he laughs. “But I start off work after 9 a.m., so it’s still ok. And I have to work according to the timing of the client. Even during my college days, I could never wake up early to study.” He functions best in the evening and saves all his report writing for the end of the day.

So bleary-eyed brethren of the world need not arise awake and shine at the same time as their larky friends. And it’s time that discrimination against biological sleep clocks that are set to a later alarm, stops.

BHUMIKA K.

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