Smart larks and minority owls

2 May 2022
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There’s a short animation on the BBC website about the difference between larks and owls; those early risers who bounce out of bed trilling against those who need an electronic cattle prod to get them up. Scientific research shows that owls have higher rates of depression and anxiety (me!) and less likely to marry (me again!).  Society is structured around early starts so being a minority owl is a bit of a handicap.

I’ve always been envious of larks and also bewildered. How can a person run a 5k, bake a cake and still be at their desks at 8am while I’m struggling to throw off the duvet. I once attempted to join a friend for a weekly 7 am swim which I only managed twice and it felt like torture. I would rather take out a high-interest loan for a midday flight than book a cheap ‘red-eye’ and catching the dawn chorus is a no-no.

It's only since retiring that I’ve come to fully appreciate my own body clock. I often wake with a big smile knowing I don’t have to force myself up for the commute to work. I take my time getting stuck into tasks at around 12 noon usually wrapping things up between 7 and 8pm.

But this isn’t the whole story because when I’m sliding into depression, or in the depths of it, I wake feeling utterly wretched, hopeless and desperate. Getting up is a major challenge. Even if I’ve gone to bed happy and contented I know there’s a chance I will wake up in the grimmest of moods. Despite knowing it will pass once the cortisol kicks in it takes all my willpower to rise.

A lifetime of this and I’m only just learning that this is my genetic chronotype and things aren’t likely to change. I’m a little old owl in a forest of smart larks and even though I do give a hoot I’m stuck with it.

What about you?

Lauren

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

Sally

May 3, 2022, 4:47 a.m.

Brilliant, Lauren! Your way with words I found spot on for saying it as it is. Yes! My twin sister and I are polar opposites. She is a night owl, I am one of those infuriating larks who get all their energy in the early hours!! I practically laughed at the baking a cake and the 5k. That’s me to a T IN THE SPRING AND SUMMER MONTHS. However towards the end of July, I begin to flag,and however much I fight it, a brake is applied from somewhere and I grind to a snails’ pace, metaphorically and physically. I deplore this fact of life . But there it is. I reason that I must be farming stock, or rather, livestock (!) . In a pen or shed during the winter months, just chewing the cud of life, bovine -like, and rather passively. There seems precious little that I personally can do to alter this state of affairs .it’s in my genes. Thank you, Lauren for a great blog, which I’m going to bookmark. Have you written for us before? If so, I don’t recall the name.

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Bearofliddlebrain

May 3, 2022, 5:33 a.m.

That’s funny Sally - love your super response ;-)) I’ve found that if I follow the sun as much as possible, my circadian rhythm lets me sleep when I really need it - and I wear blue light-blocking glasses in the evening which helps too. Love and Bear hugs x x x

Sally

May 3, 2022, 6:18 a.m.

Thanks for your kind and helpful comment, Bear. ***

Lauren

May 3, 2022, 8:49 a.m.

Thanks for your kind response Sally. I also notice that I tend to hibernate in the winter months but unfortunately don't have the activity buzz the rest of the year! I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about the importance of connecting when you're depressed and how helpful Moodscope was when I was in the pits. Still check in every day and find it invaluable.

Bearofliddlebrain

May 3, 2022, 5:30 a.m.

What a great blog Lauren! I fully understand you - in fact I’ve had to be both lark and Wol for the past two years! That was confusing, I can tell you! My sleep was so dreadful - down to 50 mins on two occasions, that I joined Sleepio. I tracked my sleep and the awakenings, the time I finally got up etc for two weeks then the ‘prof’ (animated - all done by pooter) decided from the data I had input, what time I was allowed to go to bed and what time I had to get up. I was used to being in bed by 10.30 and up at 6.30 (but not a lot of sleep in between). He started me of on 1.00 am bedtime and a ride time of 5.30!!!! What the heck? So I had to plan gentle activities in the evenings, go and get washed and changed, do teeth etc by 10.15 - and sit and crochet, sew, do tai chi, listen to gentle music, meditate, write letters, do jigsaws - anything to keep awake til my new bedtime! Then alarm was set for rise time and I had to get up straight away- no lollygagging! It worked - took weeks and months but it finally worked and I was gradually able to pull my bedtime forward each week by 15 mins and I now go to bed at 11.30 pm (sometimes earlier) and rise when I wake fully - my choice, but often with the sun - anytime from 5.30 am. It wasn’t easy - I still have nights where I wake up excited or worried for something - but try to deal with those times by remembering they are one-offs. Mr. Bear’s snoring, however and his night terrors are much more difficult to sort!!! Last night was a night in question and I’m up but tired. I was close to dipping to a bit of a low yesterday - tiredness again, but I pushed through and here we are another day. You’re not old, you maybe an Wol - but you’re actually a wise Wol - you understand this is your way and you’re more likely to be relaxed about sleep, so go with it. Have a great day - whenever it starts - I think you will be busy here with lots of helpful replies from the lovely Moodscopers ;-)* Love and Wol hugs, Bear! x x x

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Bearofliddlebrain

May 3, 2022, 5:43 a.m.

Ps. A message to Valerie - fingers crossed you have a brighter day with Spock - go and ‘do’ something different don’t let same old, same old grind you both down. I’m out for much of today but will pop back and see how you are later. Love and Bear hugs to you and Spock….x x x

Sally

May 3, 2022, 6:23 a.m.

Didn’t catch Valerie’s comment yesterday but I also hope it’s brighter day today. My OH is a bit reluctant to “push the boat out”. I suggest X, Y, Z… But it falls on stoney ground , grr.

Sally

May 3, 2022, 6:24 a.m.

Brighter day for Val that shoulve said… hello Val! All the best. Xx

Lauren

May 3, 2022, 8:54 a.m.

Thanks Bear. I can't imagine what it's like to have continuous poor sleep. Sounds like you've cracked it but only through careful programming! I hope you and Mr.Bear have a better night's sleep tonight.

Valerie

May 3, 2022, 10:55 a.m.

Thank you everyone for kind thoughts. Grey drizzly skies don't help. I intend to crawl into bed later today with a heated wheat bag-bliss! ***

Jul

May 3, 2022, 11:47 a.m.

Something to look forward to Val. Jul xx

Lexi

May 3, 2022, 12:08 p.m.

Grey skies here today too Val...stay in bed and read a good book xo

Dragonfly

May 3, 2022, 5:34 a.m.

Hello Lauren, I completely agree with Sally - Brilliant! I love this blog. And as for today's quote - me completely! I am that exhausted pigeon! My body clock seems to have changed. When the children were small I would be awake early to a house of dead-to-the-world snoozers. Now I seem to have regressed to the lazy teenager I was never allowed to be. I just can't wake up in the mornings and often doze through my alarm if I've no particular reason to shock myself into action. But as you say, wrapped around all of this is depression (or another mental illness) which can make either end of the day challenging. I'm so pleased you've reached some realisation and acceptance of what works for you. And yes, do please write again :)

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Lexi

May 3, 2022, 3:05 p.m.

Dragonfly I seemed to have changed too. I used to get up at 5am just so I could have two hours to do my "stuff" before work. Now I hate getting out of bed. Part of that changed for me when I started medication. In the past my bipoloar/borderline personality disorder had me going at full speed. Now I'm much more regulated but a full owl. xo

Lauren

May 3, 2022, 6:50 p.m.

I think I'm a lazy teenager too Dragonfly and sometimes an exhausted pigeon!

Teg

May 3, 2022, 6:59 a.m.

Hi Lauren A very interesting topic. I think the main point is that we can't fight against what we are. We need to accept our body clock and build the best life we can around it. In a previous life when I was in full time employment I tended to be more of an owl. I liked to get to the office fairly early to beat the rush hour traffic and to tackle the more complex work while my mind was fresh. By the end of the day I was tired and needed to be asleep no later than 10.30 to get sufficient sleep to rise early again the next day. Life is very different now. I am much older ( well into seventies) and the time pressures have lifted. Sometimes my mental state is not good on rising about 8.00. I go on automatic pilot. Get dressed, outside and walk. My moods tend to be better in the evening when I can relax, listen to music, watch TV. I can often do produtive work after dinner between 7.30 and 9.00. Perhaps I am more of a balanced owl/lark now? Thank you and I hope all the comments you get are helpful. Txx

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 6:51 p.m.

Thanks Teg. Agree we can't fight our body clock and it's lovely to be at a stage where we don't have to.

Norman

May 3, 2022, 7:20 a.m.

Funny how it's the Owls who are prone to depression (I'm one), and the larks aren't. Shame there's not more research. Funnily enough recently I've been going to bed between 8 and 10, and getting up at 8-8:30 so I've changed a bit...

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 6:56 p.m.

Hi Norman - this info on the BBC website is interesting https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47238070

Liz

May 3, 2022, 7:38 a.m.

Hi Lauren, here's a wee thought for you. I'm desperate to hear owls again. In our local woods, for a while there was one hooting. I was jealous of my husband as he had said that there were several hooting, probably to each other. Perhaps even they are having an early night these days or their body clocks' equilibrium has been unbalanced by that stupid clock changing we have to do which always throws me. Like you, I am an owl and am prone to those sinking moods. I am also someone that loves to "nest" in bed, surrounded by pillows, and on a sofa I have a throw. Sometimes I have a dog with me, the perfect hot water bottle. No longer do I get that horrible sinking Sunday feeling. I remember car sharing which financially was a great idea, on trips to work where I lived down in England. No - bad idea. Sitting with three other people while someone else drives (unless it's you), having to feel like you have to make a polite conversation when you would rather go to sleep or you are in a depression and *** forbid, have to mask it and pretend you're ok. Absolute **** for an owl. So when I got a second job and they said it would be a mid-afternoon start and into the early evening. Yes I'm always aware that I need to be back at a certain time but it's fine. It's so much better than an early start. Yet my husband hated his afternoon shifts and would rather do the really early one. A while back I was offered a job at Sainsbury's which started at 5 am and finished at 9 and was being a shopping picker. I didn't take it because of being an owl. I just knew I couldn't do it. Perhaps it's something to do with getting up with the birds and the natural light that is a more natural thing to do for some, but for me, the early mornings are often the worst in terms of those feelings, so I would rather crawl under the duvet, and I'm a massive nature lover. Thank you for your blog which raises very interesting issues.

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 6:58 p.m.

Hi Liz. Agree with you about the car sharing although in my case it was commuting by train. My heart would sink when I recognised a fellow traveller and knew I'd have to talk while I was still half asleep. I love nesting too especially with cats.

Liz

May 4, 2022, 5:58 a.m.

Nesting with cats sounds as lovely as nesting with dogs! I realised I didn't make sense with one of the sentences... meant to say that when I got a second job (up here) at the end of January, and they said the hours, I said yes! x

Chris

May 3, 2022, 7:51 a.m.

As I have got older I have turned from a owl to a lark and need to get out of bed for my current job at 5.15! However I do need a considerable amount of sleep so I sometimes feel I am being rushed by another 'force' onto bed and this can feel like an anxious time I feel more prepared and ready almost , as if I give myself the best chance to have a ' good day: by doing this However I feel as if this rigidity is not ideal and am working at doing things differently that have previously become attached to anxious feelings. I think life is a balance some form of plan is good and achieveing goals is good to improve mood but flexibly is possibly also desirable!

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 7 p.m.

Hi Chris - I admired you for being able to get up at 5.15. I don't think I'd be able to!

Lex

May 3, 2022, 7:53 a.m.

What an excellently written blog, Lauren. You've made important points so clear... even to us Larks! Though Larks, of course are not immune to depression...

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 7:01 p.m.

Thanks Lex. I always read your blogs on a Monday so thanks for those too.

Orangeblossom

May 3, 2022, 8:27 a.m.

Thanks for the blog Lauren. I read it with great interest. I used to be an owl, but when I had to wake up at 6ish to catch a bus to work, things began to change around. Now I tend to wake early even though I retired about 18 Months ago. Last night I only had 4 hours sleep. Woke up to use the bathroom. Didn’t fall back to sleep. I tend to fall asleep during the news. Returned to bed & read. I am not really sure whether I am a lark or an owl. Maybe a pigeon who waddles through the day. I read a great mantra the other day, ‘Take as long as it needs to be taken’ by Robert Macfarlane in ‘Underland’. It removes any form of pressure that you apply to yourself or others may apply to you..

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 7:06 p.m.

Thanks Orangeblossom. I like the idea of a waddling pigeon!

Jul

May 3, 2022, 8:33 a.m.

Hi Lauren I am definitely not a lark. I turn off the light by midnight and my alarm goes off at 8am although I don't get up immediately. I find if I am unable to stick to these times, I feel dreadful. I don't sleep well most nights but listening to my body clock keeps me sane. I've only just realised this in the last 5 years or so. I am prone to depression but can manage it just about if I stick to these times for sleeping. I think your body gets used to a routine at night. It's very clever! Jul xx

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 7:08 p.m.

Your pattern sounds very much like mine. Isn't it a shame it takes us so long to realise what's best for us sometimes? Hope you get a good sleep tonight.

Valerie

May 3, 2022, 11:03 a.m.

Today's quote is me,an exhausted pigeon. I have never been a lark.Ideally I would go to bed before midnight and have a good lie-in until late morning.There seems to be a brief window of activity for around 30 minutes or so before lunch,then I am longing for a snooze.Because of Spock and the dogs I am awake at 6.45,feeling disorientated.x

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 7:11 p.m.

You sound very like me Valerie. We are like the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland - always dropping off! :)

Lexi

May 3, 2022, 3:08 p.m.

Great blog Lauren - thank you! I hate getting up early. I don't want to see anyone before 11am. I love my quiet time. But I don't stay up late - I like to be in bed by 9pm. Not necessarily sleeping, but again, quiet time to read, review the day, watch nextflix etc. And I love naps. So perhaps I am a different breed altogether - a koala? Don't they sleep all day? :) xo

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Lauren

May 3, 2022, 7:14 p.m.

Very comforting to read your comment Lexi. I seem to have been surrounded by larks most of my life and felt guilty about needing so much sleep. Could we be sloths?

Oli

May 3, 2022, 3:21 p.m.

Lark. Up at 05:00 in the summer, a little later in the winter. Such a great time of day. The only time I've been an owl was being a drunk owl because alcohol made me thing that drinking in the evening is important and for me it wasn't. The one exception to that was working on music. I accept that I've lost something there however, on balance it's a good trade. Thanks Lauren. I have just realised that I have no idea what larks eat!

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Oli

May 3, 2022, 5:05 p.m.

Seeds. And a few insects. An early bird which doesn't have to catch any worms.

Lauren

May 3, 2022, 7:16 p.m.

Thanks Oli. Owls are of course predators but we won't go there!

Lauren

May 3, 2022, 7:19 p.m.

Just wanted to say thank you for the comments today. It's made me think I will try and make another contribution when I feel inspired. Also my name changed from Laurel to Lauren throughout so apologies - it's Lauren. Hope everyone has a good night's sleep whichever bird you are.xx

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