The Mysteriously Nocturnal World Of Night Owls

As the sun sets and most of us retire for the night, night owls emerge from their slumber to begin their nocturnal activities.

For as long as humans have lived on this planet, there have always been some creatures who are wired to be more active at night. Scientists found things in old cave paintings from a long time ago that show scenes that could only be seen after dark. Early humans may have had to change their night routines to avoid dangerous animals or hunt when it was cooler.

Today, the night owl lifestyle is still a mystery. Only recently have scientists started to learn about the biological and psychological things that affect our body clocks. It’s now known that each person’s internal clock in their brain can naturally be set to different schedules. For night owls, their normal sleep-wake cycle is delayed compared to early birds.

Creator: Kajornyot Krunkitsatien | Credit: kajornyot – | Copyright: Kajornyot Krunkitsatien

The hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy, is made later in the day for night owls. Their best times for being alert and doing well happen in the evening and late at night instead of the morning. Some researchers think up to one-third of people can be called night owls based on genetic and environmental influences on their body clock system.

While night owls may struggle in a world made for early risers, their nighttime habits also provide some advantages. The late hours let night owls avoid distractions and find quiet to focus hard on creative or intellectual work. Many famous artists, writers, scientists, and business people throughout history are thought to have been night owls, using the quiet nighttime hours for their most productive work.

Albert Einstein, for example, was known for his irregular sleep patterns and would stay up late working through complex math problems with a lamp. F. Scott Fitzgerald often did his writing in the early morning hours. Composer Ludwig van Beethoven kept unusual working hours and found inspiration struck most at night. For night owls, the late evening provides an optimal time for uninterrupted focus and problem-solving without the busyness of daytime life.

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The nighttime hours also suit certain practical jobs. Many medical professionals, especially those in emergency rooms, work on a nocturnal schedule to be available around the clock. Security guards, dispatch operators, and others in 24/7 industries naturally gravitate towards night shift work where their body clocks are an asset rather than a problem.

Of course, not all night owls have a professional need or want to be active at night. For some, it’s simply a personal preference to seek adventure when it’s dark. When the sun sets and it gets dark, night owls come out of their homes to explore nocturnal nature. Many enjoy looking at the stars to marvel at the heavenly wonders only visible after dark. Others partake in night hiking, appreciating the solitude and stillness of the forest at midnight.

Birdwatchers and wildlife photographers wake up before dawn to capture elusive animals on film that are liveliest when humans sleep. Many night owls enjoy the calm of sitting by a campfire late into the evening, swapping stories under the stars. And in urban areas, the nighttime provides unique cultural experiences from late-night dance parties to 24-hour diners and bars catering to those most alive in the wee hours.

Credit: Neuroscience News

While modern society continues to revolve around early risers, in recent years there has been a small movement to embrace and accommodate our nocturnal friends. Some companies now offer flexible work schedules to allow night owls to work their optimal late-night and overnight shifts. Schools have experimented with later start times informed by adolescent body clocks. With a growing understanding of individual differences in body clocks, perhaps one day the night owl lifestyle will be as accepted as their early bird counterparts.


Until then, the night owls will continue their mysterious nocturnal adventures when it’s dark, living life opposite of most of society but in tune with their natural body clocks. As the sun sets and stars shine bright, these curious creatures of the night spread their wings to begin another day, albeit on a reversed schedule from the rest of the world. The night is their domain, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.


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