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Where I Live - Time Shift

FTLComm - Tisdale - Wednesday, November 14, 2001


It is one of the main characteristics of our species to have things compartmentalised into beginnings and endings. This is primarily because of the way our memory system works. We learn at an early age that when something happens determines its value and importance to us and others, so we learn to identify segments of life and time labeled into manageable pieces.




When I looked at the two pictures on this page I realised that a picture of the morning sun rise and a picture of sunset would by many people be placed in order. The morning picture first and the sunset picture second. Then I wondered would everyone see it that way, or would there be people who read this be like me, who see the sequence as natural. The picture at the top of the page shows the beginning of night and the one at the bottom of the page shows the end of that same night, so it is logical to see them in this sequence.




This immediately brings to mind the fascinating nature of us as individuals. My parents struggled with this when I was a child and my poor wife has after more than thirty years still is unable to fathom how I can sleep during the day. I am, what many people call, "a night person". A large number of heavy duty studies have gone into this issue and it has been determined that there are people who have a predisposition toward being awake at night and asleep much of the day.




Nocturnal people are just like everyone else but they enjoy staying up late at night because it is then that they sense within themselves a slightly higher level of ability. But sleep is essential, we all have to have it and that means nocturnal folks will sleep in. For the early morning riser this is a complete and totally incomprehensible condition and there is a fairly widely recognised belief among day people, who are the vast majority of the population, who consider people who sleep in to be lazy and indolent




Some of the things that involve being nocturnal include sensitivity to light, and heightened mental ability after midnight. As a high school student faced with doing some difficult task like writing a paper or studying, I would find all sorts of excuses and other things to do, until everyone else was sound asleep and then the internal spot lights came on and I could do good work. My mother, a definite day person, was determined that her son would get those assignments done and be as successful as she knew was within my capability, was absolutely beside herself at times because of this crazy business of staying up late to do difficult work. It wasn't until my last year of high school that she discovered that it worked and that indeed if it was to be a good paper, or I was to do well on an exam, the work that would make it happen, would be in the night.




Some studies have suggested that this off kilter timing in some people is caused by something to do with their birth, while others attribute it to something like being left handed, it just happens. Whatever the case, repeated studies have shown that it occurs almost as frequently in the population as left handedness and like that particular trait, it can be marginal. There are people who are just "sort of" late nighters and others who are just "sort of" day timers. The main thing is that people who are nocturnal find it out becoming solidly aware of it and that those who have to live and interact with them recognise it as "their way."




Being different in any measurable way allows an individual the ability to see and understand the world just a little different from the majority. Perhaps this explains why being left handed is not an affliction but many who are left handed are more creative, there are other differences in people that assist them to appreciate a different perspective on life and one of those things is being nocturnal. It would be hard to be a professional musician and not be nocturnal. When your work day begins at eight or nine at night and you are packing up your equipment for your next gig after 2:00 AM you either are nocturnal or you become a pretty cranky day person always short of sleep and suffering.




This does not mean to be a poet, painter or musical genius you have to be nocturnal it just means that a lot of folks who do creative things are night people. The most important hours in a day person's life are early in the morning and they will get their best work done long before lunch time. A day person is hopelessly wasting their time when they pull a collage "all nighter" their efficiency drops to zero by mid afternoon and things that they would breeze through in the morning take two to three times the length of time late in the day and once tired they are going through the motions and will not do any practical work of value. Day people must learn to go to bed. They are crackling in the morning, so that's when they should tackle the stuff that needs maximum brain power.




Perhaps the most important issue is that you have to learn to cope. The reality of the world dictates that for most people the tough stuff we have to do may occur at anytime of the day or night and when it does we still have to get the work done. So day people or night people not withstanding there are some very important rules that you must know when it comes to mental activity.

  1. If you can't sleep get up and do something until you are tired, sleepless lying there trying to go to sleep is frustrating and leads to unnecessary stress.

  2. Never attempt creative intellectual work when you are groggy, you will only accomplish poor to bad work and you will wasted valuable energy and time.

  3. Take frequent breaks (a least every ninety minutes), when ever you are working. A short rest period, especially a twenty minute nap will boost performance and let you work on past normal endurance.

  4. Sleep is a good thing, part of your brain can muster some brilliant stuff for you even while you sleep. Sleeping on a problem will often produce far better work and definitely improves memory retention.

  5. Talk about your project to someone. It is not what they will tell you that is valuable it is hearing yourself sum up what you are doing and put your thoughts together. Tell someone and you are really telling yourself.

  6. If you are writing get the stuff down, worry about the corrections, editing and details later, cutting is easy so get everything down quickly while you are at peak performance.

Timothy W. Shire