The World I Imagine
A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace. The essays in this collection introduce creative ideas for ending poverty everywhere, in the hope that humans can finally build a truly peaceful society where everyone enjoys at least the basic benefits of prosperity, for the first time in history.
The mystery set in 1911 Arizona, features murder, adultery, polygamy, and a marauding mountain lion threatening territorial residents! This exciting adventure novel was published by Outskirts Press in 2007.
We want to know your thoughts on how to end poverty and build a peaceful world.
Please send a message to:
Or write to us at:
Imagine the World at Peace
1664 E. Florence Blvd.
Suite 4 #145
Casa Grande, AZ 85122
All articles originally appeared in either Night Owl's Newsletter and/or Arizona City Independent Edition
After months of waiting, Night Owls can finally find a comfortable and comforting place. Here, folks who have trouble sleeping during the dark hours will find a friend, and maybe more. We'll just have to see how this part of my work grows.
Back in the late 1980s, I started this project by publishing a 16-page newsletter entitled Night Owl's Newsletter. The idea was to provide a place in which Night people could share information about our experiences in a world run by Larks (Day people). As a natural-born Night Owl, I also wanted to share the medical information I was gathering regarding the then nascent field of sleep research. By that time, many scientists were beginning to acknowledge that no matter how hard they tried to retrain people like me to function in the daytime, many of us were likely to slip back into the old pattern of craving sleep in the mornings, or during some hours of the day, and being wide-awake during the wee hours.
The conclusion: Being born a Lark (Day person) or an Owl (Night person) is no different from being born with brown or blue eyes. Sadly, society isn't yet ready to accept this fact. Too many "experts" continue to refer to Owlhood as an "aberration from the norm." My question is: Since the majority of people on the planet have brown eyes, does that mean blue eyes are an "aberration" that must be altered by some type of medical intervention? The answer is obviously, "NO"! Then why do they want to do that with Owls?
Obviously, I could go on in this vein for pages and hours, but I'll just share some of the tidbits I wrote for my newsletter until the mid-1990s. I hope they help you Owls out there to realize that you are not alone!
This page contains articles I wrote for Night Owl's Newsletter and/or the Arizona City Independent Edition. I also reviewed several books that focus on the issue of Night people and Night-time activity. To read those reviews, go to: Night Owl Books
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Free Flight Into The Sky
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 21; reprinted in Arizona City Independent Edition, June 29, 2005)
I've always been fascinated with the night sky. A restless child, I spent many evenings outside, gazing at the stars. As I stood beside the mimosa in our suburban Fort Worth front yard, I could let my imagination take flight. I would lose myself in the midnight canopy, wandering among millions of glittering jewels set around the moon in its various phases. Up there, I was as resourceful as Annie Oakley, as powerful as Wonder Woman, as drop-dead gorgeous as Ava Gardner.
In those years, one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was an astronomer. For a long time, I read everything I could find on the stars and planets. Though my natural tendency toward being a Night Owl even then would have served me well in that profession, I finally realized I wasn't cut out for the scientific life.
It wasn't that I couldn't do the work. My aptitude test results always landed me in advanced science and math classes. Even without much studying, I rarely earned less than Bs. I just realized that I didn't want to devote my energies to a technical world that seemed almost devoid of human interaction. When I looked up into the night sky, I cared not where Orion was, for I was too busy being Diana.
During my years of raising children and working full time, I fell out of the habit of communing with the stars. Apartments and mobile-home parks afforded me little privacy, and city lights dimmed heaven's brilliance. But in the early 1980s we owned a house in La Porte, Texas, with a fenced back yard and a deliciously dark night sky.
For five years I could walk out my back door on any evening and travel into a boundless galaxy. I soon found that lying on a chaise lounge added an exciting and unsettling new dimension to my stargazing. From that perspective, only the house eave and fence top were peripherally visible. Otherwise, all I could see were the moon and stars sprinkled on an arc of midnight velvet.
At first I feared gravity was about to loosen its grip on me and I would fall outward into oblivion. Nevertheless, I continued my stellar meditation, gradually gaining the confidence to relax and enjoy the experience of mental free flight. My imagination soared into the expanse. I was dreaming again. It was no accident that during the years we lived in that house, I began to write seriously for the first time in my life.
Later we moved to a mobile-home park where glaring street lights limited my access to the glories of the firmament, but my ability to dream endured, along with my desire to write. Our home in Cumming, Georgia, had a darker sky than most of our homes in Texas, but frequent mists often obscured my heavenly view. Now that we live in the Arizona desert, I can enjoy not only a clearer view of the night sky, but a wider panorama than I’ve experienced since I lived in Fort Worth in the 1950s.
Today the cosmos is mine, even when I'm not outside looking at the stars. Even better, I now understand my early fascination with astronomy and the night sky.
Since I grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family in which we were forced to suppress our feelings, my childhood forays into the great beyond helped me put my lonely existence into perspective. So when I got a bedspread with ballerinas dancing across it for my birthday, while my younger sister got the ballet lessons I so desperately desired but was always denied, I went outside, looked up into the night sky, and became the prima ballerina of the Monte Carlo Dance Company, complete with red shoes.
Gazing into outer space reassured me that the little world my family ruled with an iron fist was only a minute part of the vast cosmos. My mental journeys among the moon and stars gave me the strength I needed to survive an unhappy childhood and lighted my way into the infinite universe of the imagination.
Glossary of Night Owl Terms
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 2)
The following is an explanation of some terms often used in this web site:
ALARM CLOCK--An instrument of torture developed by monks to punish Owls (after the monks had declared Owlhood to be a sin, of course).
BED--The scene and subject of numerous battles between cohabiting Owls and Larks. This unnecessary conflict can be eliminated with a little education and more reasonable communication.
DAY--That period of time every twenty-four hours when the sun shines. This is the half that most Owls try to avoid as much as possible.
EXHAUSTION--An unnatural state that is, for Owls, the natural result of repression and oppression by Larks and Alarm Clocks.
INSOMNIA--A usually misunderstood condition suffered by Owls who are unable to fall asleep as early as Larks do. Often maltreated by doctors with runaway prescription pads.
LARKS--Those disgusting people who sing when they rise in--gasp!--the early Morning.
LARKHOOD--The state of being a Lark. Obviously an unnatural freak of nature.
MAKE THE BED--A ridiculous ritual developed by Larks to keep Owls out of the bed when they are most in need of rest.
MIXED MARRIAGE--A union between an Owl and a Lark. In such a relationship, the Night person is generally pressured to adapt to an unnatural sleep-wake schedule in order to keep peace in the home.
MOON--A lovely, soft light to live one's life by. Very romantic.
NIGHT--That period of time every twenty-four hours when the moon shines, which offers far more soothing illumination than that multimillion-candlepower lamp that someone insists upon switching on every Morning. This is the time when Owls really Hoot.
NINE-TO-FIVE--The basic Lark business day, established by Lark bankers who, because they control the money, have the power to make decisions that affect Owls adversely.
OWLS--a miserably repressed and oppressed minority in Lark society, usually much more intelligent and creative than their limited energy allows them to appear. People who are usually at their best if they are allowed to sleep at least until Noon.
OWLHOOD--The state of being an Owl. Obviously several steps closer to perfection than those imperious Larks.
OWLISM--The systematic repression and oppression of Owls by Larks. Begins in the cradle with feeding schedules and perpetuated by every aspect of Lark society.
SLEEPING IN (also SLEEPING TILL NOON)--A seeming luxury--What the heck! A real necessity!--not often enjoyed by Owls because of the vicious tyranny of Larks and Alarm Clocks.
SUN--A harsh, unrelenting spotlight that shines through windows and disturbs the peaceful slumbering of Owls.
We hope our web page help Night people become a little more comfortable with their Owlhood. And I really hope that it helps Larks to better understand many of the problems that Night Owls face as we try to survive in their world.
Is Owlhood a Generic Aberration?
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 4)
Now that scientists have discovered the genetic source to the state of being an Owl, some of them are experimenting with reprogramming the "aberrant" gene to make these laboratory specimens "normal," that is, Day...uh... Animals. (Imagine turning a rat into a Lark. Dr. Frankenstein, step aside.)
I suppose the long-term application of this knowledge will be to turn all us human Owls into Larks. Do scientists also foresee the day when they will abolish all those "aberrant" blue eyes and blond heads? Since the majority of humans on this planet have dark eyes and dark hair, that sounds like a logical progression of these experiments. If they're going to reprogram Owls, it's only fair that they target the fair-haired too. (Pun definitely intended.)
When everyone has brown eyes and brown hair, then it'll be time to do something about all those different heights people now rise up to. Of course, one practical result of everyone being the same length is the abolition of stiff necks, but is that reason enough to make everyone the same size?
Why should they pick on us Owls in the first place? I doubt they'd ever really do such a thing to blue-eyed, blond-headed people. Maybe short people though. At 5' 1/2 ", I've noted a definite prejudice in that area. But members of the workaday world do have it in for us Owls. They are planning a campaign of geneticide when the technology becomes readily available for that folly.
We must stop that insidious plan before it gets out of hand. Fill out the form below and return it to me. When we collect enough of these Votes for Owl Liberation, we'll use them to let the scientific community know that we Night Owls want them to stay out of our genes!
Stand up and be counted! After that, you have my permission to crawl back into your beds and get some much-needed rest.
A Vote for Owl Liberation
I, _______________________________, being a Night Owl of sleepy body and sound mind, abhor the insidious plan of the scientific community to "cure" me and my brethren, by genetic reprogramming, of the condition of Owlhood which "afflicts" me. I strongly disapprove of "geneticide" in both people and laboratory rats.
I further believe that the time has come for Larks (Day people) to accept the existence of Night Owls and acknowledge our right to live and work in our own time, i.e. the wee hours.
You can cut-and-paste this form into an e-mail and sent it to: email@example.com
Or you can block-and-print the form, sign it, and snailmail it to:
Debbie Jordan, Chief Executive Owl
1664 E. Florence Blvd., Suite 4 #145
Casa Grande, AZ 85222
If nothing else, you'll know that someone else understands!
A Short History of Owlism
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 5)
As I explained in my "Glossary of Night Owl Terms," above, Owlism is "the systematic repression and oppression of Owls by Larks. Begins in the cradle with feeding schedules and perpetuated by every aspect of Lark society."
It wasn't always so. In the beginning, Owls and Larks cohabited peacefully. When hunters and gatherers dwelled in caves or other simple shelters, daytime hunters (Larks) depended upon nighttime guards (Owls) to keep the fires burning and scare away wild animals that ventured too close.
The only clocks humans used then were those of nature, the sun and moon and their own bodies, the most accurate timepieces in the universe. They knew it was time to eat when they were hungry, time to sleep when they were tired, and time for . . . Well, let's just file the rest under "Mother Nature Calls."
Our primitive ancestors' daily schedules did depend upon calls of nature outside their bodies. Instead of popping down to the local supermarket for prime rib, they had to run out and kill a dinosaur or a mastodon for supper. Ditto for gathering wild plants for food. It was safer and more efficient to hunt and gather during daylight hours. Thus, arbitrary time dictates based on the sun's cycle do have ancient historical roots, and there were doubtless some Owls that weren't allowed to enjoy the privilege of being able to "work" during their best (dark) hours.
The next step toward Lark tyranny came when humans "progressed" to planting and gathering. Farmers had to do almost all their work during daylight hours. Since our most valuable commodity is food, in the days before bureaucracies controlled food prices, farmers made social policy. This was when the rumor first began that anyone who wasn't out working in the field by dawn must be either lazy or the king. It is no accident that an important hallmark of aristocracy is the practice of "sleeping in"--also called "sleeping till noon."
The monastic movement deserves much blame for oppression of Owls. Monks supported themselves by farming when they weren't praying (it didn't hurt to pray for good weather if you were into farming). Religion joined agribusiness in applying social pressure against Owls. With the power of the Church behind their prejudice, monks declared Owlhood to be a sin. The punishment for some sins back then was burning at the stake, and people were often accused of witchcraft for just being odd. How many Owls were burned at the stake for the sin of sleeping in? Those who weren't aristocrats or bishops, of course.
The Protestant Reformation did nothing for the status of Owls. In passing some of their oppressive "blue laws," for instance, strict Massachusetts Puritans actually legislated against Owlhood. People who didn't attend Sunday morning church services were arrested and sentenced to time in the public stocks.
Puritan Owls who did manage to drag themselves out of bed and into church on Sunday morning still weren't safe. Deacons patrolling the meeting houses were armed with long poles with feathers on one end. If a woman punctuated her "silent" prayer with a snore, she earned a "warning" tickle on the nose. Men often received the other end of the stick on the head. "Incorrigibles" who couldn't stay awake during services got a one-way ticket to the stocks. An Owl couldn't even get a decent morning's sleep there. All the Larks in town would taunt "evildoers" harnessed in those wooden racks in the middle of the town square.
Monks contributed another terrible tool to Owlism: They invented the Alarm Clock. Of course, the complex systems they designed using sand and water were nothing like the simple electronic gadgets we have today, but both machines had the same effect. Ever since the "dark ages," no Owl has been allowed to "sleep in" in peace. The noise of the first alarm system of that long ago European monastery might as well have been a bugle, for it signaled a war against Owls which Larks have been waging--and winning--for centuries.
Toss and Turn (With thanks to Mac McGinty,
who made me do it!)
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 6)
Toss and Turn
Toss and Turn
I wonder if there's anything on TV at this hour
I wonder if they have cable in this kingdom
Toss and Turn
I wonder if they even have TV in this kingdom
Toss and Turn
Just can't get comfortable
Toss and Turn
This kingdom must be in a royal recession
Toss and Turn
If this was a waterbed,
I'd call it Boulder Dam
Toss and Turn
If this is the quality of beds in the royal castle,
I'd hate to see what the peasants get to crash on
Toss and Turn
Everybody must be real poor around here
Better call Mother Theresa quick
Toss and Turn
Maybe she could even pray for me
Toss and Turn
Maybe I'll catch PTL on the tube,
and they can pray for me
Toss and Turn
Toss and Turn
Sheesh, the things a princess will do
to please a royal mother-in-law
(Note: To those who aren't into some of the more obscure fairy tales,
this poem was my update on "The Princess and the Pea.")
To Clinic or Not to Clinic (With apologies to
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 8)
Whether to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Lark expectations, or go to a sleep clinic and take the "cure." For Owls, that is the eternal question.
If you've been considering a sleep clinic, we'd like to help. We can't tell you what to do, but we can lead you to information to help you make up your own mind.
First, let's identify the major categories of Night Owl:
● "Short Sleepers" sleep only a few hours a night, going to bed long after midnight and waking early, refreshed and ready to do a day's work;
● "Late Sleepers" can't get to sleep until well past midnight and can't wake up to anybody's Alarm Clock, especially their own; and
● "Early, Early Birds," actually thought of as Larks, awaken very early in the morning and can't get back to sleep. We consider them Owls because they're active when some of us like to hoot, long before 6 a.m., and many face the same dilemma we do: They don't know whether to accept the condition or try to "cure" it.
Many short sleepers sneak naps during the day, which is fine if your schedule allows it. Research shows that, like eating smaller meals many times a day, sleeping in small doses several times a day can be a healthy practice.
Speaking of healthy, that's often a clue that you don't need medical aid for your condition. However, demands of Lark society often interfere with a Night Bird's ability to hoot during Owl hours.
Like Owl types, the causes generally fall into three categories:
● "Genetic Owls" are born that way; their condition is about as "curable" as blue eyes or brown hair;
● "Age-generated Owls" have reached a time of life when sleeping all night--or at least, "normal" night hours--isn't a priority, or even a possibility; the two most common sleepless ages are teenage and post-middle-age; and
● "Temporary Owls," for some physical or emotional reason, no longer sleep within what used to be their natural Lark pattern.
Needless to say, the first two Owls cannot really be "cured," but we've all had to "control" our tendency to Owlhood at times. However, you "temporary" Owls, take heart: Not sleeping "on time" isn't terminal, and you can make up for "lost" sleep once you've taken care of the underlying problem.
For "temporary" Owls, the inability to sleep at the "right" time is not a disease, it is a symptom. You should find out why you can't sleep, instead of trying to cover over the symptom with pills.
Below, I detail interviews I had in the early 1990s with experts in the study of sleep, including excerpts from my conversations with a sleep-clinic physician and a sleep researcher. In the future, I plan to present information from many disciplines--mainstream and alternative--in the art of treating sleep "problems."
Besides reporting here on what scientists are learning about sleep, I've been able to tell the scientists I've talked to what Owls already know about it. Meanwhile, I would love to hear from Owls who've lived with this "problem" for any length of time, from a few months to an entire lifetime.
From preliminary conversations, I believe some professionals are listening, but we must keep making noise. We must get the word out to a whole world of Larks, most of whom are fast asleep when we're hooting.
If your sleep schedule, whether lifelong or temporary, is one that you or a loved one thought needed to be treated, contact us. Tell us about treatments you've received. Were they effective? Were they really safe? Did they have short-term or long-term adverse effects? We might post some of your words on a special "Clinic" page on this web site.
Help us help other Owls. Share your story with us. E-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medical News: EXPERTS AGREE:
OWLHOOD IS "NORMAL"
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 10)
From 1990 to 1995, I heard from Owls in every U.S. state and some in Canada and a few other places around the world. Their most common complaint is the lack of understanding most people show for their Owl natures. Few people realize there's nothing wrong with us, even though our bodies can't rest when they're "supposed to."
In fact, a Lark who recently wrote a book about night workers claims, "When you stay up past midnight, you defy your body's commands." (A Day In the Night of America by Kevin Coyne, Random House, 1992.) This web site is dedicated to dispelling such myths that continue to be spread by self-proclaimed "experts" on Night people.
Misconceptions about Owls can be summarized by the labels too often thrown at us. According to many people, Owls are supposed to be: sick, crazy, lazy, undisciplined, anti-social, immoral, and self-destructive.
None of these epithets apply to Owls I know. Most of us are active, mentally and/or physically, during the hours when most people are asleep.
It's true we have trouble adjusting to schedules imposed by people who are active during the day, Larks. But we believe the real problem is a lack of education. The purpose of this work is to teach Larks and Owls alike about the nature of Night people in all their diversity.
Recently we asked two Atlanta sleep professionals if they believe there's something wrong with people who have an alternative schedule preference. Their responses assure us that it's okay to be a Night Owl.
Dr. James J. Wellman, Medical Director of Sleep Disorders Center of Georgia, describes a "bell curve" of individual sleep needs, putting the majority in the center with average sleep requirements ranging from 7 hours, 15 minutes to 7 hours, 50 minutes; "short sleepers" and "long sleepers" fall at both small ends of the curve. He calls the difference between "normal" and "abnormal" sleep patterns a "definitional problem" and adds, "Some forms of sleep disorder may not be considered a disorder in some people." The key, Wellman agrees, is the person's ability to accommodate the difference in his or her lifestyle.
This philosophy is echoed by Dr. Charles M. Epstein, a neurologist who studies sleep disorders at the Sleep Research Clinic of Emory University. Like Wellman, Epstein points to a genetic factor as the root cause of Owlhood in many people. But the proof might be a long time in coming. According to Epstein, "This [genetic question] is not the kind of thing that the National Institutes of Health is going to spend a lot of research money on. But the general feeling when intelligent people look into it is that the difference between Larks and Owls is probably genetic."
We discussed medical terms applied to the two most common conditions. Late sleepers who stay awake until long after midnight have delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), whereas people who fall asleep in the evening then wake hours before sunup experience advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS). The key to whether each condition is a problem for a particular person is not when the person sleeps but how well they sleep.
When asked about the traditional practice of prescribing sleeping pills for patients who have trouble falling asleep, Wellman likened the situation to the patient experiencing chest pain: First the doctor must be certain there is no other treatable condition, such as a heart problem, before prescribing something to ease the chest pain, which is only a symptom.
Both doctors confirm that it can be dangerous to ignore the underlying cause of a sleep problem, but short-term medication in identifiable short-term situations, such as stress or grief, can be appropriate. Epstein explains, "The modern sleeping pills are pretty safe, and they work pretty well for that [short-term problems]." He warns that alcohol is "a terrible way to go to sleep."
The reason many doctors are still too quick with the prescription pad, according to Wellman, is that "the majority of physicians have not been trained and are not experienced in trying to deal with what causes the various sleep problems." In the last decade he has learned about sleep "on the job" and admits, "We clearly understand we don't know all of the variables, and we're learning daily about sleep problems and sleep issues."
Both Wellman and Epstein encouraged us to continue our efforts to disseminate up-to-date sleep research data to the public. They want to hear more about Owls who, they admit, have much to teach them about sleep in all its variations. We have an important job ahead of us.
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 11)
Pretend you're a teenager, again--or still? You've gone to school 8, 9 years. You've managed to get by pretty well, except for Mr. Johnson's 7th grade math class--first period, 8:15 a.m. You wished for toothpicks to prop your eyelids open as you endured Mr. J's soporific monologues on fractions and decimals. That was when you first noticed someone was slowly moving all the clocks forward.
It didn't happen all at once. You can barely tell how much sleepier you are now than you were a few weeks ago, how much later it is before you fall asleep each night--or in the early a.m. What you do notice is your grades slipping into the toilet, especially in morning classes. And your mom going nuclear because you're sleeping late almost every Saturday, into the afternoon.
Now, Mom wants you to see a doctor; dad keeps telling mom you need to see a shrink. Everybody's uptight, but all you want is a little more sleep.
Relax. Your worst problem, more than likely, is adolescence. (Every parent knows that's an entire syndrome in itself!) Not being able to fall asleep "on time" or to wake up at 6 a.m. and stay awake in Ms. Vanderhoven's English class isn't an illness. It's certainly not abnormal.
Alternative sleep rhythms--the times at which you fall asleep and wake up--vary during every person's lifetime. Dr. James J. Wellman, Medical Director of Sleep Disorders Center of Georgia in Atlanta, insists it's perfectly natural. We've also been assured that your head is probably "screwed on straight" by Dr. Harvey A. Rosenstock, a Houston psychiatrist. Both professionals agree that many people--including a high percentage of teenagers--simply cannot turn off their brains and make themselves fall asleep at a "decent" hour. Both men are especially sensitive to problems suffered by their teenage clients.
Wellman explains the "normal" weekly schedule of a typical tired teen: "They have to get up in the morning to go to school, sometimes 6 o'clock to catch a school bus. They don't wake up until 10 o'clock in the morning. They clearly don't learn as well in their early morning classes. They're probably sleepier in the afternoon than they should be, and it gets worse as the week goes on. That's why you often hear of teenagers literally crashing on the weekends. They'll sleep till 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday."
He says the weekend "nap blitz" isn't so bad, it's the adolescent's weekday routine that's most dangerous: "They're probably a little better on Monday, then as the week goes on, they're more and more sleepy, fatigued, and tired, and by Friday sometimes they can't even function because they're so sleepy."
Rosenstock believes many teenagers' behavioral problems can be attributed to sleep deprivation. "When I started taking care of a lot of adolescents, we had kids getting into all kinds of trouble, and they looked like they were bad kids. But I worked with them; they weren't bad kids."
Many of the kids Rosenstock counseled had dropped out of school and fallen into the habit of sleeping late every morning and getting into trouble at night. Since traditional hard-line remedies (e.g., curfews and alarm clocks) don't work, the solution, according to Rosenstock, must be something that has never been tried before.
In 1980, Harvey Rosenstock and his wife, Judith D. Rosenstock, Ph.D., an educator, approached officials at Houston Independent School District (HISD) with a revolutionary idea for a "midnight magnet" school, a specialized high school which would offer classes from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Though skeptical, Houston school administrators gave the Rosenstocks the green light to develop their plan.
The Rosenstocks collected an impressive list of volunteers: teachers welcomed the opportunity to work nights, parents hoped midnight classes would get their kids back on the learning track, and deep-pocketed contributors realized the economic benefits of the radical plan.
It didn't take much to convince people with vision of the benefits. The urban dropout rate topped 50% in 1980, so every kid who returned to school was a victory. With the cost of school vandalism in the city running into thousands of dollars every year, having people in the buildings at night would reduce that amount considerably. Capital costs, the price of building new schools, would automatically drop when school buildings were used for two--or even three--shifts, instead of the single traditional day shift.
Support for the concept was so positive and far-reaching that a publicity campaign was launched. Reports of the plan appeared in newspapers, and the Rosenstocks discussed it on a national radio talk show. Harvey Rosenstock explains the reaction: "All over the country people were excited about this idea."
Though the man who was then superintendent of Houston schools liked the idea, he couldn't make the final decision. He suggested the Rosenstocks present their concept to one of the boards with that authority. That's when the momentum of change got caught on the deadly snag of bureaucracy.
Rosenstock remembers, "They said, 'Well, it's a great idea. We'd like to see somebody else do it first.'" To the suggestion that blood studies be done to identify kids with different diurnal hormone rhythms who are, thus, night people, he said, "We don't have to get that wild. Most parents know their kids are night people." In spite of all the support for the program, the board still refused to approve the project.
The Rosenstocks believe a pilot "midnight magnet" school would be an ideal laboratory in which to study the benefits of the concept. However, more than a decade after they introduced their radical plan, no school district in the country has yet to establish one.
The cost of delay is enormous. Rosenstock explains, "We feel that magnet school would save two or three hundred kids a year from dropping out of school, especially minorities. I could envision magnet schools in different areas of the country, major population centers each having a "midnight magnet." The grand total would be thousands of kids every year not biting the dust and dropping out of school for reasons that they don't understand, but [because] society doesn't offer them what they need. What's the value of thousands of kids having an education versus not having an education? It's millions and millions and millions [of dollars]."
In addition to these benefits, we recognize another positive byproduct of midnight magnet schools: High school graduates encouraged to learn when their minds work best constitute a pool from which industries can choose employees eager to work nights, the hardest shift to staff. Currently, too many people on night shift doze during wee hours on the job, and far too many people who must wake early for day jobs suffer unnecessary bouts of late-night "insomnia." In a future article, I hope to explain why this important labor pool is not being properly identified and what must be done to solve the problem.
Besides their fear of trying a new idea, school authorities simply don't understand the depth of a teenager's sleep problems. Dr. Wellman says, "There's not a lot written about it. There's not a lot of press about it. But virtually everybody that has a teenager understands this."
I'm happy to say that more attention has been focused on this problem of sleepy teens in the years since I did this interview. This web site is dedicated to educating people all over the world about this problem. To school administrators in Houston and all other U.S. school districts, we offer the example of Midnight Basketball League (see our Midnight Basketball Leagues web page, or go to the organization's web site at: www.amblp.com), established six years after Drs. Harvey and Judith Rosenstock failed to convince Houston school officials that kids do want and benefit from constructive direction during the wee hours.
We hope that, once they begin to understand the benefits of a nightly academic program for wakeful teens, school officials around the country will take immediate steps to establish a pilot midnight magnet program in their districts.
Imagine how different our world would be if the Wright brothers had never gone to Kitty Hawk because no one had yet flown in an engine-powered vehicle. Their vision and daring have taken us to the moon. Now young Owls need the help of visionary school administrators and educators willing to let them "fly" in revolutionary "midnight magnet" schools.
the Night Population
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 13)
How many people are awake late at night?
This is the question I'm asked most often when I speak about Owls, and the question which is hardest to answer. The question does not appear on any census form: Do you sleep all night? Or: Are you awake during at least part of the hours between midnight and 6:00 a.m.?
Though statistics represent actual counted noses, more information comes from polling sample groups, and interpretations of data are based on probabilities and averages. On that basis, we can still identify several groups of people awake at night, and we can estimate that an impressive number of people do not sleep straight through from midnight to 6:00 a.m. I define an Owl as one who is awake during all or a substantial part of these dark hours--or someone who should be and isn't.
If we could count the actual number of people who are awake during any given night, we still would not know the exact number of Owls, since so many of us are pushed into a daytime mold. And because we are, thus, denied our rightful Owl identity, too often we chart our adult lifestyles against our natural Night grain. When we do try to accommodate our tendency to stay awake at night or sleep late into the morning, we face opposition. Already physically and emotionally drained from having to function in a "foreign time zone," many Owls haven't the energy to establish their independence from the world they're familiar with and the Larks they love.
Therefore, many people now living as Larks are really Owls. One goal of this work is to help these genetic Owls identify and understand their true nature and offer information to help them chart a course into the Night.
This is the easiest group of Owls to count. According to U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, (in the early 1990s) at least 10 million people work full or part time between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., and this figure grows every year. These work periods are called second or "swing" shift and third or "graveyard" shift. More than 2 million people work the late-night shift. Of those who work until at least midnight, a high percentage do not go directly to bed after work and fall asleep immediately--any more than day-shift workers go to sleep right after they get home from work. Since people need time to unwind before falling asleep, we can assume that a high percentage of second-shift employees remain awake long past midnight.
One problem with this category of "Night" people is that many are actually Day people forced to labor during the wee hours. Few employers consider their employees' circadian rhythms when assigning them to any shift, including day shift. Therefore, many workers are not always alert on the job, a situation which can be both dangerous and costly. (For more on this situation, consult my review of The Twenty-Four-Hour Society by Martin Moore-Ede, M.D., Ph.D., on the Night Owl Books page.)
This is the most visible class of Night people, and the reason so many Larks believe the rest of us Owls "choose" to stay up for social rather than biological reasons. In fact, "party" Owls represent the most prevalent stereotype of Night people.
Not all party people are true physical Owls, but for many, their mental and/or psychological energy levels seem to run on high when they're in the company of other people. Some enjoy staying up late, at least on occasion, in social situations. On the other hand, like a majority of the population, many party people run out of steam before midnight and do not hesitate to leave the festivities early in order to get home and into bed "on time."
The hardest group to tally is the large number of people who don't sleep well at night and, rather than fighting their nature, simply find useful activities to occupy their time for much of the night. Many work at home during hours of their own choosing. A large number are involved in such creative pursuits as music, dancing, painting, sculpting and writing. These Owls understand that they need to use that energy when it is available. Others say their minds simply won't turn off until long past midnight, or they cannot sleep past a certain early hour, so they've adapted their work or other activities in order to be productive when they know they'll be awake.
Since these Owls spend most of these waking Night hours in isolation, they don't fall into any category that is polled for statistical purposes, so we must guess how many there are. You can drive along almost any residential street in the wee hours and note at least one house with enough lights on to indicate that someone inside is awake and active at that hour. You can do the same with apartment houses and high-rises, anywhere people live. Multiply that house by the number of residential streets in the country, the apartments by the number of such buildings in the nation, and you can envision a huge flock of untagged Night Birds.
Many in this group used to be part of the next group--until they realized they're not Larks with "insomnia," they're actually Night Owls. For many, this understanding gave them a freedom they never knew as "pseudo" Day people. At least they no longer beat their heads against the proverbial brick wall, trying to find a "cure" for a condition that, I believe, is not always a "disease."
Here is another well-tallied group, especially since the proliferation of sleep clinics began in the 1980s. But it is also the most elusive class of Owls because, as the name implies, most still believe they are Larks who cannot sleep at night. A great many of them, I believe, are actually Owls who don't realize it--or can't accept it.
Most do manage to achieve a relative sleeping state during much of the time on most nights, but they don't sleep as well during dark hours as they would if they allowed themselves to sleep later into the morning. Often, they fail in their attempt to fall asleep early, or they awaken many times during the night. For the "chronic insomniac" these are common symptoms, not merely occasional problems, and this situation cannot be attributed to a particular stressful event in their life, whether good or bad. This inability to obtain restful sleep night after night is a common problem for at least 20 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation in Los Angeles.
Another 20 million or more experience occasional insomnia, often the result of such a stressful event as a loss or life change, situations known collectively as "grief." Most of these people are probably not Owls, unless they are remarkably disciplined and make themselves sleep and wake when they're "supposed to," despite their natural tendencies. Some, at least, could be Owls and might actually function better in the long run if they slept according to an internal clock they've been trained to ignore.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AWAKE LATE AT NIGHT?
First take 10 million night workers, add 20 million "chronic insomniacs," add a few more million awake on any given night because of occasional insomnia, throw in a million or two of "party" Owls for fun, and round it out with the uncounted millions who work at home at night and those who just stay up late doing productive things--and who no longer complain about not being able to sleep at night. With this mixture, it is no stretch to assume that at least 40 million people are awake at some time during each night, and this might be a conservative estimate.
As resources for Night people continue to proliferate, the number of people awake at night grows every year. And since I began writing about this subject almost 20 years ago, more Owls are beginning to realize it's okay to be an Owl. They're no longer fighting their nature and are beginning to make the lifestyle changes necessary to live by their own body clocks.
Doing Business All Night Long
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 13)
In days of yore you had to make travel reservations between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.--Lark time. Now you can pick up the phone and book space on cruise ships, planes, and trains 24 hours a day. Even better, Owls actually have an advantage if they need railroad tickets in a hurry.
As noted in the article "Sleeper Secrets" in Success InSight (January 1993, page 29), the official newsletter of the Charles J. Givens Organization, the world's largest financial education organization: "Every day from midnight to 3 a.m., Amtrak's computer network purges all expired reservations. . . . [If you] Call Amtrak at 800-USA-RAIL [872-7245] . . . in the wee hours of the morning, you may get lucky."
To find out more about how to "get lucky," we asked Howard Robertson in Amtrak's Washington, DC, Public Affairs Office. Robertson told us the "witching hour" is 2:01 a.m. if you call 1-800-USA-RAIL shortly after that time each morning, you have the best chance of getting tickets you want on short notice. Of course, there's no guarantee. The train you hope to take might still be booked to capacity, but it's worth a try.
These days more and more businesses offer some kind of around-the-clock service, especially account information. Corporate busy signals are practically non-existent at 2 a.m., and we Owls tend to forget the frustration of wasting time on "hold."
Given the number of people awake at night, major corporations not offering 24-hour "hot lines" should consider that, in the U.S. alone, the "after hours" community numbers in the tens of millions. Even a basic 24-hour electronic information system without a personal operator on duty can handle thousands of simple account questions that otherwise would jam phone lines during "normal" business hours. And the cost of a small night-time staff is negligible compared to the business to be gained or secured because so many customers are more comfortable handling their business at night.
To paraphrase one commercial for a certain long-distance company: You're apt to lose customers when they always have trouble getting through. Keeping telephone lines open 24 hours ensures that thousands of your customers will be able to contact you when they want to.
Insomniac or Owl: Which are You?
(Originally featured inNight Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 16)
As I discussed in "Identifying the Night Population," above, many people think they have chronic insomnia who are actually Night people. The purpose of my work with this web site is to help these "pseudo" Larks realize and understand that they don't have a disease that needs curing, they have an alternately set body clock.
Of course, what seem like symptoms of "insomnia" are usually your best clue that your body clock might not coincide with the "average" Lark program. If you've always had trouble falling asleep on many nights, usually wake often during the night, have trouble waking up in the morning, and find yourself wanting to nap often during the day, you might want to consider two tests to determine whether you might actually be an Owl: the temperature-range test, and the vacation-sleep test.
You can perform the temperature-range test any time you want. Just take your body temperature every three hours or so and record the results in a notebook. The difference between your highest and lowest temperatures each day and the times of these two points will give you a hint as to whether you're really an Owl or a Lark.
Larks, or Day people, record their lowest temperature around 3:00 a.m. and the highest about twelve hours later. In addition, the range between their lowest and highest temperatures is usually little more than one full degree. So the "average" person might have a body temperature of 97.9 a few hours before they awake in the morning and as high as 99 in mid-afternoon. Incidentally, this temperature of 99 is not a sign of illness, since doctors have finally come to realize that, for the majority of healthy people, 98.6 is not "normal" but an "average" or "median" daily temperature.
If your temperature doesn't peak until 9:00 at night, then falls to its lowest point about 9:00 a.m., this is a good sign you should be sleeping through to late morning to get your best rest. In addition, you might find the difference between your high and low temperatures to be as much as two degrees. Scientists have discovered that this can be a perfectly normal range for a Night person. You're not sick; you're just an Owl.
The vacation-sleep test is more much complicated and difficult to perform than the temperature-range test, but you will definitely enjoy it more, if you can manage to do it. First, you must arrange to find a week or two when you can leave all of your time responsibilities behind and just sleep when your body dictates. Rent a cabin in the woods and take along a lot of books to read, crossword puzzles, anything that will take your mind off the passage of time. Try not to have any of those items around that will remind you of the time, such as clocks, telephones, radios, or TV sets. Not even a cell phone, as that displays the time just like a digital clock.
For the first few days, you don't want to know what times you go to sleep and wake up, you just want to do it when it feels right. Let your internal body clock dictate your schedule. After about a week, check the schedule you've slipped into. Better yet, if you have a relative or friend along, they can record your sleep-wake rhythms and not tell you the details. After two weeks, you'll probably have a pretty good idea of the times when your body wants to go to sleep and when it wants to wake up.
BACK TO REALITY
Of course, the very fact that you've been away from the stress of your day-to-day routine is part of the reason for the improvement in the way you'll feel after your Owl vacation. But if you could apply this new sleep-wake schedule to your real-world program, at least for a while, you'd probably discover a significant improvement in the overall quality of your sleep and a rise in your productivity during waking hours.
Chances are you won't be able to make an instantaneous switch in your daily schedule when you return to the real world. But you can begin to make plans for implementing that change sometime in the future. At least the vacation experience, and data collected therefrom, will provide you with ammunition when your loved ones, friends, and co-workers begin to question your reasons for taking the necessary steps toward your new Owl schedule.
In a future article, we'll discuss some you can take to move your schedule around so you can sleep when your body most craves its rest.
Adventures in "Good Morning America"
(Originally featured in Night Owl's Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 16)
On August 29, 1994, I had the good fortune to appear on "Good Morning America" to discuss Night Owls with early-morning TV viewers. The folks at ABC found me through an article in The Washington Post. I've done media appearances before, but this was the first out-of-town gig, including an expense-paid trip to the Big Apple, NYC.
Training for future trips, I learned a lot. For instance:
● You might not need a green card to drive a cab in New York, but it certainly helps.
● Trees in Central Park look a little bare. Some kind soul in Georgia should take pity on deprived New Yorkers and ship them a couple of sprigs of kudzu. In a week and a half, a lush crop of predatory vines will enshroud every tree in NYC--in a month, all those buildings will be covered in leafy green--and people in the Big Apple will finally know what "back to nature" is all about.
● I must keep my eyes open when I talk. I close them to cut out distractions and go into my brain to find information, but I shouldn't do it on camera. If you see me close my eyes when I'm talking, say: "Open your eyes, stupid!"
● TV networks spend an embarrassing amount of money to fill five minutes of air time. They flew me in from Atlanta and put me up overnight in a luxury suite. They flew in sleep researcher Dr. Charles Czeisler and his wife from Boston to enjoy another luxury suite before we met and chatted for a few minutes in front of millions of people, then we went our separate ways in separate studio-provided town cars. No expense was spared.
I did discover one benefit to being a Night Owl: Night people don't waste dark hours in a luxurious Manhattan hotel suite sleeping. We can munch imported chocolates and dried California fruit, guzzle imported bottled water, and watch late-night TV.
If you saw me on TV, you should know that wasn't the real me. The woman on your screen was the product of a personal shopper, a personal makeup artist, and a personal hairdresser. Only the woman underneath who closes her eyes when she talks was me.
Five and a half minutes is all the time I spent on camera with Dr. Charles Czeisler, Director of Sleep Disorders Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and our interviewer, Willow Bay, who was sitting in for Joan Lunden. Everyone was extremely gracious. Willow made us feel comfortable the moment we sat down by telling us to call her Willow. Dr. Czeisler did the same thing when he ran up to the makeup room to introduce himself to me as Chuck.
We found a couple of Owls among the early-morning crew. One fellow had been having sleep problems lately and asked for our advice. Dr. Czeisler and I told him to avoid sleeping pills and look to life's upsets to see what might be causing the problem. It's nice being part of the medical team.
In conclusion, I must say I had a ball, and I'm waiting for the next call from--who knows?!