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Night Lovers


“Darkness is sweet, night-time is king. Become who you want without risking a thing. Alone in the blackness, my palm on my head, I love it so much I have nothing to dread. The silence is soft, the darkness secure. Greatness starts here, if not for the light. As night turns to day wisdom fades too. Oh, night-time don’t leave me, I’m better with you. I see it all coming, my critics asleep. I make it all happen and then fall asleep.”

Loving the night on Donewaitin'I wrote those words when I lived on my boat on the Sacramento River Delta. Anchored to the starboard side, I slept in a queen bed tucked in the stern of my twenty-eight foot cruiser. No place was more peaceful or holds sweeter memories. Tiny 12 volt swivel lights cast shadows across the cabin to be replaced by a flickering candle when I conserved my batteries or no shadows at all when my candle burnt out.

My quarters were tight. I knew its spaces like the back of my hand. If need be, I could slip off my reclining position in the bow, and in total darkness make my way to any half-eaten cookie, half smoked cigarette, half drank rum and coke, or anything else in that boat.

Damp, foggy, November nights on the delta were pitch black, inside and out. It was quiet as a tomb except for the soft rippling of the current against the hull. I felt secure for three reasons: It was night, I was in the middle of nowhere with my anchor light on, and I was never more than 2 to 5 steps from the gun in my bed. There were stories of piracy on the river. Some of them were true. But the kachik-kachik as I pumped a shell into the chamber of my Remington Wingmaster, 12 gauge shotgun was a dangerous sound for the uninvited if they ever put weight on my swim platform.  

I am a night person—through and through. Researching this column, I’ve concluded that two reasons weigh heavily on whether you are a day or a night person. The first, and most common, is our genetically determined circadian rhythm. Beyond that, at least for me, there are psychological reasons for loving the night; far stronger than any biological factor.  I can’t speak for those who don’t love the night—I simply don’t understand you. It’s not that I dislike the day; I just love the night.

The research on circadian rhythms indicates that morning people are governed more by social values, are less open to change, more agreeable, and more conscientious (Vollmer and Randler, 2012), while evening people are more individualistic, open to change, and slightly neurotic. In 1999, Roberts and Killonen reported that night people have higher intelligence scores, and Chelminski and his colleagues discovered night owls were also more likely to be depressed.

In 2009, D. Collins and his students at the University of Alberta found that the physical strength of morning people stayed level throughout the day but declined in the evening, while evening people became physically stronger throughout the day indicating that, “the early bird may get the worm but the night owl has more stamina.”  Similar results demonstrated that after 10.5 hours of wakefulness, night owls are able to concentrate more effectively than early birds.

The extent to which a few of us love the night is tied to more than just circadian rhythms. Over our lives we have learned we are safe at night. By sundown, the phone quits ringing, no one needs us, no one is in our face, and expectations of the daily grind end. Night is when freedom and contentment permeate the night lover’s being. Public turns to private, busy to calm, stressed to relaxed, and restraint becomes loose, so the night owls can live well between their ears, especially on their boat.