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New Office Hours Aim for Well Rested, More Productive Workers (nytimes.com)
478 points by acjohnson55 82 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 270 comments

I manage a team of 20 fully remote devs, so I get to see exactly when everyone is working. When they're chatting, when they're pushing code. We don't force people to be working at any particular time, so I'm guessing when I see them is when they want to be working.

You can tell some people are complete night owls. One guy checks in code at 3am and rarely talks to anyone until the evening. I guess he sleeps when the sun is out.

Other people are a bit more ordinary, but still it seems the most productive hours are not quite as early as when most schools or businesses tend to be open. I'd say maybe 10am is the de facto "opening time".

There's also a tendency to have a lull in chat in the early afternoon. People go off to lunch having some ideas about what to do, and then they come back and do it before dinner. Or they are in deep thinking mode and don't want to talk, and then check in the code.

Having no meeting time and no commute seems to help everyone. It gives everyone an extra work day each week, and they can spend their time when they want to. It also makes managing easier, as I don't have to chase everyone at the exact same time.

What is your experience regarding productivity? There is the wide-held belief that remote teams are less productive than co-located ones. I have no clue if this was ever measured, but my gut tells me there could be something to it.

Not OP, but my experience has been that for more senior people and for projects that don't require a lot of collaboration, productivity is way higher.

For junior people or projects that require lots of collaboration, the remote nature does add some overhead. Your culture matters a lot here. If your culture is one of facilitating remote communication, then it can be done without too much drag. If you have a culture where many people are in an office, and don't tend to put things in slack or a video system such as zoom, then the overhead can become huge.

When working remotely full-time, I had some of the most productive days of my life, as well as some of the worst when I had to wait hours sometimes to hear back from members of my team. Highly collaborative efforts tend to suffer quite a bit in the asynchronous distributed model.

As a senior dev, doing remote work for a team that seems to be mostly junior devs has been some of the most frustrating things I've ever had to deal with in my dozen or so years of software development. The project manager asks for phone calls (never less than 45 minutes long) 3 or 4 times a day, all throughout the day for status updates and to discuss plans (which mostly consists of me listening to people talk over each other about things they don't understand). All this on top of a project deadline that was just on the edge of being impossible to meet. It felt like a death march, (I was told it wasn't crunch at one point, so they were trying to gaslight me as well) and it would have been so much better for everyone if they would have just let me work.

I've also been on on-site teams where only one or two junior devs work remotely. This always seems to work out poorly, but based on my observations it's usually due a combination of only being willing to only pay entry level rates, and failing to set deadlines for them. When we waited 4 months on a remote while he apparently just spun his tires on a simple bug, even after I explained the fix to him (it was ~4 lines, I basically said "try looking in X file on line Y, if you fozz the frob, does it fix it?") and he just like, could not. Also he'd have "internet issues" practically every day. Now the company is skittish about remote workers, even though it was obviously their own incompetence in managing him.

I know I personally do my best work when working remote, provided I'm not being pestered constantly. I just wonder if the "remote workers are bad" thing because it seems that many people seeking remote dev work are just starting out in programming or trying to transition from other jobs thinking those high paying computer programming jobs sound easy.

I agree with your observations. I have had excellent experience with remote teams but they were always filled with mature and diligent people who didn't need constant handholding or monitoring. There aren't too many people of that type.

I work now in an office (hope to change that) and when I look around there are only a few percent of people I would trust to do well in a remote environment.

Same. I work for a company that is 100% remote. It’s the most productive group I’ve worked with in my career. Also the most senior, so it’s hard to say how much remote work is to credit vs median seniority.

I think the remote-first culture of the company attracts self-managers who value quiet, focused work, and who have relatively good communication skills.

Anyway, I never want to go back to office work after this gig.

I don't know that you can separate the two: if you hire remote it's easier to hire more senior engineers.

How do you defend hiring a fixer upper halfway across the country when you can get someone just as bad locally?

I think though the fact that there’s friction to hiring junior people in a remote office situation should be of concern to us. There is always going to be a fresh batch of recruits and if we lose the ability to train them then who will take up that job, and what lessons will those people focus on?

Well it's hard to compare anything objectively. Being fully remote means we can hire out of a global pool of talent. Everyone is very experienced, and experienced in the exact thing that we want. So the c++ devs are experienced in writing trading system cores. The front end guys are experienced in writing GUIs for trading systems. And the devops guys are experienced in managing them.

So you'd probably be comparing apples to oranges, since most firms have to compromise on either skill or experience, due to being in a local market. In-office teams have other advantages such as being able to monitor people, and maybe a sense of closeness for people who aren't devs (devs are ahead of the others culturally).

My own opinion is that the tradeoff falls in favour of remote. I've actually never worked with a bunch of people as competent as this, and it's all been quite pleasant too. I also briefly helped a friend run a remote team, and that was similarly pleasant and productive.

Most of my previous experience has been with traditional in-office teams. Commuting is a major context switch, and most people need to go 45 minutes each way. And then they aren't set up to do much from home, and are disinclined when the occasional work-from-home day happens.

That context switch can be quite bad if you think about it. Say you need 2 hours of deep dive concentration to write a piece of critical code, and magically assume it's pointless to try if you don't have the full time undisturbed. Well, if your working day is 8 hours, you can't do it in the two hours before lunch, or the two hours before you leave. If you have meetings there might not be any time at all that day.

By contrast you probably don't have a meeting in my remote team -just say you aren't around- and you can either wake up early or overrun your evening, or move your lunchtime.

The thing is culture is everything. We started remote, and that's always been the deal. It might be different to have an in-office team attempting to go remote.

Which countries/cities is your team working from?

Very wide spectrum of time zones, Vancouver to Sydney

Could you share the company name or add some contact info to your profile?

Does optimum productivity mean that products get built quickly and efficiently? Or does it mean that the products that get built are loved by customers and drive business success?

It's really the latter that in-person collaboration is supposed to help, and I'd argue it is also the latter that is more important to long-term business success.

That said, at some point decisions have to be turned into work, and work benefits from fewer distractions. And IME remote work is better for managing distractions.

When I’m working on process or productivity improvements nothing is as valuable to me as sitting and watching a just barely or almost senior dev try to puzzle through my documentation and using my work.

I don’t know how to accomplish that in a remote situation. It might be possible, but it would take more introspection on my part to understand what I’m looking for exactly and the tooling overhead puts in jeopardy the organic nature of walking up to someone, saying hey check this out and taking notes.

These are very good question. I also believe that effectivity is much more important in product development than efficiency. If remote work has a great (negative) impact on both, that’ll be very bad.

> There is the wide-held belief that remote teams are less productive than co-located ones.

This is true in my experience. I've worked in on many remote teams and colocated ones and colocated ones have always been more productive. Sure remote teams are sometimes equally as productive but thats in select circumstances.

I am on 100% remote team now for past 3 yrs and remote teams lack any human connection, team culture or shared struggle. Sure I know where everyone lives and how many kids they have but I don't have any real connection with any of them. There is no random conversations/ideas to be shared at lunch ect.

I sort of like that part of remote life. As horrible as it may sound, I never really cared for my coworkers lives outside of work. I have enough friends and family to worry about that remote life gives me way more time to spend with them.

It doesn't sound horrible. I work in a lab environment most of the time, and I hear my coworkers' conversations, and I don't really care about their lives outside of work either. The ones my age are always talking about stuff like their yards or home improvement projects, which I don't care at all about, and they have zero interest in hearing about my foreign travel. The younger ones are better but only so much, plus the generation gap makes it hard to really relate.

I was implying that you work better with people you really know vs acquaintances. Not, I need friends from work.

If you and management are both pro-social, with a lot of contact time that will ammount to decisions being tilted in your favor. If you are not so social (i.e. the person who usually turns out to be the other end of the zero sum game) then by virtue of handicapping the social interaction advantages of others you will come out ahead in remote work.

I never understood this. I mean, I was in teams that cooperated well and I did not even knew whether they are married. And in bad team with a lot of personal knowedge and out of work time spend.


I'm curious if your team is ever able to be together in the same location and how often if you do? I'm a firm believer that remote can work, but by getting a chance to spend some time face to face, have dinner or a beer together, you learn a bit more about each other than you can via phone and video calls. That face time is very humanizing. You don't have to learn all about their family, dogs and cats, but you do learn more about their body language, how they like to work, many little things you just don't get when you're not face to face.

> I'm curious if your team is ever able to be together in the same location and how often if you do?

We met once in about 3 yrs. Management is super stingy with any travel thats not absolutely necessary.

> I am on 100% remote team now for past 3 yrs and remote teams lack any human connection, team culture or shared struggle. Sure I know where everyone lives and how many kids they have but I don't have any real connection with any of them. There is no random conversations/ideas to be shared at lunch ect.

Man, this, 100%. We have solid communication as a team, lots of slack or hangouts/webex/skype/go2meeting/whatever, but no one really interacts in a social sense. All communications feel like talking to a customer, and there is a constant CYA vibe that makes routine questions feel like walking on eggshells.

HR meanwhile keeps blasting us with emails about the Ugly Sweater parties or bake-offs in the HQ office that doesn't apply to any of the technical teams. Only reinforces the disjointed feeling, tbh.

The hardest part is objectively measuring developer productivity, and if you can find a way to do that where half the community doesn't disagree with you you'll probably make a lot of money consulting and giving presentations.

You can make 5 parallel teams work on the same project, then see which one finishes first, or something like that.

It might seem expensive, but if it helps to find the optimal working strategy, then for a large company it could be a bargain.

You'd need to do it on enough projects to move folks around to different teams, and you'd need to do it for long enough on each project to average out the effects of everything from interpersonal differences to Mark going through a divorce, and hope that everyone is employed there long enough not to invalidate huge pieces of your data.

To the point of the parent, IMO speed of project execution is often an absolutely terrible metric to optimize for, especially if the parallel teams know that that's the goal. If you can find a generalizable objective metric that works across many different dev projects, then you've found something magical.

This is such a hard thing to measure, since programming isn't about how many widgets. Even how fast you complete a project. Often the team is making decisions about interface and data design that impact the project down the line. With 2 teams working, you would get 2 different products and I think it would be hard to see which is the better product without significant time. You could also have the exact same team make the same product 5 times and get 5 different products. Experiments with humans are hard

How do people get anything done in 2-3 hours between 10am and lunch?

I always work 7-8am to 12pm, because I need uninterrupted 4-5 hours to get really zoned in. When I come back from lunch, I'm already in a good place to go back to intense focus.

When I work from home and start late (a lot if my team is in CA and I am east coast) I don't stop for lunch of I just eat in anyway. Eating out is an office thing to me unless I meet a friend which I only do maybe once per week.

I have complete flexibility in my work hours, and have stabilized at 2h in the morning, 5h-6h in the afternoon. The morning hours are used to close tickets, answer emails and other sub-15min tasks. Afternoon is for zoning in.

Those who start working about 10am often don’t choose to completely stop work for lunch unless required to do so.

Or they have their lunch a bit later, like 2pm. You don't have to have lunch at noon.

Yep, I usually eat lunch at my desk and work straight through until a late afternoon nap.

Do you have any proof of that?

Personally i often start work at 10am after a breakfast, so by 12am i'm just not hungry yet.

Nope; just personal observation.

Well there are things to do that aren't deep-thinking coding. Interfacing with team members, running errands, interviewing candidates, etc.

What are your thoughts on daily stand-ups and scrums with fully remote teams with different chronotypes. Does that work for you guys?

We just have a bot that asks you when you wake up what you're up to.

It's mainly so I know what I'm interrupting if I start writing to someone, but everyone can look in the bot's channel for the same purpose.

As for everyone being on different times, it's not a problem. There's always someone you can talk to, and you know what everyone else is doing. Plus there's a chat history for every project, and cards for every outstanding issue.

Same at my company. We funnel the artifacts of our work, like commit messages, to a particular Slack channel. Then my manager reads off the Slack channel. They use Zapier (I'm biased, I'm a Zapien) to automate and collate the channel.

That's a really interesting approach to the daily stand-up!

I've never heard of this before, but I'm going to give it a go on my next project - would he interested to hear if anyone else has tried this?

We tried it for a while but switched back to actual stand ups. There were several reasons:

1. Stand ups aren’t status updates, they’re replaning meetings, conversation matters.

2. People stopped answering the bot. It feels like an impersonal management tool.

3. There’s no need to persist the standup output.

4. Remote workers feel more like they’re part of the team. The whole team can chit chat for a few minutes before to start the day.

5. We worked on streamlining our meetings. They are always between 8-12 minutes. Making it async. Means it might be a couple hours before you get everyone’s info, that slows down the replaning process a lot.

This just indicate that it's just a pointless managerial social status and/or micromanagement practice. If you don't need to persist it, or people stop answering the bot, maybe it's because people feel it's meaningless? One can't suggest that as easily in-person to a manager.

Surely healthy communication isn't forced in-person standups every days. Other professions would probably feel insulted by the practice.

1. If you are replaning (?) every day, maybe your project is in chaos and needs some real planning so people can make consistent progress without changing direction every day?

4. Everyone is forced to kill time or disrut schedule so that they can start the day at one privileged time.

5. Aren't you slowing down by waiting for a meeting to get the info? Everyone has to prepare for the meeting in advance, so waiting for the meeting is delay.

I assume he is not talking about changing direction so much as:

- "This implementation of the API was trickier than expected, so it will take a couple of days more I think".

- "Ok, maybe I can help you with it instead of starting with the front end then?"

I thought the software world had generally agreed that adding extra people to something that’s running late is rarely the right answer.

That is when you are running late on a project and adding new people. Someone that is already up to speed in the project does not have that limitation.

Adding new person to project and team member knowledgeable about project helping somebody else with a task are two very different things.

If the only way to do this sort of communication is to force it out through a stand-up surely something is very wrong?

we use a stand-up bot, and currently we are all in the office. We don't have the same work schedule, but it does overlap I probably 6 hours. Having a bot manage stand-up is great because it means that stand up reports are persisted for easy review later, and there is no debate or controversy over the proper time to do a stand-up.

There are disadvantages of course, such as the fact that any sort of communication regarding the stand-up report must be done asynchronously when people get around to reading it. It also puts some onus on members to actually read each other is reports and respond to questions comments and concerns.

This was a big thing around 2011 - 2013 when HipChat was catching traction, then obviously Slack in 2013-2014.

It worked/works well for remote teams and slowly fell out with a lot of big corporations using (Enterprise) Slack.

Am I the only one that thinks stand-ups are pretty much worthless? We have two versions, in person once a week. Then a daily slack version. Recently I asked in a real stand-up "does anyone actually read them", 2 out of 25 hands went up. I was surprised by people being so candid that they don't. I don't, it's generally irrelevant. It's a waste of time.

Interpersonal direct communication and making sure the appropriate people are kept in the loop is far more efficient. Otherwise it becomes a bunch of meaningless chatter.

The Slack versions are probably for the manager more than the individual engineers on the team. If you can't even give your manager a quick update on what you're working on, I think there's a problem. And there's no reason to hide that information from your teammates, so you might as well share it. Boom -- standup.

The manager isn't doing their job if they depend on slack updates. And if they don't already know what you are working on, they are not a manager. Teammates are usually not hiding info, if they the manager has completely failed and so has that. Effective communication is important with the appropriate people. Broadcasting what I'm working on is a complete waste of time, shows lack of leadership in the company and direction. Its only use is to make yourself look, it's bragging right. But it's still a waste of everyone else's time.

How, exactly, do I already know (yknow, if I'm a good manager) what an engineer is working on if he's remote, and has 4 cards assigned to himself in Doing?

They are working on the stuff they are assigned to. If you need to know exactly what they do each minute of the day you could ask them directly. If there are cards they shouldn’t work, then find a better way to prioritize cards that engineers can pick up. Don’t waste other people’s time.

I also think that stand ups are a terrible idea. It feels like extreme micromanagement. With everyone using slack it’s silly to wait a day for this specific meeting to say what they’re blocked on or raise other issues.

Note that I don't want to/don't think I should have to.

Updating status is beneficial for the individual and the senior engineers.

I have never seen that in action. The seniors don't care, don't read the status updates, are not listening to actual stand-ups. We just pretend to. When something needs to be communicated or worked out with team members efficiently it's with the relevant people directly.

Stand-ups are a waste of time.

Why precisely?

Maybe for very new people who need high levels of guidance it could be helpful. But it’s a practice that has no basis in evidence to be so widespread.

Did you need very selective hiring and mercy-less attrition to get to this team? This is obviously a sensitive topic

It seems to me, FINDING the right team for remote is a lot of trial and error.

(I managed a few small off shore teams and the quality really varied..)

> One guy checks in code at 3am and rarely talks to anyone until the evening

Does everyone live in the same time zone?

No, we're distributed all around the globe, TZ from Vancouver to Sydney. But I know where people are and Slack hooks tell me when someone pushes code.

I think it's easier to have Stockholm syndrome when you're remote since you really want it to work. It sounds great on paper, where commute times are cut, office space is free, etc, but except for a small amount of people on a small amount of tasks, it's highly inefficient. Having face to face, knowing the person a couple offices down, and working on any collaborative tasks are far worse remotely in my experience.

Are you guys hiring? :P

Right at this moment we're focusing on launch, don't have time to onboard anyone. If launch goes well probably.

You can find other fully remote companies at https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/100-percent-remote-companies/ and we at GitLab are all remote as well.

I'd love to see more information about the assertion that there are innate qualities in people which make them Larks versus Owls.

I believe I am a night owl. On an average day, I don't get tired until 2am, and without an alarm clock I could sleep until 10am; by any definition this makes me a night owl.

But, I question how much of this behavior is environmental versus innate. I drink a lot of coffee (never after 6pm). I work on a computer all day (blue light). My hobbies generally come alive at night (video gaming, spending time with friends, concerts). I have a naturally addictive and obsessive personality combined with low self-control (when I get started on something, like a new work problem or video game, I can't put it down).

Is there research in the area of identifying actual biological reasoning behind why someone would be an owl versus a lark (genetics, etc)? Or do all of these studies just rely on behavioral self-reporting, which even the article says, is completely vulnerable to the very real problem that people really only know their behavior in the face of all of their vices, and that behavior might be different if the vices weren't there.

The reason I believe that's important is because it should be a factor in our response to this. Yes, people need sleep, and they need good sleep. But if a big reason why you get tired at 2am and thus wake up at 10am is because you're watching Netflix in bed until the minute you shut your eyes, we can't ask society to accept that starting work at 11am is fine.

When backpacking in the wilderness for weeks, I like to sleep around 12-2am and wake up at least eight hours later. When I need to wake up early for a long period of time, I do it and it never stops feeling suboptimal. I appreciate the your point re: lifestyle, technology and sleep hygiene.

But I'm close to forty and it FUCKING PISSES ME OFF how seemingly everyone minimizes and deflects my concerns and observations about my own body. I function best when I sleep eight hours beginning at 2-4am. A consistent early schedule, plus daily exhausting exercise, minus artificial light changes nothing about my sleep preferences. Two plus two does not equal five.

Talking about "sleep hygiene" is still perpetuating this backwards paradigm based around expecting that people must wake up early to be productive. The early bird may get the worm, but the early worm gets eaten.

I've personally found that dark hours are more productive for mental tasks like programming. AFAICT not because of secondary factors like quietness or people being around, but simply that bright light undermines my ability to concentrate. After loading a problem into one's head, and getting "in the zone", one is supposed to interrupt what they're doing to go to bed at a "reasonable hour" to live up to someone else's expectations of what a productive person should look like? Give me a break.

The times I've driven across the country car camping, I've naturally fallen into waking up much earlier. And I'd much rather do physical tasks when it's light. But consciousness is not a scalar, and so it's inappropriate to extrapolate these patterns as indicative of some "true natural cycle" that's being distorted.

> The early bird may get the worm, but the early worm gets eaten.

This makes no sense. All worms get eaten randomly because all worms have to surface at the same time. Earliness and lateness don't change the chance you will be eaten by the early birds. But the original phrase is true that the early bird gets the worm because it shows up in the window the worms are all surfacing and the late bird misses the window and goes hungry. Leave the original phrase intact and maybe ditch the added second part.

The point is a quip to push back against the culture of early risers lording their being up early over everyone else.

It doesn't really push back though because it doesn't make sense. Phrases are powerful because they are compressed versions of larger truths. This new version doesn't work as a phrase like the one it is built from.

It doesn't actually have to fully make sense per se, to invalidate the earlier saying.

The truth of the whole matter is that we're not birds, but distinct creatures who live technological lives because of our lazy ancestors who looked for better ways rather than just competing to do the straightforward thing first. If you can find some way to stuff that into a tight phrase, please do!

> I've personally found that dark hours are more productive for mental tasks like programming. AFAICT not because of secondary factors like quietness or people being around, but simply that bright light undermines my ability to concentrate.

It's more like the Balmer's peak effect: the brain is so numb that it can't lose the concentration.

Why are you using negative terms to describe something you seemingly have no experience with?

I wasn't talking about running on fumes at 2am to pounding pounding pounding techno music. I'll have days where I do not feel fully awake until it starts to gets dark. Given many mammals are nocturnal, I would presume there's some bona fide physiological reason for this rather than a deficiency of something else.

At any rate, there's a huge difference in stating advice in a personal-constructive way (for instance, I'm fully aware I presently need to detox caffeine cold turkey, and am waiting for the opportunity to do so), and pushing paternalistic "one size fits all" social mores whereby people on later schedules are assumed to just not be taking responsibility for themselves.

It seems to make evolutionary sense that groups benefit from night owls, etc., and so would develop them.

Unfortunately, my non-normal sleep not only doesn't qualify me for any subsidized treatments, recognized disorders, non-discrimination statutes, or not even sympathy from most people.

That's interesting, I find backpacking to be one of those activities where you have to get up early no matter what type you are. You want to hike during the daylight (and for alpine starts, even earlier- before the snow begins to soften by afternoon), and you want to reach your destination with plenty of daylight to make camp, cook and eat.

Car camping is a little different, with electricity it's much easier to eat in the dark and stay up late partying.

I completely agree: even my can't-sleep-before-3am backpacking partner falls asleep before 11pm reliably when we were out. In a lot of places it's hard to sleep much past sunrise in a tent.

I am normally a early to bed early to rise type, and I find myself crashing early and hard when camping the moment the sun goes down.

I don’t know that people are minimizing you. It’s just that your observations aren’t consistent with how it works.

Sleep cycles exist and aren’t innate. Your engrained behavior or schedule is something that sets your cycle, but is changeable. Based on what you’re saying, it sounds like from time to time you need to wake up early, and you do so by rolling back bedtime or compressing by losing sleep. (By accident or design) Yup — doing that will make you feel like crap.

You need to roll forward, not back. You can take a long weekend and roll your sleep schedule forward 6-10 hours at a time and sleep from 9P-5A without much “suboptimality”. There is lots of research about this in industrial and military contexts... “rolling back” your schedule is unhealthy and increases accident rates in workplace situations substantially.

As someone who had similar habits, I’d respectfully suggest that you consider changing it. Living your life out of cycle with the world is bad for you... you experience more stress as a result. It made a measurable positive medical impact on me.

Curiously the book Why We Sleep says the exact opposite: we all have natural sleep cycles that differ and it's genetic, impossible to change. What I've noticed is that it's possible to keep a consistent schedule and overcome all of that inertia, but if you slip up you'll find yourself back in your natural cycle. Interestingly, the cited reason for this is that evolutionary, it's an advantage to not have everyone asleep at the same time.

A lot of scientific and medical literature disagrees with you. You also assume a lot about their habits and what they've tried.

Studies of chronotype consistently show a near-normal distribution skewed toward later hours.[1] This is partly heritable.[2] Genetic studies have found markers for chronotype near genes known to affect circadian rhythm.[3]

Delayed sleep phase disorder may be a distinct condition or just the tail of the chronotype distribution. Either way, it exists. It usually responds to treatment, but relapse rates are over 90%.[4] The world isn't asleep by 9:00 every night. Even a day in bed sick can cause a relapse.

"Rolling forward" may increase the risk of non-24-hour sleep disorder in people who have DSPD.[5]

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479630/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4363835/

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18760498

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9562922

[5] https://www.circadiansleepdisorders.org/info/N24chrono.php

> Sleep cycles exist and aren’t innate. Your engrained behavior or schedule is something that sets your cycle, but is changeable.

How do you know this? Not trying to be snarky, I'm just wondering if you have any evidence for this claim.

This article (which I was reminded of by this thread) gives an overview of sleep for teenagers, and it isn't radically different for anyone else either:


I expect that there is variation within the general population with regards to body clocks.

This would still be consistent with there being genetic (or otherwise hard to change in adulthood) factors that make a person function better with a shifted sleep cycle. It's not at all clear that it's all environmental (like the post I replied seemed to imply) and I find it irritating when people make such sweeping claims without evidence.

That's an entirely reasonable thing to be irritated at.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome is an ada protected disability, your employer must make reasonable accommodation. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but might be worth looking into.

Just goes to show that anti-discrimination laws are a ridiculous imposition of arbitrary social demands onto private contracts. We now have an enormous rule book on how people are allowed to exercise their contracting rights with other consenting adults, when the only rule that should apply is whether the terms are mutually agreed upon.

Please don’t be so reductive. Many of us out here are pretty happy that our employers can no longer fire us on the basis of things like sexuality, religious views, or because we got pregnant.

But that's not the premise. The premise is whether we respect the right of employers to offer people jobs that let them discriminate based on sexuality, religious views, pregnancy, etc, or we do not respect that right, and use the force of law to restrict the right of consenting adults to reach any agreement they want.

In a free society without these anti-discrimination laws, you could still find an employer that offers terms of employment that bars them from doing these things. The question is whether you're willing to tolerate other people choosing differently, and yea I guess some people like limiting other people's choices when they find them ideologically repulsive. I contend that people are only harming their society by rejecting freedom.

You're absolutely right. Any impingement on an employer's right to discriminate is ridiculous.

That's why we were much more free when we had company towns with company stores and company scrip and when attempts to unionize were countered by well-trained private police.



Thousands of people die in the US every day. The most important factor for reducing the death rate is economic development.

Productivity, wages and life expectancy were rising much faster in the late 19th century, when the right to freely contract was not violated, than today, when we have hundreds of thousands of regulations instituted by nanny-states telling us what and we cannot do with other consenting adults.

Occupational licensing alone costs the economy over $184 billion a year by some estimates:


And what is all this centralization and Big Brother control getting us? We have a highly regulated medical system, largely subsidized at the expense of the taxpayer, and captured by highly regulated opioid-manufacturing pharmaceutical giants pushing opioids to the vulnerable, through licensed doctors, and creating the worst opioid epidemic in history:


>>That's why we were much more free when we had company towns with company stores and company scrip

In defense of the company town:


>>when attempts to unionize were countered by well-trained private police.

No, attempts to blockade company premises were countered by well-trained private police. Do you know what strikers did to "scabs" who crossed to picket lines? Replacement workers needed hired protection, so that their contract freedom wouldn't be violated.

>>The most important factor for reducing the death rate is economic development.

Don't forget not murdering people, please. I think it's very important not to murder people.

I wrote all that and this is the only response you have to me? I guess you have everything figured out, and there's no need to consider any viewpoints opposed to yours.


>>So, which is it? Are you stupid or evil? Or maybe both?

You're not going to get anywhere being so close-minded and prejudicial.

>>you think that people actually are capable of understanding the terms they are about to agree in any non-trivial case

I think a court of law should decide whether a person provided informed consent to a contract. A jury, with time to deliberate on the specific circumstances of a case, and resorting to a large body of legal precedents that constitutes common law, is better positioned to issue a just decision than any other body that I can think of.

I do not think these matters should be dealt with by populist legislation that makes blanket judgments about a huge number of diverse contracts between a diverse array of private individuals.

Never heard of this, details?

The way you feel about your own body isn’t science.

I think the reason I’m a “night owl” is that my experiences with morning during childhood were all negative.

Morning was when I was forced to wake up to go to school, it was when I’d have water thrown at me if I slept in on the weekends, it was when I’d have to get up early to help my father with the boat.

At night time, I was left alone. And night time still brings me comfort. I suspect morning people had more positive morning-related experiences than I did during childhood.

I'm fortunate to have had parents who let me sleep in on weekends, and I definitely felt like a night owl in my teenage years. Now in my thirties I seem to function best in the morning. Typing this at 7am on boxing day - I've been awake a while already without a reason at all.

Keep in mind that your circadian clock changes with different life stages. Teenagers have been shown to have circadian rhythms that run a few hours later than that of adults.

One example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2820578/

This is very possible, but also there could be multiple reasons.

I don't drink any coffee and have a lifestyle very similar to OP's, and usually can't fall asleep before 2am. It strikes me as improbable that people with similar lifestyles would have different sleeping habits. However, some of us may have developed these habits for the very reasons you mention; I for one had a terrible time at school.

"forced to wake up to go to school" implies you were a night owl back then too.

Kids have to wake up very early in America to go to school. 8am start time means you typically have to be ready to walk out the door at 7:30, and that's a pretty good scenario. If you have a longer commute to school, you might be getting up before 7am.

It's pretty tragic, imo, and it's one of the biggest reasons I want opening hours to shift later.

It's also staggered by grade level. My elementary school started 8am, middle school started 9am, and highschool - the one with the longest commute for most due to there being less and larger schools - started at 7:40am. On that last one, buses dropped us off around 7am, so I had to be out the door by 6:25am.

Here in Europe lessons start as early 7:15 to 8:00, so that's really a good scenario. On the other hand, some other days of the week start as late as 11:45

There are many studies.[1]

Large-scale genetic studies have found markers associated with self-reported "morningness".[2][3] At least some of these markers are near genes known to affect circadian rhythms.

Observational studies control factors like caffeine intake and light exposure.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronotype

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10448

[3] https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/jo...

I've been an owl before kids and a lark after my kids were born.

In my experience, it has to do with routine and much nothing else. If I force myself sleep everyday at 10:00 PM and wake up at 5:30 sharp, I find in about a week that my sharpest time is the hours after I wake up and before my kids get out of bed.

When I have the luxury of choice, I stay awake and I find that I fall into focus post 11:00 PM when all is quiet and that deadline a couple of days ahead starts bugging me.

As somebody with a pretty severely delayed circadian rhythm, I believe from my experience that you actually just have a normal cycle.

With the abundance of electric lighting etc., everyone can be a bit lazy and go a couple of hours later than their normal cycle. But, if you actually were a night-owl, you’d be basically unable to force yourself to sleep at 10pm - at least, not until you become sleep-deprived enough (and not even then sometimes).

This is one of the biggest problems people with actually delayed circadian rhythms have - people with normal rhythms (innocently, but incorrectly) believing that their experience means that it’s just a preference and routine/discipline issue for everyone.

Surely people can hack themselves a routine to wake up early. But like you said, when having the luxury of choice you would likely start drifting back later again. I think that's the innate part people refer to when talking about larks vs night owls.

It's not uncommon to not even be able to force yourself to sleep early, however. I've only ever managed to do that through severe sleed deprivation.

For example, if I have a week when I have to wake up at 7 each morning I will only begin to fall asleep around 22 around Thursday/Friday. Up until that I've just fought my natural cycle: I can not force myself to fall asleep but I can force myself to get up early. So, I get less and less sleep until I practically fall asleep sitting. Now, if I continued the 22-07 rhythm I'd eventually stop being a zombie and become productive again (done that, too), but as soon as I finally have the luxury of choice again I'm very soon back at going to sleep after midnight, on the next day or so at the latest.

I was about to report the same personal experience, so that's twice the amount of anecdotal evidence in favor of the environment/habits and against inner causes.

>I drink a lot of coffee (never after 6pm).

This is insane to me. I've drank a lot of coffee before (6+ cups per day), but if I ever drink caffeine past 2PM I don't sleep until after 2AM. Have you experimented with your caffeine intake? I highly suggest it. Once I found the correct dose (1-2 cups before 10am, no more til the next day) I've found myself to feel much, much better.

I drink a lot of coffee up till the late evening or night and it doesn't seem to affect my sleeping patterns at all. I can easily fall asleep soon after finishing a cup, or having had several cups during the evening. It's just that I fall asleep if it's the right time: I tend to go to sleep between 24-02 and wake up between 09-10. But even with coffee, I sleep like a log during that time.

Now you could say my rhythm is "late" exactly because of the coffee.

But I only started drinking coffee towards the mid-20's. I didn't drink a drop until I was 20. But I remember staying up similarly till 24-02 as a teenager (when school mornings allowed that), and I remember vacation season when I was 10-12 years old (didn't have bedtime during holidays), and I happily stayed up way past midnight each day, both during the summer (longer days) and Christmas time (shorter days).

In my experience, coffee doesn't really play a part in my sleep. Thus, while coffee does keep some people up it's not a universal rule.

Why do you drink so much coffee?

Because it tastes good.

I mostly only ever drink good coffee which means I generally only drink coffee at home which is where I can make good coffee.

Usually I drink one pot (which is 10 cups on the coffee maker's scale but which comes down to 5 mugs) throughout a single day. But, it varies. For example, today, only two mugs now that I counted.

It depends on your tolerance. Caffeine has a half-life of 12 hours, so if you drink coffee at 6 PM, good luck sleeping before 6 AM. Unless you have a very high tolerance or are in an already fatigued state.

I think it’s more like half that. So 100 mg of caffeine (one cup of coffee more or less) at 6PM is the equivalent of 50 mg (two cups of black tea) at midnight. A coffee at lunch (100mg @ noon) is 50 mg by six and 25mg by midnight.

Still not great, but a 12 hour half life would likely mean no one would start drinking coffee because you’d never be able to sleep while building up a tolerance.

I thought that’s what college was for — a once-in-life-time 4 year contiguous block of time for building caffeine tolerances.

I think there is a lot of variation in tolerance and time horizon for caffeine. I can take a 100mg caffeine supplement (I don't drink coffee) at 3pm and go to sleep easily by midnight. And this is something I do, at most, 1 time per month. In fact, I sometimes am able to go to sleep easier either due to the crash or the fact that my activity level will have been higher the rest of the afternoon and evening and I'm just exhausted by midnight.

In my experience coffee does nothing to my ability to sleep, just allows me to focus better. I realize I’m in the minority but I literally just drank a cup and am headed to bed.

Tolereance is one thing, but sensitivity is another factor to consider, I think. Tollerence is a pure function of the frequency you put a substance in your body. I'm sure my caffeine tolerance is off the charts, as I drink 4-6 cups of coffee (no sugar, sometimes cream if its crap coffee) a day. But my sensitivity is also very low. My whole life, even before coffee as a kid drinking soda, I have never felt stimulated from caffeine. I sometimes wonder if I'm immune, haha. I could literally drink a cup before bed and be fine. So why drink it you ask? Because I think it's delicious, and I belive there to be myriad other health benefits to coffee.

This might sound insensitive but it's possible you're not aware of the effect. For a while I also thought I was not stimulated by caffeine, but I realized I just didn't know how to recognize the effect.

Edit: I would add that being high on caffeine doesn't necessarily mean I have trouble falling asleep.

Yeah it's possible, but I'm sure it is having some type of an effect. I don't doubt stuff is happening at the cellular/ chemical level. It is just so difficult for me to even perceive. It could be changing my conciousness more dramatically than I realize, but as far as the purely physical effects many people report (becoming jittery/ restless, trouble sleeping) they are just not there for me.

Do you not feel "more awake" with the ability to focus better, etc.? I find that as long as I'm focused on a task the effects of caffeine are negligible; it helps me stay focused. As soon as I go interacting with people, the effects become really visible and a hindrance. My mind is a bit too fast and fragmented for these slow and broad interactions.

So how do you recognize it?

I don't know by which method to begin to recognize it. In myself I started to notice slightly more fragmented thought patterns; proneness to having more new thoughts interrupting the current line for thought.

Yup, same for me and I’ve noted my dad as well. We can happily drink a cup of coffee before going to bed.

I don’t really notice being more alert with caffeine, and drinking coffee seems to just be out of habit mostly.

If I drink too much I notice my heart beating a bit faster and a slight anxiety feeling.

I generally drink two cups a day

>I sometimes wonder if I'm immune

Why not find out? It would be awful if you went your whole life consuming something that didn't do what you that it was.

I wonder if there is some bloodwork or something that could prove/ disprove this hypothesis, haha. I don't care about the stimulation, I think coffee is legit healthy for you(as long as you don't add sugar). There is some evidence coming out suggesting the complex blend of chemicals in coffee might hold many beneficial compounds.


They already explained that they're in it for the taste.

I'm about the same. I frequently drink 4-5 double shots of espresso when my little one sleeps at around 11, and I head to bed an hour or two later.

Do you have ADHD? I do, and I can drink caffeine and go straight to bed, and it does help a little bit with focus (Adderall helps a lot more, of course).

Stimulants tend to calm the ADHD mind, and can stop racing thoughts that make it harder to sleep.

Never been diagnosed, but I definitely suspect it. I show a lot of the classic signs, just not quite as severe as people I’ve known that were diagnosed. I started drinking coffee when I was a kid, though, so I tend to joke that I have been inadvertently treating myself for ADHD all this time :)

You should go get screened! I just finally got diagnosed at age 38, and it's shed so much insight into my life. Plus, medication can really make a real difference.

I can wake up, drink a can of red bull (10 years ago for reference), and go right back to sleep for another 4 hours, no problem. I haven't noticed a strong correlation between coffee / caffeine and sleepiness.

I have however found a really strong correlation between eating and sleepiness. If I don't eat by 8pm, I'm almost unconscious by 9pm. If I sleep then, I'll sleep until 2 then have a hard time sleeping again until 6 or so. Whereas if I eat by 8pm, I'm awake until 2am or thereabouts.

you can build a tolerance to caffeine, if ingested regularly. you would need to exceed your regular dosage to measure an effect.

Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours.

See “Internal Time” by Till Roenneberg, which is a very accessible book by a researcher in this field.

If I remember correctly, the book gives some good evidence of a potential genetic basis for chronotypes, although not to the level of identify particular genes.

Your case may be a bit extreme, but certainly describes me in my early 20s (not coincidentally, also the peak years of night owlism). But there are much moderate Night owl/lark situations. My kids school starts at 8a. Some in our area start at 720a. In order to reliably get my (young) children to school on time, I need to be up by 645a. This means my absolute last moment to be asleep for 8h of sleep is 1045p. No matter when I climb into bed, I have trouble managing to fall asleep by them, and I’m regularly in bed before 10p, and I have data from various fitness trackers to back this up. 1115-1130 is really the norm.

Which is a long way of saying that there are definitely people with strong, biological driven sleep preferences. Modern screens and lights can exacerbate these tendencies, but assuming that people can just “fix themselves” ignores the body of evidence.

We also have to be up by 6:45am to get our son to school, but after he's on the bus at 7:30 we typically go back to bed for an hour and a half. Would that not work for you?

We did this too. But it was ever so sad ripping the kids off their beds and sending them off to school in those inhuman hours while you knew you could fall back to sleep afterwards yourself.

I've tried to let them know they would be right in sleeping in longer and it's the school schedules that are wrong and perverse, from their/our perspective. And during the weekends all time in the morning is sacred: nobody can talk normally until everyone has woken up.

Little kids naturally wake up earlier.

Like most of human biology, this is generally true but has significant variation. My preschooler has always gone to bed later and woken up later than my kindergartener, and neither of them naturally get up before 730a.

The book "Why We Sleep" talks about how all animals (and plants) have circadian cycles, and the low point of the cycle is marked by a low body temperature. They have done cross cultural studies and can see that the circadian cycles of teenagers are later, and that the cycles change throughout life. Regardless of your sleeping habit the circadian cycle seems to hit it's low temperature point at the same time. Thus, if you start going to bed at 8 PM every night your low body temperature will still arrive at the same time, regardless of your sleep habits.

Take this all with a grain of salt, because my memory of the book is not infallible. It might give you a place to start researching how much of our sleep behavior is innate vs environmental as you ask. It's certainly not a new idea to sleep researchers, I bet there is an answer out there.

As for the "Why We Sleep" book. I found it well written and it is well reviewed by many, so you might be interested in it.

They also mentioned in the book a theory how humans might have evolved differences in schedule to optimize for keeping watch of the camp for longer, leaving the tribe protected for more hours.

Group selection isn't how evolution works.

It is actually very close to how it works. Evolution works by mate selection, and that’ll be heavily affected by group selection, since that alters the available choices of mates.

I have delayed sleep phase and no amount of sleep hygeine (both valid and crazy hyppie nonsense) has helped. All the suplements in the world didn't help. I've done it all, no screens, special bulbs in my lamps, all of it. My therapist told me my only option was sleep medication or just finding a job that would let me use my natural waking time of 9 am.

I managed the later and my life is amazing. I get a full 8 hours of sleep every night. The best way to explain my sleep schedule is count off 5 hours from sunset, that's about when I start to feel tired. Count off 9 hours from there, that's when I'll probably wake up.

Summer is pretty obnoxious with how late I get to sleep. Winters I can maintain an almost normal schedule.

It probably makes sense that we evolved a variety of offsets (both late sleepers and obnoxiously early risers) for our circadian cycles. It creates a natural subset of tribe members that are alert during some of the natural sleeping hours of the majority. The fact that such owls are more mentally stimulated or creative might be selecting for skills that were productive during the dark hours and furthered survival such as repairing or improving hunting weapons, baskets, and the like.

As we've outgrown most of our survival pressures, it'd make sense for those genetic minorities to be more freely distributed and for the circadian rhythms of the population at large to drift and become more mixed since it no longer matters if a majority of your "tribe" has a suboptimal rhythm.




I didn’t read all of these (and their references) in great detail, but there seems to be studies suggesting that chronotype is genetic. Some studies seem to be more reliable than others (ie as you said, some seem to rely on self reporting, but others seem to rely more on genetic testing or other things).

But this isn’t even close to my area of expertise so take with a grain of salt and read up on it yourself.

Same question. I'm not convinced that people are inherently Larks or Owls.

I used to sleep late for years. 2AM was average bed time for me. Sometimes even up to 4-5AM.

Then I worked to change my habits. Now I'm up by 6AM on most days and I feel more productive than ever.

I agree with this. I don't believe anybody has a 'natural' cycle. I think it's all a function of habit. You can train your body to get used to whatever cycle you desire or need (ie. To get to work on time).

I've gone through night owl phases in the past, but I always felt like it was by choice, and I had the luxury of no desk job. I guess it felt fun or something. I've also gone to bed at 9 every night when I worked at a golf course & had to be there @ 6am. When I was in a rythm, I would wake up on time every morning with no alarm. And for months after I got a different job I would still wake up at 5am even though my alarm was set for later.

So I would agree with the idea that if you rely on the alarm your doing it wrong. If you practice a consistent bed time, and get your full requirement of sleep, you will wake up naturally just from good habits, be it early or late.

Our bodies are very pliable, and can be influenced one way or another with consistent practice.

Your opinion is fine, but almost certainly wrong. Everyone has a natural cycle. I think the problem is that we have so many problems with our sleep that are even greater than the impacts of the differences between one cycle or another.

I just think our bodies are able to adjust to the inputs we give it. It's difficult, no doubt, to shift the schedule our body gets used to sleeping on. But with discipline, I think anyone can shift the schedule from early to late or vice versa.

If you're saying we all have a natural 'early' or 'late' cycle, how would that even work biologically? What would determine that? Is it hardwired into the code of our DNA? Even if this is the case, you would be handed a certain natural 'cycle' from your parents. But we know that gene expression is not static. We know many gene expressions change fluidly throughout our life depending on our environment/ behavior.

So even if I was born with a proclivity to stay up late, I would still expect to be able to change that though concerted effort and practice.

studies have shown that our circadian rhythms persist even when completely hidden from any trace of light whatsoever.

They have physiological effects. Lowering of core temperature, for one.

I'm also probably a little conceited when it comes to sleep habits :) I feel lucky to not have any trouble falling and staying asleep.

I definitely have sympathy for people with sleep problems/ disorders. When I was in my early teens, I had horrible troubles going to sleep. I would lay in bed, sometimes hours, without being able to fall asleep. I grew out of it for whatever reason as I got older. This is interesting now that I think of it, considering the wikipedia someone posted below on chronotype, suggesting adolescents tend to prefer delayed sleep.

But the reasons adults or children have trouble with sleep are complex and difficult to identify I'm sure. I don't envy anyone with sleep problems.

Chronotype does have a significant heritable component. Studies have even identified specific markers near genes known to affect circadian rhythm.

Most people can shift their schedule up to an hour without too much trouble. They can also force themselves onto almost any schedule with strict habits and/or medication. That doesn't mean they adapt. One illness can wipe out months of routine.

Sleeping later is easier than sleeping earlier for most people. Bright light delays your sleep cycle.

Intuitively, it makes sense that people would have different sleep cycles. A pack of animals is more likely to survive if one is awake or sleeping lightly.

Many studies have found otherwise.[1] Delayed sleep in adolescence has even been observed in other mammals.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronotype

That's interesting. To be fair, I've for sure been speaking from intuition alone. I'm interested to look more into the real science of it. I'm sure there is a default mode we are prone to just based on being human. My main point is that it is that our chronotype is pliable. We can shape it and mold it it we want to.

The article is suggesting there is a natural progression correlated with age, that shifts from advanced -> delayed -> back to advanced. This does not help convince me against my hypothesis that cronotype is fluid and not static.

Intuition can be valuable, but I think we should distinguish opinions from facts. This is something that affects people's health, jobs, and relationships.

Chronotype, sleep phase, and when people actually sleep are related but not the same.

The Wikipedia article and my other comments go into more detail about the research. I singled out delayed sleep phase in adolescence because it's been observed even in other species. It seems counterintuitive that this would be so consistent if there were no reason for it.

Sleep phase shifting with age doesn't make it infinitely pliable. You can influence libido, but the difference between 16 and 60 is mostly biological.

My experience is exactly the same, I had a lot of different sleeping schedules over the years (usually late to very late). Currently waking up at 6AM is also the new normal for me.

It just can be really hard to change it if you are not forced to do so but after some weeks you adjust. It's especially difficult to switch from late to early in my experience because constantly staying awake longer is easy (especially with all the "modern distractions") but getting out of bed too early is really a pain so you often don't do it if not forced to.

You say you are more productive than ever. Is it possible that you are actually a "lark" and that you forced yourself to stay up late, because of social pressure or simply because that is when you were able to do the things you wanted to do, but now you have found your preferred sleeping schedule?

What were some of the strategies you used to change your habits?

I also used to stay up later and sleep later. Earlier this year I changed to a much earlier schedule. I didn't really have a strategy, just a process.

First, I decided I wanted to get up earlier and be more productive. From experience I know I need ~7 or so hours of sleep, and I want to get up between 5-6am. That means in bed no later than 10pm.

Next, set an alarm and get up. That part is simple.

IMO, working out first thing is one of the key components. I go to a gym now, but am buying things like kettlebells to do quick workouts at the house.

Finally, do it every single day. It's going to be hard if every weekend you keep sleeping until noon. This means on Saturday and Sunday, get up early and workout. I also have a social life and do adjust with life events. If I have something going on and am up until midnight on Friday night, I will set the alarm for 7am.

I should also note that I have mostly stopped drinking alcohol.

The hardest part to change was the habit of staying up late just wasting time on my phone, watching TV, or playing video games. For me it was mostly non-productive time. Even if I was productive, it was only partially productive because I had already been up all day.

Now I crave that super productive time early in the morning after working out. I'm wide awake, with no interruptions, ready to go.

There is also a bit of a psychological trick to beat procrastination baked in here. I wouldn't get up at 5am to play a video game or otherwise waste time. I pushed away from a comfortable pillow this morning, so I should make it worthwhile.

The biggest one was simply going to bed earlier. Every 3 days, I shifted my bed time by one hour. Within two weeks, I was going to bed by 11PM.

The hard part is telling yourself that you won't do any work past bed time. You have to have a hard red line. Takes a bit of discipline but it's just about 2 weeks of effort before you switch to a new habit

> we can't ask society to accept that starting work at 11am is fine.

Why? You gave no rationale, just asserted it.

What's wrong with sleeping 2-10? Why should society accept that rush hour is acceptable?

A 6pm caffeine cutoff is really very late. Most people would cutoff no later than 2 or 3. Not saying you’re not a natural night owl, but your approaching to caffeine is very likely not allowing you to get a clear picture of your natural cycle.

I can drink coffee after dinner and go to sleep almost immediately and feel great when I wake up. Coffee does literally nothing to my ability to sleep. It depends on the person.

I thought caffeine was only active for 4-5 hours, unless you have a particular gene mutation that causes slow metabolism?

That’s the half-life. After that time it will be half gone, so the remaining half will still be active for a while.

> I have a naturally addictive and obsessive personality combined with low self-control (when I get started on something, like a new work problem or video game, I can't put it down).

How much of this is environmental vs innate? Even your hobbies could be argued to have a genetic component or perhaps how strongly blue light affects your rhythm.

It's unlikely it's entirely "innate" (i.e. hereditary), but it's also unlikely that it is something that is easy to change.

Supposedly genetics plays a part in whether someone is a night owl or early riser.

Ive always been in the night owl camp, however an interesting experience I have had was when I went on a full 4 day water fast. By day 2, my circadian rhythm completely reset and My 12-8 sleeping schedule became 9-5.

As soon as the fast was broken with a dinner around 7pm, I became wide awake beyond 12a rether than getting tired at 9p.

Dr satchin Panda has been researching body clocks and food and has pointed out that the ingestion of food starts the liver’s clock and kicks off bodily processes tbat start the clock. So it seems that food plays a very large environmental role in our sleep schedule.

I am currently reading the book "why we sleep" by Matthew Walker, and it is a fascinating scientific look at the reality of sleep schedules by an expert in the field. It sounds like you would be very interested in this. You should check it out.

But, I question how much of this behavior is environmental versus innate.

Is this as such an interesting academic question or would you actually want to be a early-riser instead? If so, why?

check my reply to the OP about the Why We Sleep book. I really appreciate your comment and recognize myself in a lot of it.

I am just finishing reading the fantastic book Why We Sleep [1], and as in so many well-meaning studies and articles, I can't help but feel like this effort is misguided. Just like an addict cannot accept help until they want it, I don't see how "adjusting" work schedules for those who don't even understand their own biology can possibly be helpful.

I've ALWAYS considered myself a night owl. I'm still not sure I'm not. But I've spent the past year rising earlier than I'm used to, and the past 7 months rising even earlier than that due to an enforced carpool with my wife. For the first time in my working life, I HAVE to be awake at a certain time (incidentally, far earlier than I'm used to). Instead of snoozing for an hour, I bolt from bed far earlier than I want to. I go to sleep marginally earlier. But my routine is regular I'm happier. I feel better. I feel healthier. I started reading the book and am acutely interested in tuning my sleep times to make this work even better.

Maybe I've never been a night owl. Maybe I've just had horrible sleep habits. Or maybe I AM a night owl, and I'd be even better off than I can possibly imagine, if I take all of these habits and processes and move them later in the day.

But I just feel like you can't possibly know if you're a morning bird or a night owl until you're already, consistently, religiously, getting enough sleep every night, on a consistent sleep/wake schedule.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Sleep-Unlocking-Dreams/dp/1501...

If you’re not experiencing any symptoms of sleep deprivation, then you’ve probably just got a normal circadian rhythm.

You might be a ‘night owl by preference’ and had some bad habits, but there are plenty of people who are night owls by necessity because of their circadian rhythm.

> For the first time in my working life, I HAVE to be awake at a certain time

This one on its own is (for me at least) far more important than the exact time when you go to bed/ wake up. Having the steady rhythm of life gives you the feeling of control and reduces anxieties, and you'll almost certainly feel better after some time. I used to work nightshifts in the data-center for a while and I would sleep during the day and it worked for me just fine. On the other hand while in the army I was getting up really early (4.30am every morning) every day, and again it was working great for me (after some adjustment period of course). So two completely opposite schedules, but both very strict and regular over the 6+ months period, and both made me feel very energetic and healthy. However, as a student I also briefly had a job with the weirdest floating schedule where you'd one day work a morning shift, then in the afternoon next day, then a nightshift, and then you'd have a free day afterwards. That one was a disaster, I just couldn't get used to that schedule. I gained 20 kg in 6 months and felt sleepy and tired all the time. Routine is a good thing.

Exactly agreed. Having a schedule you are obligated to comply with may outweigh the benefits of optimizing your sleep schedule, at least for some people. I think the hype around sleep is justified, but we fall into the trap of optimizing around a single variable (and not adequately considering the multivariate system). Rhythm and schedule is important too.

> Instead of snoozing for an hour,

I've never understood the snooze button. Either it's time to get up or it's not.

I find it INCREDIBLY difficult to wake from sleep. As do many others, apparently.

Getting enough sleep is a first step, but we know most people do not -- so very few are in the great position you are to treat it as a 100% conscious choice to snooze or not to snooze.

The point is if you have the time to snooze for an hour, would you not get better sleep by just setting your alarm an hour later?

No. I can naturally wake up after 6 or so hours of sleep on weekends when I go to sleep at 4am, but the entire work week I have to ease myself up with a few hits of the snooze button, even after 7-8 hours.

(My snooze is also set to 5 minutes, not an hour)

Same. There is a tight correlation between my sleep habits and happiness for me. When I’m being a night owl I am typically staying up late videogaming, but I’m rarely happy. Early rising me is both productive & happy.

> Put it this way: If you rely on an alarm clock to wake up, you’re out of sync with your own biology.

I get told, especially by lots of armchair wannabe doctors here on HN that I need 8 hours of sleep but if I don't set my alarm (I actually rarely set my alarm) I often wake up in naturally in 6 hours regardless of when I go to sleep. Maybe 30% of the time I can go back to sleep, the other 70% I'm not tired.

Otherwise in relation to the topic in general I'm not 100% I want my most awake time to go to the company I work for. Is that wrong?

> Otherwise in relation to the topic in general I'm not 100% I want my most awake time to go to the company I work for. Is that wrong?

Nope, I completely agree with that also. I personally don't want to spend my most awake time for the company I work either.

Also just to comment on something that has been said times and times again, the 8 hour working schedule was introduced more than 150 years ago and started getting implemented 100 years ago. Its time for humanity to move on and find different systems that will allow us to work less and enjoy more of what life has to offer. We did have the computational revolution during the 90's early 2000 and now we've reached a point where a lot of jobs have been automated and a lot more to come. Think of everything out there and how much faster its been done with the use of computers and the internet. So our productivity must have went up by tremendous amounts although the working hours didn't go down at all, they remained exactly the same.

My personal belief is we can easily bring it down to 6 hours a day and slowly slowly bring it down to 4 working days per week. Of course such thing must happen massively around the globe, given how interlinked countries are nowadays.

Absolutely not a doctor (or even really know what I'm talking about), but I've been hunting down a sleep disorder I've been dealing with for a decade+, and there's at least a couple of things to consider (someone please correct me if I got anything wrong)

My understanding is that during the day (evening?), your melatonin level increases. While you sleep, it goes down. If you wake up for any reason just a few hours before your optimal sleepy time, it might be a lot harder to get back to sleep.

A lot of stuff might cause you to wake up early. Very common ones, especially in the US: GERD and sleep apnea. You end up waking up, you're not tired, but you didn't get the sleep you needed.

The last part I was told only recently and I dunno how accurate it is, but supposedly you get most of your important REM sleep in the last few hours of sleep, so there's a pretty big difference between 6 and 8 hours, even though you might wake up (for reasons such as the ones above) but not be functioning at your fullest. And while you might be functioning on par with your colleagues...maybe you'd just be a total badass if you sleep better/more...

Take all of this with a huge grain of salt :)

People definitely vary quite significantly in the amount of sleep they need. I have some friends who can happily get by with 6 hours of sleep on a permanent basis. Whereas I need at least 8, and would happily take 10 or 12 if the time was available.

I thought I could get by on 6, but then I started sleeping naturally and I was sleeping much longer and now I feel like I operate better. I had been sleeping short hours my whole life so it was just the norm.

It wasn't energy or thought capacity either, I have always been fine with that even on 6 hours. But longer term thinking, sense of continuity and ability to remember, to think more broadly about time and my place in it were all drastically improved. Things I used to do a lot I do far less now and don't feel a need to, stimuli like video games and reddit are not nearly as appealing when I sleep longer.

I feel no different moment to moment but there are what feel like auxilliary mental capacities I didn't realise I was missing. Resistance to stimuli, temporal thinking and memory being the key ones.

No, it’s just that 8 hours is the recommended amount for the average person. Your “chronotype” may differ.

The key here is that many folks who claim they're the atypical ones are not. In the GPs case, perhaps they are.

Wow! If I don’t set an alarm, I’ll easily sleep for 10 hours...

We are all so different about what we need for rest. Some need 9h, some need 6h. We all need to experiment. And many/most of us will not, or can not take the time to experiment.

I feel I can’t. So much to do...

When I was in ROTC my cadet commander said "you only really need 6 hours of sleep" and like the good cadet that I was I've only slept a maximum of six hours ever since. After a couple years of using an alarm clock to do that I've been able to get up naturally after six hours for like the last 7-8 years. Not sure if its healthy but I do know I feel worse when I sleep longer.

I think it definitely varies for each person. If I let myself sleep until I wake up 'naturally' - it's usually 9-10 hours. I'd love to be able to get somewhere in the 6-8 hour range.

I drink a copious amount of caffeine to keep going during the day, too. (5+ cups of coffee and sometimes an energy drink, too)

That may mean sleep deprivation. If you have sleep deprivation, you will sleep longer for some days.

Afaik, 6 hours a day is not enough for optimal performance for most people. It is minimum where people can function with somewhat, but also one where your cognitive capabilities are affected measurably.

Counter anecdote. I feel I need less sleep if I wake and sleep with the sun. If I stay up very late, I feel I need more sleep to feel rested

Can you clarify what you mean "wake and sleep with the sun". Right now where I live the sun comes up just before 7am and sets at 4:30pm. Are you saying you sleep ~14 hours a night?

For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure my body clock is, like many others, cycles every 24.75 hours.

In other words, it kind of doesn’t matter, I’m always going to be fighting it.

It’s been that way for my entire life: coffee or tea, winter or summer, college or home, single or married. Pretty much regardless, I’m going to feel tired at 11p today and ~11:45p tomorrow and 12:30a the following day before I do a dramatic reset and start again.

Sounds like you should move to Mars! The Mars day is roughly 40 minutes longer than Earth's.

See you there! I hear it’s nice this time of year!

Or more realistically get a job working on a Martian probe

When I was a teen, my clock was 27 hours. I did the vacation and natural wakeups and rotated around the clock in 7 days. It's decreased a bit but I think it's still around 25-26 hours.

I'm the same way, and there's only one thing that works for me: exposure to sunlight in the morning.

It would be lots easier to align work with our natural sleep cycles if the standard work week was less than 40 hours. People don’t really want to wake up at the crack of dawn, but you’ve got to get those hours in!

Many people who have jobs in urban areas have to deal with long commutes on top of a standard work week.

I'm one of those rare people who will happily go to bed at 9 pm every night. My favorite job was when I teleworked from 6 AM - Noon. 30 hours a week, with no commute, and my choice of hours? It was heaven.

I worked at a job where a coworker of mine would commute 1.25-1.50 hours one way, every day. I’m not sure how he did it.

To get to work at 8am, he’d have to wake up at 6am, assuming he gets ready quickly. Then, after leaving at 5, he’d arrive home around 6:30. So all in all, about 4 hours of time to himself, assuming he didn’t work late. That’s a hell of a way to live.

Mine is same as your ex-coworker's, 1.25-1.50 hours one way, around 2.5 hours for commute.

in addition to that, in urban areas you have to deal with quiet hours usually being 11pm to 7am, and they're rarely respected. Hard to sleep in when the beeping backing trucks start at 6am and the jack hammers start at 6:30, and you can't do anything about the neighbors' subwoofer blasting at 11:30 so you can't go to bed early either.

You may find happiness living in a less dense environment. I live in a residential neighborhood among adults who seldom subwoof at any time, much less at midnight.

I was raised in the residential neighborhood of a suburb...unless you're in a village where your neighbor is 300 feet away, if it's not the subwoofer, it's the kids screaming around the pool. If it's not that, it's a new developer (housing crisis and call for density and all that) building a mid-rise after the "NIMBYs" "lost". Dense or not, short of living with the wolves, it's basically just dumb luck/bad luck if you're in a quiet environment or not, because the laws are not on your side and it just takes a single asshole to ruin it for everyone.

I spent years looking for the "ideal" spot, and an absolutely ridiculous amount of money to obtain it, and 6 months later zoning rules changed and screwed everything up. I've just learnt to live with earplugs, but not everyone can.

More importantly, to house everyone efficiently, we need high density areas. If we must put a lot of people so close to each other, AND we agree that sleep is critical to one's health, we should treat it the same way as we deal with drinking water rules, fire safety, health code, etc. The laws should reflect and be enforced to match how important it is.

Step 1: While the existing laws and ordinance suck, they're better than nothing. Let just starts by enforcing them. No one's fundamental rights are harmed if you get in trouble for driving an 18 wheeler backward in a residential zone at 4 in the morning.

plus a 30m unpaid break, at least around here

> Put it this way: If you rely on an alarm clock to wake up, you’re out of sync with your own biology.

You're out of sync if you're not feeling the air around you warm up with the sun, or watching the sky above you change from black to the glimmer of dawn, or hearing the birds start to chirp with the sunrise. I've experienced all of these with hundreds of nights backpacking in the wilderness, and indeed it has been the best sleep of my life. If you've any semblance of a modern, industrial lifestyle though then you're so screwed up by the rest of your life that an alarm clock is the least of your artifical interruptions.

Are you sure that the physical effort and the cleaner wilderness air weren't the actual factors that made you sleep better than in the city?

> industrial lifestyle though then you're so screwed up by the rest of your life that an alarm clock is the least of your artifical interruptions.

Indeed. Just the use of artificial light is enough to mess up with your biorhythm. It would be fair to say that "humans have been out of sync with their own biology" for several decades if not a century. And it's only getting more so.

I wholeheartedly agree. When we go camping, one of my rules is no clocks. I find that, within a few days, we wake up just before dawn without consciously doing anything. It seems natural, everyone just falls into it. And for me at least, the sleeps while camping are some of the best I've ever experienced.

Unfortunately, where I live that means I would get 16 hours of sleep in the winter and 6 hours in the summer.

I agree with what you said, except with "the least". I quit setting an alarm and it already made a big difference. Maybe because I already see the Sun when I wake up and kind of hear the birds. Anyway, there is and AND between all those conditions, more than an OR.

lol someone should tell this guy about nocturnal animals.

Interesting that corporate America typically likes to have cookie cutter schedules that often intrude into our mornings. However, Jeff Bezos, arguably one of the more successful business people in the world doesn’t schedule early morning meetings, sleeps 8 hours a night and wakes up naturally without an alarm clock.


Well, it certainly can be argued that you are a more successful business person if you're not getting ripped off by your negotiation counterparts as you fight your wish to sleep.

There's a reason I don't do the "fly to X in the morning, have meeting, fly back" racket. I always have either a night train or a sleepover in a hotel, when I have to travel for workshops or hands-on work - making me get up at 4 o'clock in the morning means my employer loses at minimum half a day of productivity or more plus either night trains or hotel are cheaper than the productivity loss.

It's not enough to have flexible policy at one or even many workplaces. The world is run by Larks and as long as that's the case, meetings will "need" to be scheduled at certain times, people will "need" to be at home at certain times, errands will "need" to be run at certain hours because places close, children will "need" to be picked up, social events will happen at certain times. Owls will always be second class citizens.

They should start with kids then. I remember how painful was to wake up in the morning to go to school at a very early age. Worst memories of my childhood.

School and work hours is a very similar problem to the metric system. Even though there's a more efficient system, the switching cost is significant in that you're out of sync with all those that don't make the switch, or don't make it at the same time as you.

Once the majority or a popular minority start using later work/school hours or the metric system, then there will be a catalyst for change. But for those early adopters there is a significant burden of extra communication that needs to take place.

Or perhaps it’s the opposite. It makes more sense for planners and idealists that everyone would sleep the same amount and wake up and work at the same time (just like they would like us all to use units divisible by 10), but reality is organic and messy and it turns out that the old traditions (segmented sleep, sleeping to the day/night cycle) had it right all along.

I almost had a car crash while driving to high school half asleep. Now I'm older and I get up at the same time but I don't feel tried at all.

Glad it didn’t turn out badly, but from a sleep cycle perspective it’s normal. Kids usually have fairly early sleep cycles, and as they age it gradually gets later, peaking around late adolescence where it can be three or so hours later than an adult. After that, it shifts back to normal over the next decade or so. Aparantly this has been observed not just with humans but in various animal species as well.

But there are various disorders where people either have unusually late or early sleep cycles that can be up to several hours different from normal.

I like waking up early because more than at any other time of the day you have a period of quiet that you can have for yourself. I lived in nyc for a short period of time and there’s a joy in stepping out between 5:30-7 and feeling how quiet the city can be.

It’s the same at night if you’re a night owl, with the added benefit of knowing you don’t have a bunch of other things you also need to get done that day (because you already did them).

In my experience NYC is way more quiet at 6am than 1am, even residential neighborhoods. It’s also not super dark out (outside of winter).

Big cities aren’t quiet at night

That was an interesting read. I was glad to hear the article point out that many people don’t know their chronotype. My schedule has changed a lot over the years and I’ve alternated between having to be up early and up late, with both being difficult to adjust to initially. The suggested diagnostic techinique (spend two weeks on vacation with no alarm clock) sounds like a nice idea :)

I was able to adjust my sleep schedule with just 300 μg of melatonin to trigger sleep. Whereas previously I'd sleep at 0100 now I sleep at 2200. Very useful.

For those interested, read Melatonin: Much More than You Wanted to Know.


I wish this worked for me. When I take it, I definitely feel more sleepy, but that's not my issue. My issue is an active (maybe even anxious) mind that will not stop wandering, worrying, and obsessing. Sleepy or not, it has to run its course to exhaustion before I can switch off.

I know there are ways to help this like meditation but it's tough to find the time and energy to learn something new when you don't get enough sleep.

Theres also a calming drinks that contains magnesium that helps you relax, get better sleep, and help moods. I never knew magnesium was so important until I started looking into diet and sleep patterns.

Is it addictive? Are there any side effects?

While it didnt seem to be addictive to me I only used it for a week and then the vividness of some of the dreams bad and good caused me to stop. It never helped get me to sleep earlier. I didnt think that drastic of a change from normal was worth my mental safety.

Could it just be that you werent used to getting a significant amount of REM sleep?

It could be the REM rebound effect as mentioned here: https://podcastnotes.org/2018/04/29/why-we-sleep/

I'm working my way through the book, very interesting stuff.

No it's not. And there's very little side effect if you buy from reputable brands. About the only issue I have is that it's difficult to find melatonin in the appropriate dose (0.3mg); it's far more common to find 3mg or even 10mg.

I recommend liquid extract - I find it on Amazon for like $15 for about 180mg = 6000 doses at 300 mcg. Easier that cutting pills or caplets.

Nope, I don't actually use it every day. It's just to reset the schedule and then I just fall asleep without. As far as I know you don't build up resistance or anything like that if that's what you're worried about.

How many days in a row do you need to take it to fix your rhythm?

The most I’ve needed is four days after London to SF. Oddly, even Hong Kong to SF wasn’t that bad.

Occasionally, we’ll have a couple of late nights hanging out and then I have to fix it again. Holiday season like now will probably need work. Then it’s just two days.

Using it too frequently can cause you to rely on it, but other than that, it’s about the safest sleep aid around.

Source? Don't believe that's true.

I recently started using an app called Sleep Cycle to help my body's response to the alarm. It measures how deep your sleep is and wakes you when your sleep is shallow (within the time range). I find myself waking up thirty-plus minutes earlier and feeling much better and awake, all day.

My next endeavor will be to build a Circadian Rythm light clock that changes the ambient light in the room to naturally wake me up.

Been fully remote since mid 2016. I've never received positive comments on my work attitude before this position.

- I am thin and tall, constantly feeling cold in air-conditioned offices.

- The office lights hurt my eyes.

- I prefer music playing instead of people talking, and I do not feel bad for taking an hour long break when I feel exhausted or frustrated.

- I usually wake up around 8, so I get out the door after coffee&breakfast is done, and we get dressed with the wife. We don't leave the house before 9:30 on average.

- I also think commuting longer than a 15 minute walk/bus ride is a waste of my time.

- I am working from a laptop, so I think it should be completely acceptable to send a mail in the morning saying "I'll be working from under a warm blanket & my cat today" when there is no in-person meeting scheduled.

In my current position I'm assigned projects that get done on time and feedback is positive. Work is done, all is well. Noone cares when you start the day, just show up for the calls, which are never scheduled before 9:30 on my request.

We got a junior fired because she couldn't keep up with expectations. I think full-remote wasn't for her. She also had untreated schizophrenia, I bet that didn't help either. When you are a couple screws loose, it helps to have people around to keep you grounded. On winter days I almost exclusively work from cafes, so as to avoid winter depression.

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