One theory goes that whatever time you were born is the time of day at which you thrive. What we know for sure is that there are more than 340 genetic variants associated with circadian sleep rhythms. In other words, if you’re lucky enough to be a “morning person”, you were probably born that way.
Lucky because, as we all know, early risers get both the worm and a sense of moral superiority. They might also, according to science, benefit from a lower risk of depression, though researchers aren’t sure about that because morning people probably also get more exercise, watch less television and meditate daily.
The jury is out on whether a night person can become a morning one, yet my own experience tells me that it is possible. For a brief and puzzling period in my 20s, I rose around 4.30am to listen to the radio, prepare elaborate bowls of porridge, and run miles on miles in any kind of weather. Somehow, I was also inevitably late to work. There must be a genetic marker for that particular tendency.
Only a young person can pull off thriving on a 4.30am wake-up. I have seen 4.30am lately because I have a baby who thinks it’s fun to wake up around then, and it looks – and feels – very different to when I was 25. These days, I wouldn’t describe myself as an early bird or night owl: I’m more of a day sloth.
At the zoo the other day, I saw a sloth move more than I’ve ever seen one move before, but he did so with what looked to be a deep and abiding sense of annoyance. It was impossible not to respect his professionalism, performing for an audience he was clearly, and fairly, contemptuous of. Although we stood behind a couple of layers of glass, I felt I could hear his sighs as he moved, hooked claw by hooked claw, down a branch towards what I hoped might be a steaming hot mocha, to be sipped while he watched a crime procedural. Instead, the snack that awaited him was probably orange slices and celery sticks. Poor thing.
Although not a morning person, I no longer “come alive” at night. Two glasses of wine and the next day is a hellscape of misdirected emails and strained muscles (why?). Mornings are about getting through to 9am, by which time I’ve built dozens of structurally unsound Lego models.
If others also feel a kinship with the sloth – not really excelling at any time of day – I have a modest proposal: let’s make lunch the new dinner. There’s so much less negotiation around timing, for a start. With dinner, you have the morning people pushing for 7pm, and the Spaniards lobbying for 11pm, whereas everyone loves lunch at noon. A little bit early, perhaps, but that only heightens the feeling that you’re getting away with something.
Other benefits to lunch? Less food, which is good as age brings digestive tracts and metabolisms to a screeching halt. And because there are no rules, you can order a plate of burrata and nothing else if you fancy it – or a salad or a burger. Dessert? Bring us a few spoons. You have one glass of wine and it feels unspeakably naughty, but also manageable. Plus everyone gets a coffee afterwards, no one falls asleep at the table, and it’s cheaper.