Chronotype

Yesterday one of the 10 year-olds I know told me that his younger brother can stay up much later than he can. And he didn’t mean by odd parental decree; he just gets too tired even when he’s allowed to stay up longer, while his brother could keep reading on and on into the night.

Over and over I’m reminded that there are myriad ways like this in which we’re different from each other, no matter how similar our experience or genetic makeup.  And it’s easy to imagine that if we had more latitude to live the differences we might realize more of our actual potential.

I’ve been reading Till Roenneberg’s book about chronotypes. The book is about internal physiological clocks and how individuals have different sleep needs.  Roenneberg suggests that we’d be wise to stop forcing the same schedule on everyone.  He points out that 9-5 is not at all the only work schedule available, and the school hours we mandate for young people and their learning doesn’t bring the best out in many of them.

The little guy marveling at his brother’s talent for staying up late doesn’t know it, but later on if all goes according to tradition, he’ll be the one who’s commended for his sleep habits, while his (also) brilliant little brother may well have to struggle to get his mind to work during other people’s hours.

There’s certainly value in finding a way to function in the social world as it is.  But it’s costly to try to force-fit one’s self (or someone else’s self).  The world is getting more flexible not less in options and configurations for work and livelihood.  It’s the perfect time to stretch our conceptions of how it might be possible for each person to figure out what works best for them and then find ways to reconcile that with the societal structures they need and choose to engage with.

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One Response

  1. Sounds like my two. My girl can read late into the night and my boy is out the minute he hits the pillow. She is cranky early morning and he is ready to go. They are much like my husband & I. When they were in school mornings were often an issue. Glad we no longer have that struggle!

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