Sorry Leo, this night owl prefers a lie in

Patricia Feehily


Patricia Feehily

Sorry Leo, this night owl prefers a lie in

Leo Varadker gave an interview last weekend where he claimed that he wanted to lead a party of people “who get up early in the morning”

LAST week, I didn’t really care which of the two contenders emerged victorious from the current Fine Gael leadership battle. Either of the two, Leo or Simon, would have done me fine, although I’d prefer if they had held on to Enda – persuaded him to stay on, like.

Now, however, I’m starting to have qualms about Leo, purely because I don’t want to be called too early in the morning. I need my beauty sleep.

Leo told us straight from the shoulder at the weekend that he wanted to lead a party of people “who get up early in the morning”. I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, but for a night owl like myself, it sounded ominous. So, he can count me out then!

The Taoiseach in waiting – and it looks increasingly like that at the moment – doesn’t seem to realise that getting up early is not an option for some of us, just as he didn’t seem to realise either that women about to give birth can’t live on fresh air while their maternity benefits are delayed. They don’t all get their benefits topped up by benevolent employers, but how would Leo know that when he’s up so early himself catching the fresh air – and the worms?

My family were always Fine Gael supporters but they never had to prove their credentials by being early risers. Now I’m not sure if I, having an unfortunate tendency to lie in, or sleep in on occasion, can ever live up to the new standards. I don’t know who set my circadian clock when I was born, but it doesn’t kick in properly until about 4am - after I’ve solved the problems of the world in my own mind – and for all I know, that could be the very time that Leo now expects me to rise and shine. The very thought of such a long day is debilitating.

I don’t even use an alarm clock anymore, partly because I’m retired – or do retirees count for anything in this brave new world? – but mostly because the last alarm clock I had, ended up in smithereens on the floor after being flung forcefully across the room at 7.30 am one morning when, in a dazed state, I couldn’t find the ‘off’ button and thought I was facing a firing squad - or in other words, being shot at dawn.

Now there are a couple of things Mr Varadkar needs to know about larks (early risers) and night owls.

Firstly, it’s our DNA that decides the species to which we belong. We don’t choose to be either ourselves and while there are a number of people who belong specifically to neither, most Irish people are night owls. We are genetically primed to burn the midnight oil and sleep it out in the morning. Larks or early morning risers apparently are not really a native breed at all.

The trouble is that this genetic propensity is not set in stone and can be changed quite easily – by enforcement mainly. The monks of monastic Ireland managed admirably to rise before dawn to pray, but it was a penance, and I wouldn’t even contemplate changing anything in my genes, especially if it gives me an excuse for a lie-in.

Someone also needs to tell our would-be future leader that night owls - according to scientific research which I found on Google – possess more intelligence and creativity than our counterparts. Early to bed and early to rise doesn’t always make a man (or woman) healthy, wealthy or wise. In fact, late risers have proved to be more persistent performers, are more productive and also display more signs of genius than those who rise at day break. Who would ever have thought it?

Unfortunately, the new global economy expects us all to be early risers and this, I presume, is what inspires Leo. I thought it hilarious when I was young to hear that my American cousins started work at 8am and that the Germans had been hard at it since daylight. I thought they were all mad and it never even entered my head that they might have been genetically disposed to join the dawn chorus. Little did I think that the day would come when we’d be infected by the bug ourselves! Anyhow with all the different time zones I can’t see why global commerce should be affected in any way by our sleeping patterns, or why we can’t cheat if needs be.

In fairness to Leo Varadker, however, maybe he just wants to make us happy, because there’s one thing to be said for early risers. They usually wake up with a smile on their faces, whereas night owls wake up with a frown. This, of course, could well be because the latter often wake up with a hangover or because the alarm goes off before they’ve completed their REM stage of sleep. But that’s only surmising on my part.

In conclusion let me say that I don’t think that pulling more of us out of bed earlier in the morning is going to increase either productivity or prosperity. And it’s certainly not going to make us happier. It’s only going to upset our circadian clocks and make some of us grouchier than we already are.

Worse still, the genius of the night owls could well be undermined.

I just hope that Simon Coveney isn’t as hung up on early rising as his rival seems to be. It may yet be his only trump card. Failing that, all I can say is bring back Enda. At least he never tried to call us too early in the morning.