We really need to redefine the day. More specifically, those parts of a twenty-four hour cycle which we have named morning, noon, evening, night and so on.
Firstly we must accept that the currently established agrarian style divisions of the day are outdated for all aspects of modern life. If you cannot ascribe to this thought, please do not continue reading further. Said premise is so obviously defunct, and such time has been given to the discussion that I shall not continue to mull it here.
Secondly, we must look to the divisions we have, and what they mean.
Let us start with morning, the time to wake up, break one’s fast after sleeping (hence the term breakfast) and do whatever morning things one chooses to do, be it read the newspaper, go for a run or spend two hours putting one’s face on with expensive crayons.
Then comes the actual day, which may be split into different divisions, but most of them make little to no sense in today’s world, since the day is comprised of various blocks, depending on what one does. But there is this distinction of forenoon and afternoon, AM and PM figure into this, as does the concept of noon itself.
Then we have evening, which is probably the most poorly defined of all the parts of the day. When does it start and when does it become night. This is probably the most important question of all. Many languages have the tradition of welcoming someone with a variation of “good evening” and saying goodbye with the equivalent of “good night” irrespective of the time of actual evening, or night at hand.
Lastly we have night, which is the name given to the part of the day we should, on average, as a race, devote to sleep.
Right, so here we are. Twenty-four hours split into sections. Next we should look at how to place them on the clock face, to make the whole system run smoother. The main concerns are, there is a lot less forenoon than afternoon, evening is very unspecific and the whole system is based on very outdated and unnatural times to do things.
I, myself am a dedicated night-owl, and no amount of trying has had more than a brief temporary effect on my sleep cycle, often times to my great dismay. Recently, luckily I have managed to be more in charge of my schedule and can work around this “deficiency”. This article is not meant to fix the world to revolve around people like me, however, but to truly help define these parameters for the modern world. I will still be quite outside the norm, but perhaps not quite by so much.
Let us start with defining the time of evening and night, as these are more easy to agree upon, to begin with. If one looks at how we schedule our so called down time, the time reserved for relaxation and entertainment, we get some major clues into the time and how it should be classified.
All over the world and for a very long time, such entertainments as theatre and opera start at seven PM (19:00) and last for an average of three hours. This means, that ten o’clock “at night” can’t really be considered night at all. After the theatre one customarily has a bite to eat or a drink or two in good company, before heading home. This means, that in general the time to arrive home after such an evening will be rather close to midnight (12 PM / 00:00).
The same applies for entertainment in the home. Television prime time starts at nine (21:00) and most feature length movies on TV start an hour later, lasting again for two to three hours. So by the time entertainment is finished and the evening is over, we are at least up to midnight if not later.
Accepting this as the fact that it is, we will see that night starts no earlier than at position 00 on the 24-hour clock face. Hence midnight is not in the middle of the night but rather the beginning. Assuming we need approximately eight hours of sleep, which has been contested both ways in recent years, but the minor differences don’t really move this point in either direction, this would actually place the middle of the night at 4 AM, or “four in the morning” as it has been called. A good four hours before any time that should be considered morning, by the above definitions.
So we have thus far established that night starts at twelve, 00. Followed by eight hours of the same, which need not be split into different sections in general discussion. Next comes morning, starting at approximately eight, local time. But how long is morning? Clearly not at long as night or the main part of the day, but it has to have some length to it. As we define morning activities to include bathing, eating, stretching and other exercise… getting ready for the day ahead, I would say we need to give it at least a few hours, and with commutes and so on which we might as well include into the morning period, call it three hours of morning.
This brings us to 11 o’clock, the beginning of day. I think you will agree with the logic so far, so let us continue. The day starts at 11 and much like the night will undoubtedly last a full eight hours, up till 7 PM (19:00). Obviously the solar concepts of midday and noon are not directly applicable anymore, but much like moving midnight to the appropriate place a few paragraphs earlier, let us move midday to 3 PM (15.00) which was previously been called mid-afternoon, which, at least in my mind has meant the same thing all this time anyway. So no change there, really.
Coincidentally, this part in the middle of the day is the time when most people, by empirical study, are at their best, their most acute and most sociable. This is clearly the time when meetings, examinations and all other important, possibly stressful and creative gatherings should be held. Obviously individual differences apply, but for anything comprising of a team or group, this is the time.
And would you look at that, we’ve arrived back to the place we started defining night from, 7 PM. This we shall call, as always before, evening. And evening was defined way back in the beginning to last up until around 12 PM. There we go, all 24 hours accounted for. Evening is a good two hours longer than morning, because we as a global society spend much more time on evening activities than on morning ones, it would seem.
This is not to say that You wouldn’t be allowed to wake up at 05:30 like you prefer, just know that your head start on the day doesn’t mean that evening will come any earlier. Likewise, my personal preference of going to bed at around 04:00 and not getting up until what I accept is well into the day, should not affect how anyone else deals with their day. The above times are merely an updated view of the 24-hour day, as befit our current western, if not global culture.