Night Owls and Early Birds: Rhythms of Life on a Rotating Planet

Philippa Gander

Author: Philippa Gander
Format: Paperback
Published: 8 June 2023
Pages: 164
Specs: 21.0cm x 14.0cm
ISBN: 9781869409784

Available in Ebook


How the rotations of planet Earth shape the lives of humans and other animals.

Horseshoe crabs and hibernating squirrels. Jet-lagged pilots and space station astronauts. Night owls and early birds. All of life is profoundly shaped by the daily, monthly and yearly cycles of planet Earth.

This book takes the reader on a journey across a broad vista of science to make sense of the mysteries of biological time. How do the rotations of our planet shape our biology? What did human sleep cycles look like before artificial light? What happens to a person’s waking and sleeping if they spend weeks in a dark cave? How adaptable are we to today’s 24/7 living?

Humans are relative latecomers in the story of life on Earth but we often think that technology has freed us from its constraints. Written by a world-leading chronobiologist, Night Owls and Early Birds illuminates the fascinating science of biological time and offers a stark warning to anyone giving up on a night’s sleep to get more out of their busy waking hours.



Philippa Gander is a professor emeritus at Massey University and an internationally recognised scholar of sleep and circadian rhythms. After a PhD at the University of Auckland and research at Harvard University Medical School and the NASA Ames Research Center, Gander was the inaugural director of the Sleep/Wake Research Centre at Massey University. In 2009 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and in 2017 she was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the study of sleep and fatigue.



‘The importance of sleep/wake cycles to our life on Earth is as inestimable as it is intriguing. Philippa Gander succeeds in communicating this complex science in her highly informative and engaging book.’ 

— Professor Colin A. Espie, Professor of Sleep Medicine, University of Oxford


‘Philippa Gander presents a rigorous, evidence-based case for why an understanding and appreciation of biological time and its role in life is important to a range of disciplines. It is also beautifully written: emotive, illustrative and intellectual – a powerful combination.

The style and structure seamlessly link the basic science to real-world applications and, in Professor Gander’s indomitable style, leave the reader wondering how it is that we aren’t acting now on the knowledge we have.’ 

— Professor Sally Ferguson, Director, Appleton Institute, CQUniversity Adelaide



'Gander fills nearly every page with real world examples, involving everything from pond scum to birds to us, and gives us insights into experiments carried out by scientists across the years and in labs around the world. Importantly she manages to hit just the right balance of conveying her bewildering facts, laced with those case studies and the occasional diagram, while maintaining a simple, matter-of-fact approach which ensures this is accessible, readable science.'

— David Gadd, Kete Books