What are the Small Hours?
The small hours are the early hours of the morning from midnight until daybreak, or in winter until about 5 o’clock. They are the time when most people are asleep. But others find that, if they can stay awake past their normal bedtime when their bodies get drowsy, they do their best work then.
Winston Churchill, the great British War Prime Minister, was such a person. He used to sleep for an hour until midnight and hold his councils of war in the small hours, to the annoyance of his advisers who would rather have been asleep. The end of the small hours in summer is heralded by the dawn chorus when the birds wake each other up with their songs.
Waking up early is a productivity method of rising early and consistently so as to be able to accomplish more during the day. This method has been recommended since antiquity and is now recommended by a number of personal development gurus. The philosopher Aristotle said, “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”
In ancient and medieval cultures, the counting of hours generally started with sunrise. Before the widespread use of artificial light, societies were more concerned with the division between night and day, and daily routines often began when light was sufficient.