Midnight Dog Walks and 1 a.m. Shopping: The Heat Has People Living at Night

From a Wall Street Journal story by Rachel Wolfe headlined “Midnight Dog Walks and 1 a.m. Shopping: The Heat Has People Living at Night”:

Call them heat vampires.

To cope with this summer’s record-breaking temperatures, people are going nocturnal. They are falling asleep in the wee hours or waking in them, resetting their biological clocks to take advantage of the comparative cool.

In the process, they are transforming ordinarily desolate night-scapes and compelling businesses to adjust their operations, creating a new after-dark economy that exists outside of clubs and partying. Couples are working out near midnight; families are running errands after the sun sets, and construction crews are starting work at 4 a.m.

When Raji and Hank Behniwal moved their daily postwork walks around their suburban Fort Worth, Texas, neighborhood to 11 p.m. after weeks of suffocating heat, they expected to be the only ones out. Instead, they usually encounter more than a dozen other joggers, dog walkers and strollers.

“You have to get your activity in somehow,” says Hank Behniwal, a finance director for a healthcare company.

The biggest difference when walking after dark? The couple now has to navigate around late-night creatures such as frogs, raccoons and giant insects, they say.

They are also now waiting until after 9 p.m. to shop at their local supermarket—which they say is surprisingly crowded at that hour—so they don’t have to haul groceries under the beating sun.

Changing spending patterns

The heat is altering how—and when—people spend their money.

Searches for blackout curtains on Amazon rose 113% between June and the beginning of August compared with the same time in 2022, according to analytics firm Pattern, as people look for help sleeping during the hottest parts of the day.

Lime, an electric-scooter company, has seen a 25% uptick in ridership between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and a 2% uptick between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. in July compared with February in Austin and Corpus Christi, Texas, where daytime temperatures have consistently surpassed 90 degrees.

Many Hyatt hotels, meanwhile, are offering after-dark activities such as cosmic yoga and astrophotography tours in response to demand from guests.

New routines

After moving to Houston this summer, Neha Manoj reworked her schedule so she could live more of her life in the dark. She now naps for hours after finishing the workday as a software engineer. When she wakes up around midnight, she goes grocery shopping or swims at the pool in her apartment complex—where she’s often joined by neighbors with the same idea.

“I end up sleeping much later, but since I’ve had a long nap before, I’m able to get up for work and repeat the process all over again,” she says.

Local governments across the country are adjusting pool and beach hours to give residents some reprieve. State parks in western New York offered extended hours at swimming pools in July, while Austin recently announced six seasonal pools would remain open through much of September as the heat wave lingers.

Nate Warren, a ghostwriter in Starkville, Colo., has been trying to stay awake a bit later every night for the past two months to survive living in his house, which lacks air-conditioning. “The idea is to push it until more or less the first show of light, which I’ve been successful at more and more often,” he says.

He says he gets his best writing done around 9 p.m., when he opens every window to let in the breeze. “If I can save $100 a month by altering my schedule, I will,” says Warren, though he admits he will probably buy a small air-conditioning unit for his bedroom when prices go down in the cooler months.

In Phoenix, personal development coach Lauren Russell says she’s experiencing reverse seasonal affective disorder. She doesn’t make plans with anyone until after 9 p.m.—which means on most weekdays, she doesn’t make any plans. “Happy hour does not exist right now,” she says.

She says that when she takes her dog for walks at 5 a.m., the streets are as crowded as they would ordinarily be hours later. “It’s turned into peak walking hour,” she says.

Working in the heat

Those whose work is affected by the heat have had to make some of the biggest adjustments of all.

Some crews working for DPR Construction in Phoenix now start at 4 a.m., an hour earlier than their typical 5 a.m. summer schedule. Since it is still pitch black at that hour, the company hauled in giant light towers “that will light up the world,” says site superintendent Tom Corey.

Mikael Truesdale, an artisan candlemaker in San Diego has been waking up around 4 a.m. every day to pour candles. If they don’t set before the sun hits the house around 8 a.m., he says they’ll be ruined.

“I feel like I’m hiding from the sun,” says Truesdale. He installed blackout curtains and hasn’t turned the lights on in his house in weeks.

The one upside, he says, is that the heat inspired him to make a bestselling pine, cypress, clove and peppercorn candle to remind customers of cooler times. “It’s meant to feel like you’re walking through a wreath,” he says.

Back in Fort Worth, the Behniwals have been overseeing middle-of-the-night renovations on a nearby house they are set to move into in the fall. Their painter and pool resurfacers worked until around 3 a.m.

Worried about annoying the new neighbors, Hank Behniwal ended up knocking on all the doors nearby to give everyone a heads up. (He says they understood.)

Though the Behniwals are coping with less sleep for now, they are eager to return to regularly scheduled programming.

“If this happens every year, we’re going to have to think about where we’re going to reside for the rest of our lives because turning nocturnal every summer is not going to be practical,” says Hank Behniwal. “We’ve got to sleep at night. We still have day jobs.”

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