News & Views

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

By Zach Pearl, PhD Staff


Most of us have some degree of sleep preference for late nights or early mornings. Around 10% of people are qualified as morning people (early bird, larks) and a further 20% are night owls – with the rest of us falling somewhere in between.
While early birds tend to wake up in the early morning and find it difficult to remain awake beyond their usual bedtime, night owls go to bed late and have difficulties getting up.

Early birds and night owls- more than just a definition

Whether you are an early bird or a night owl may not only determine when you prefer to sleep, it can also affect your personality and quality of life.

  1. Morning people tend to be more persistent, resistant to fatigue, frustration and difficulties, which often translates into lower levels of anxiety and lower rates of depression, higher life satisfaction and less likelihood of substance abuse. On the other hand, previous studies have suggested that night owls experience worse sleep, more tiredness during the day, vulnerability to depression and consume greater amounts of tobacco and alcohol 1 . This has prompted some to suggest that the night owls are suffering from a form of chronic jet lagl 1 . Moreover, they are more extravagant, temperamental, impulsive and novelty- seeking 2 .
  2.  Night owls and morning birds have their bursts of creativity during their “off hours”, meaning that early birds are creative during night hours and night owls are more creative in morning hours. While analytical problems were successfully solved during optimal timings, insightful problems that required creative thinking were better solved during non-optimal hours – meaning during their less preferred hours 3 .
  3. Older people are more likely to be early birds while younger people tend to enjoy late night bed times. Scientists found that this could be due to circadian clocks of skin cells and circadian genes. Not surprisingly, elder people tend to have earlier peak expression in the body cells causing them to go to bed early and wake up early 4 .
  4. Evening-types are more likely to have higher intelligence scores 5 6 . A study demonstrated that evening individuals did better on measures of mathematics, reading comprehension, working memory, and processing speed even when these cognitive tasks are performed during the morning. This, obviously, doesn’t make them more likely to obtain success. Evidently, early birds are probably doing most of the work during the hours that fit the world of commerce, allowing success to be in their favor.

Can a Night Owl Become a Morning Person?

Being a morning person may be more advantageous for most people’s work schedules and routines. Here are some tips on how to reset the body clock and become early birds:

  • Go to bed earlier and get enough sleep. Getting sufficient sleep for your body’s needs gives you the energy, health, and motivation to get things done in the morning and throughout the day
  • Be consistent. Try to set the alarm clock for the same time every morning—including weekends. A constant wakeup time will make it easier to wake up in the morning
  • Start slowly. Pick a new desired wakeup time and gradually work towards it. Move down in 15-minute increments until that new time goal is reached
  • Skip the snooze. Set one alarm for when it’s time to rise—and maybe another a few minutes later in case you snooze through
  • Turn off electronic devices at night. Turn off television or any electronic device in the evenings in order to create a sleepy mode atmosphere, this should help increase quality of sleep while reducing the difficulty of falling asleep and waking up in the middle of the night and will help you wake up more easily early morning
  • Exposure to light. Whether natural or artificial, exposure at wake-up time helps resetting your circadian rhythm and make you more alert. Allow natural sunlight to pour in to your bedroom, or invest in a “light box” or gradual alarm clock that produces a steadily brighter light
  • Eat breakfast. There is a saying: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” A breakfast that features protein, fruits or vegetables, and a whole grain can help energize you for the day ahead
  • Exercise when the sun comes up. Early morning exercise can help boost the morning energy surge, as you will have elevated body temperature and elevated adrenaline levels for several hours after you exercise

Remember – on top of all things mentioned above, being motivated to wake up in the morning (a new exercise, your cool job, your hobby or a goal you are working on) will give you that extra push to come out of your bed and start your day.

Try our Self Diagnosis Test

  • News & Views

    • Dr. Zach Pearl Staff

    • September, 2021
    • How your nutrition affects your sleep

    • Read More