There are two common sleep chronotypes, or in other words, particular patterns of sleep that regulate the time of activity and rest throughout the day — night owl and early bird.
Today, I’ll dive into both worlds, aiming to explain their benefits and flaws. Is one healthier than the other? Is one linked to a higher intelligence? Could you make the shift from night type to morning type?
Night Owl or Early Bird: Is the Battle Real?
If you’re guided by the example of today’s society that favors the morning routine (school time starts early and work starts early), then you probably think being an early bird is better, and, consequently, the battle is real.
However, both types have pros and cons, so comparing them to prove that one is good and the other is bad won’t benefit anybody.
Are You a Night Owl or an Early Bird?
Finding out which category you fall into isn’t rocket science; you already know whether you’re an early-bed-early-rise kind of person or not.
However, those uncertain of their type can check the main differences between a night owl and an early bird and therefore see which group they identify with.
- Goes to bed early
- Wakes up early
- Feels most productive in the morning hours
- Has less energy from the late afternoon onwards
- Has trouble staying awake past a certain hour
- Stays up late
- Rises late
- Feels productive later in the day
- Has more energy late in the evening
- Feels tired after an early start
- Can’t stay focused early in the morning
What Are the Characteristics of an Early Bird?
An early bird or a morning lark is, in simple terms, a morning type of person. Some like to wake up around sunrise, and others even earlier, but what they all have in common is that their level of productivity and alertness is at its highest during the mornings and early afternoons.
Let’s see some characteristics associated with an early bird.
High Level of Activity During the Day
Early birds favor the morning period and show increased activity and movement during it. And because exercise improves sleep quality, early risers can better regulate their sleep-wake cycle the more exercise they get.
Better Adaptation to the Corporate Environments
This doesn’t necessarily mean that early birds are more successful, but just better at adapting to the corporate timeframe. Their morning lifestyle is in line with the traditional working hours. Hence, they feel fresh from the moment they step into the office and are more alert during the first hours of the day.
Being punctual is associated more with the early bird type. Naturally, their ability to wake up early allows them to arrive at a class or job even before time. Of course, morning lectures are what they favor most. However, this doesn’t exclude the fact that night birds can be punctual as well. They just function better at different hours of the day.
Lower Risk of Health Problems
The genetics that potentially shapes a person to favor mornings above nights also helps in maintaining a healthy state of mind. Therefore, early birds are less prone to mental issues such as depression and schizophrenia. They can easily develop healthy habits that have a positive, long-term impact on their lives.
Decrease in Mental Awareness From the Late Afternoon
As soon as the clock hits 3 pm (give or take a few hours), mental and physical fatigue starts to increase. Early birds have a hard time staying alert during the late afternoon, and the earlier you rise, the earlier you’ll feel tired.
This potentially won’t affect your working life, but in terms of socializing with others, you may encounter some difficulties since most social gatherings occur in the evening.
What Are the Characteristics of a Night Owl?
A night owl is often criticized by society because it stands out from the regular pattern it imposes. For owls, the best time of the day is when the sun goes down. They actually find the nighttime more peaceful; hence, many writers, poets, painters, and other artistic individuals love creating during the evening.
Check the main characteristics of a night owl, and be informed on how their world works.
Enhanced Creativity and Productivity
Night owls tend to have more mental stamina and a higher level of productivity throughout the day than early birds. Also, by having fewer interruptions during the night, they might feel free to liberate their creative abilities and therefore write, design, or build unique artworks.
There could also be a potential connection between night owls and a higher IQ, but no research so far can claim that with certainty.
Longer Mental Alertness
As the day goes by, the night owl’s performance quality increases. They don’t lose awareness; nighttime is their peak performance time. Therefore, they’re more open to both social gatherings and evening events, which is important in certain lines of work.
Not Addapatable to Traditional Working Hours
8-4 jobs aren’t very popular with night owls. They usually go to bed very late in the evenings, meaning they’re probably going to be tired after their “forced” early start. Hence, night owls may have trouble adapting to the corporate world. Therefore, flexible working hours would be a better alternative or even jobs that are in different time zones.
Higher Risks of Health Problems
The discrepancy between night owls and today’s standard working hours has made a significant impact on those who favor evenings. They experience a type of jet lag because they can’t keep up with all the imposed day activities and schedules.
Night owls are usually sleep-deprived and, therefore, at risk of mental health problems and metabolic issues, such as depression, heart disease, and obesity.
Night Owl or Early Bird: Which One Is Healthier?
Taking into account the traditional working hours and the general promotion of morning activities, being an early bird will benefit you more.
Night owls are, due to usually being sleep deprived, more prone to depression and anxiety. Also, being forced to wake up early impairs their cognitive function. Therefore, many find the freedom to associate obesity and addiction with this type of sleep pattern.
But not everything is so black and white. What matters the most is that you get the right amount of sleep you need. A good sleeping habit is the key to a healthy life.
Therefore, both night owls and early birds can be described as healthy, but only when you fit your life properly around a certain sleep cycle that you prefer. As long as you get enough sleep, everything is considered healthy.
Who’s More Intelligent, Night Owls or Early Birds?
You’ll find two opposite statements regarding this topic.
One opinion favors night owls, claiming that they have higher IQs than early birds. However, no paper can prove that to be 100% certain. On the other hand, you have those who believe that early birds have a more stable circadian rhythm, which helps intelligence to grow and thrive.
Therefore, nobody can still prove that one type is more intelligent than the other. It’s more about the balance of the sleep-wake cycle that drives intelligence, not the type itself.
Is It Possible to Change Your Sleep Pattern?
Many people want to switch from being a night owl to an early bird to better adapt to their morning work schedule.
And yes, making that switch is possible because we’re more in control of our inner body clock than we think. But don’t assume you’ll shift from one to another overnight.
There’s no secret tool or method that’ll help a night owl to get out of bed in the morning with ease. You need to invest time, make a schedule, and stay true to your plans.
Be careful not to shock your body by changing the routine suddenly and aggressively. It’s a slow process; therefore, incorporating small steps is crucial — wake up 20 minutes earlier every few days, then every second day, and so on.
If you’re 100% committed to switching from night owl to early bird, check the steps below:
- Set a specific sleep schedule and stick to it
- Adapt your eating habits to better fit your schedule
- Consult with a specialist if needed
- Try working out regularly (a short walk, run, yoga, etc.)
- Take short afternoon naps when the energy runs low
- Consider reducing the amount of time spent on your computer or mobile phone
- Experiment with light therapy
- Adopt a certain night routine (meditating, reading a chapter of a book, taking a warm bath, etc.)
- Appreciate all the progress you make, and don’t be too harsh on yourself.
The Bottom Line
Don’t dwell too much about whether your sleep pattern is healthy, good, or beneficial. You first need to determine the schedule you’ll have throughout the day. Does it require you to wake up early? Are you a performer who needs to be at the top of your game during the evenings?
Whether you like mornings or nights, your daily obligations are the ones that’ll potentially force you to change your preferences. When your work schedule is in alignment with your sleep pattern, it doesn’t matter if you’re a night owl or an early bird. In the end, getting the right amount of sleep is all that counts.
So, sleep well, eat well, and worry not!
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