Some people wake up bright and early, ready to tackle the day. Others find their stride later in the evening. These are two common sleep chronotypes, or specific patterns of sleep, that we see play out in our daily lives. Many people know why these differences between individuals occur.
When it comes to early birds vs night owls – is one really better than the other? We examined the research on these two sleep chronotypes to learn more about why some folks are morning larks and others tend to stay up late. Keep reading to learn more!
How to Tell If You’re an Early Bird or a Night Owl
It’s usually pretty easy to spot morning larks and night owls. Here are some common characteristics found in each group:
|Early Birds||Night Owls|
|You go to bed early and wake up early.||You stay up late and like to sleep in.|
|You feel your best whenever the day begins.||You feel your best later in the day.|
|You have less energy in the late afternoon and evening.||You have more energy at night.|
|You tend to have a difficult time staying awake after certain hours.||You feel tired after waking up early, and you have a hard time staying alert during the morning.|
Why Are Some People Early Birds, While Others Are Night Owls?
Some people think their sleep pattern is solely a matter of willpower, but research suggests otherwise. In fact, your specific sleep chronotype could be due to your circadian rhythm, or the “internal clock” that tells you when it’s time to go to bed and wake up. These rhythms are influenced mostly by your genetics.
A study conducted by genetics analysis company 23andme looked at almost 90,000 people who had submitted their DNA. Researchers asked survey respondents if they were morning people or night owls and then analyzed their DNA.
Researchers found 15 genetic variants that were linked to being a morning person. The study also found that gender may have a role to play: While 48.4% of women described themselves as morning people, only 39.7% of men did the same.
Additionally, people over the age of 60 were more likely to prefer mornings than people under 30 — meaning it’s possible that people’s preferences change over time.
According to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, morning larks and night owls may also have different brain structures that contribute to their preferred sleep-wake schedules. This may have benefited humans in the early days, because it meant there were always people keeping watch over the community.
Researchers studied the Hadza people of Tanzania, a group of hunter-gatherers whose lifestyles closely resemble those of early humans. For 20 days, the Hadza people wore wrist monitors that tracked their nighttime activity. Scientists found that the entire group was hardly asleep at the same time, and approximately eight people were always awake to protect their homes.
Early Birds vs Night Owls: Benefits and Disadvantages
According to this 2012 study, morning people tend to feel happier than night owls. However, that could be due to the fact that society accommodates early risers’ lifestyles better, which allows them to get more sleep. That might be why early birds tend to be great problem solvers and get better grades in school.
Morning larks may not be able to stay out too late, though, and they often have difficulty sleeping in. This could create snags in social situations because they need to adhere to their regular sleep pattern.
Society often stereotypes night owls as lazy and unmotivated, but that isn’t a hard and fast rule. In fact, the results of a small 2003 research study found that night owls were mentally alert longer than early risers. The London School of Economics and Political Science’s 2009 study found that night owls tend to have higher IQs than early birds.
Another perk of being a night owl: Fewer interruptions. While many people are sleeping, night owls can focus on their own work in silence. This could prove especially beneficial for people who work in artistic industries, which may be why night owls tend to be more creative.
How To Change Your Sleep Schedule
Although our sleep patterns are mostly out of our control, we can train our bodies to wake up earlier or stay up later. Here are a few ways to change your sleep schedule:
- Shift your sleep schedule gradually – It takes time to adjust to a new routine. If you’re trying to become a morning person, start by moving your wake up time 15-20 minutes earlier every few days.
- Stick to the same sleep schedule every day – Yes, even on weekends.
- Take a short nap in the afternoon if you feel sleepy – But don’t overdo it. Long naps may leave you feeling groggy, and they could make it more difficult to fall asleep at bedtime.
- Expose yourself to light – Start your morning by enjoying the sun’s rays, or get a sunrise alarm clock. This could make you feel more alert and awake as your day begins.
- Put away electronics at least one hour before bed – Some studies suggest the light from electronic devices can impede our ability to fall asleep.
- Limit your caffeine intake – Some people can feel the effects of caffeine for as much as seven hours after consumption.
Still curious about early birds vs night owls? Check out our FAQ section below!
What is the difference between night owls and early birds?
Like the names suggest, night owls tend to stay up late, while early birds go to bed early. That’s not the only difference between these two groups, though. Most notably, night owls feel more alert during the evening hours, and morning larks have the most energy when they first wake up in the morning.
Is it healthier to be a night owl or an early bird?
As long as each group gets an adequate amount of sleep, they’re both considered healthy. Society is better suited for morning people, however, so that could give this group a slight advantage. If night owls aren’t able to shift their work and life schedules, they may end up feeling sleep deprived and anxious.
How do you go from night owl to early bird?
With patience and consistency, you can change your sleep patterns. It’s important to remember, especially if you’re trying to become more of a morning lark, to slowly shift your sleep schedule. Experts recommend waking up 15-20 minutes earlier every few days. If you change your routine too quickly, you may not get enough sleep.
Light therapy can also help you feel more alert in the morning. When your alarm goes off in the morning, try sipping your coffee on the porch or talking a quick stroll through the neighborhood. This may help you feel more focused and awake first thing in the morning.
If you’re having trouble going to bed early, limit your caffeine intake before bed and put away your electronic devices at least an hour before you go to sleep.
Some people are super productive and alert early in the morning, while others feel that way late at night. We all know this to be true because we see it play out in our daily lives. But few of us can say why some people are morning larks while others prefer being night owls.