Have you ever wondered why you wake up so early without command, when the rest of your family is sound asleep and won’t be up in another 4 hours? Or when you can simply pull all-nighters without caffeine? In the battle between morning larks and night owls, this article focuses on the pros and cons of each and why some people may be categorized as one instead of the other.
As the jack-of-all-Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin once said, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”. However, a pair of epidemiologists at Southampton University in England decided to test this out otherwise. The researchers conducted a study between morning larks (356 people that woke up before 8am and went to bed before 11pm) and night owls (318 people that woke up after 8am and went to bed after 11pm). Contrary to what Ben Franklin had to say, the night owls had larger incomes and more access to cars than did morning larks. Psychologist Richard D. Roberts of the University of Sydney and Patrick C. Kyllonen of the Air Force Research Lab also tested to see if there was a difference in intelligence between the two types. Together the tasks measured vocational knowledge (e.g. mechanics and engineering), general math and reading comprehension, and working memory and processing speed and they found that night owls scored slightly higher, even if the tests were administered early in the morning. Another study done at the University of Chicago also found that night owls scored higher on the GMAT than the early risers.
Aside from the subjectivity of intelligence and income, how do these two types of people differ in personality you might ask? Many scientists believe that your ability to wake up early or stay up late is attributed purely to genetics. Researchers identified fly strains that exhibit morning –and evening– like behavior and found that nearly 80 genes were associated with different types of behavior.
From Andrew Lim’s study of these two types of people, one can see that there is surprisingly more number of morning larks than night-owls, with of course almost half the sample claiming to be in between. Is it just a matter of preference then? According to a study conducted by the University of Barcelona, Spain, morning people tend to be more persistent and less likely to experience fatigue, and are patrons of perfection while night owls seem to indulge in extravagance and are the “go-getters”. The battle between people of stability and those that are spontaneous is what makes society very interesting. These two realms also may explain the creativity sides of each counterpart. Though early risers, morning larks seem to be more creative at night and while night owls like to seek game at night, their level of creativity sky-rockets in the morning. As for their meals, I can attest that night owls prefer their dinner over breakfast. Rarely do I ever eat a big breakfast, but when dinner comes, I scarf down my meal as fast as I can.
So what are the pros and cons of each? Early birds have been known to get better quality of sleep because of their deep-sleep non-REM rest that occurs early in the night. Together, they are more productive and have a better structure to their schedules and are happier overall. They stick to their habits and are less spontaneous than the night owls. But, depending on your lifestyle and friends, where you live in the world, and how early you wake up, it might be a bit anti-social to be an early bird. It takes discipline to be a morning lark, but most of society fits in this category and many find it well balanced to be one. That is not to say night owls are inferior. Night owls are known to have great stamina, social-lives and extreme work ethic. They push themselves beyond barriers, staying up and always finding time to enjoy themselves. Of course this comes with a cost. The lack of quality sleep and productivity could hinder the health of a night owl.
Whether if you’re a morning lark or a night owl, we all get through the day just fine. You may be a night owl now, but a little change could have you chirping early in the morning in no time!