If you had to choose, would you say that you are more of a morning or an evening type?
Partially driven by genetics, your tendency will have a big impact on when you are most alert, productive and creative, and on how you (and your significant other) sleep. Me – I’m a night owl, even though work, community, and culture encourage otherwise.
Owl, Lark or Hummingbird…Which Are You?
Each bird relates to a different chronotype (preference for daytime or nighttime activity):
- Owls (or Night Owls) tend to enjoy sleeping in, are more active in the late afternoon, and find they can be productive working late into the night
- Larks (or Early Birds) catch the worm, often spring out of bed with or without an alarm clock, are more active in the morning and hop in bed relatively early
- Hummingbirds fit somewhere in-between, and can have tendencies in either direction without being a full fledged owl or lark
So, like most things, it’s not black and white, but more like a scale. As it turns out, about 2 in 10 people are owls, another 1 in 10 are larks, and the remaining majority are hummingbirds. If you don’t already have a good idea of where you fit, take the quiz to find out. I am definitely an evening type.
Larks vs. Owls
There are some people that really struggle to sync their body clocks with the rest of the world’s, and fall at each extreme of the scale. In an attempt to understand how these types of people differ, one study asked a group of owl and lark participants to obey their body clocks, then observed their performance on reaction tests (a general measure of alertness) at 1.5- and 10.5-hours after waking up. They found that reaction times were similar in both groups during the early session, but that night owls performed much better later in the day.
So – based on that study – owls have the upper hand, right? Not quite – this was an artificial situation where participants were directed to obey their internal body clocks. One source quoted the author on saying…
When evening people are obliged to live in normal society, they usually will have more problems, because they have to adapt to their schedules, and they will have a lot of sleep debt. Many evening people go to sleep late, but they have to wake up because they have children or a job, so on the weekend, they will sleep more to recover from their lack of sleep.
On Being An Owl
For years, I (at least partially) functioned on less sleep – averaging anywhere from 4 to 6 hours or sleep, using up to 4 alarm clocks (no joke) to wake up each morning (college roommates and neighbors always enjoyed that one), and occasionally pulling an all-nighter. If you have the choice, I wouldn’t recommend any of it.
In his recent article on Zeo in the NY Times, David Pogue spoke of psychology playing a role in Zeo’s push towards a better night’s sleep. It was this psychology – seeing my ZQ in the mid 60′s when it should have been in the mid 80′s (based on my age), then acknowledging how poorly I felt because of it – that started me on my way towards sleep fitness.
Since then, I’ve made a few changes related to my propensity for the night shift, like:
- Putting effort into making more time for sleep; getting creative with a mix of earlier nights, sleeping in or napping
- Trying my best to protect my bedtime with the Power Down Hour™
- Upping my exposure to light when I first wake up and on my way to work
What about you? Share your chronotype and how it affects your routine in the comments or on our facebook wall.Derek (ZQ: 83) is our social media superstar; chances are you chatted with him on Facebook or read one of his tweets. He is one of the leaders of Zeology and an all-around friendly guy who loves to talk sleep.