Being an owl or a lark is just a matter of preference. Or is it? Some – and by “some” I obviously mean scientists – say that it can be imbedded into our genes. So if your mama or papa were late nighters, chances are you will be too. In fact, it may run in the entire family. Geneticists are now looking even more into depth to figure out which particular “gene(s)” determine our day-loving/night-loving fates. Here’s an in-depth study on the subject by a team of geneticists from the University of Leicester.
For now, let’s focus on how the choice impacts our productivity. Late nighters you are in for a surprise! Some of you CAN actually dominate and be even more of a genius than the average morning person.
According to Satoshi Kanazawa and his study, “More intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends.”
This is contrary to popular opinion which holds that early “morning birds always get the worm”. Even owls catch the rodents and insects they are looking for with their amazing sensory capabilities – and they do it darn well without sunlight.
Still, many would argue that early risers are better prepped up for success because “they are more proactive” and ready to make things happen.
Regardless, it can’t be denied that both early risers and night owls have their own strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t make one better than the other—only slightly different. Let’s observe these differences – some of which are actually very surprising!
According to a study conducted by the University of Barcelona, Spain, morning people tend to be more persistent and less likely to experience “fatigue, frustration, and difficulties”. Night owls, on the other hand, are more likely to indulge in “extravagance, impulsiveness, and novelty-seeking”. While the larks hunt for stability in their lifestyle, night owls seek game during late hours.
Night owls are more likely to hit the snooze button a number of times before they get up in the morning. And when they do, they don’t enjoy it at all. Morning persons, on the other hand, welcome the morning sun with a big smile on their face. Like a lark, they chirp away their mornings humming in an oh-so-delightful mood—and they don’t even need coffee for it. Night owls tend to experience the feelings of euphoria during evening after 6 pm.
Success doesn’t have to be linked to “intelligence” at all. Apart from Satoshi Kanazawa’s study, Psychologist Richard D. Roberts and Patrick C. Kyllonen measured 420 participants and gave them intelligence tests that involved mathematics, reading comprehension, working memory, and processing speed. The results were in favor of the evening types who were reported to have better scores. 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.
The lark is more likely to consume more tea than the night owl. But what about coffee? Here’s the interesting part. According to another study with 537 participants, night owls are more likely to consume caffeine from coffee and cola and they are also more likely to consume alcohol and nicotine. The latter is apparently related to the fact that owls are more likely to indulge in night life where intoxication is prevalent.
No, there is no typing error here! Reportedly, night owls and morning birds have their bursts of creativity during their “off hours”. In a study conducted by Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks in 2011, participants that included both night owls and early birds were given analytical and insight problems to solve. 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. What do you know? Apparently those bursts of creativity are common occurrences during periods of mental fatigue.
This obviously doesn’t meant that the clocks of time are cheated and being a night owl makes you younger—although we wish it were that simple. This simply means that your optimal hours might depend on your age. 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. According to researcher Steven A. Brown, of the Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology, “he can tell whether you are a ‘lark’ or an ‘owl’ simply by looking at your skin cells”. 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.
Our most preferred hours not only affect moods, choice of stimulants, and how we tend to work, but also our favorite meal choice. While early birds tend to wake up in the morning and eat a healthy breakfast while reading the newspaper simultaneously or doing something else productive, night owls tend to skip breakfast all together and use their last few minutes before work to get dressed and rush to the office. For night owls, dinner and day-time meals are the best and they make sure they are full of it.
Dr Simon Archer, a researcher from the University of Surrey did a test on himself and found that he had the “physiology of an owl” so he can’t eat breakfast first thing in the morning. Another study revealed that owls are more likely to eat fewer but larger meals during late hours. Thus, these individuals were more prone to obesity, elevated stress levels, and even sleep apnea.
Featured photo credit: d26b73 via flickr.com
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