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7 Differences Between Early Birds And Night Owls

7 Differences Between Early Birds And Night Owls

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!

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1. Early Birds are Persistent Perfectionists; Night Owls are Go-Getters

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.

2. Early Birds Wake Up With Smiles; Night Owls with Frowns

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.

3. Early Birds Are Proactive; Night Owls are Smarter

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.

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4. Early Birds like Tea; Night Owls like Alcohol

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.

5. Early Birds are Creative during Night Hours; Night Owls are Creative in Morning Hours

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.

6. Early Birds are Older; Night Owls are Younger

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.

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7. Early Birds Love Breakfast; Night Owls Love Dinner

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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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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