Is it Better to be an Early Bird or a Night Owl?
It is 12:02 am as I write this sentence. Yes, I am a night owl without a doubt. Being an insomniac in a way has moulded me to become one. The real question is, is it better to be a night owl or an early bird?
The reality is that we live in a 9-5 world, in a society where places of work and education begin early. The morning indicates the start of the day, despite what some philosophers choose to believe in – that time is just a concept. Night time means sleep time. Interestingly enough, our sleep patterns are actually genetically proven, yes, studies have been conducted on this. Night owls have a longer circadian rhythm than early birds due to a single base missense mutation of adenine to guanine. This makes sense if we look at it from an evolutionary viewpoint, back then people had to hunt during the day, some had to stand guard at night to protect their families from vicious animals.
Going back to the 21st century, there are pros and cons to being either a night owl or an early bird.
Let’s start off with the early birds.
- They are happier and healthier overall. This is absolutely beneficial as most jobs start in the morning. These will be the people you see smiling in the morning (I envy these people).
- On top of that, there is less procrastination amongst this group as they are proactive and start working as soon as possible. As an early bird, you actually get to eat breakfast – amongst university students, that is a genuine life goal!
- Morning people tend to have it more together along with a more optimistic approach to the day.
Unfortunately for them, they tend to tire out more quickly throughout the day resulting in a stronger tendency to develop the habit of napping. They really need their 7 to 8 hours of sleep in a day.
What I found unique was this – 10 hours after being fully awake, night owls were more alert and demonstrated a longer attention span than early birds. The circadian master clock in the brain is majorly involved here. In the late evening, around 9 pm, night owls experience an increase in the spinal cord and motor cortex excitability. That means that the central nervous system is functioning at its best at that time. Early birds do not get to experience this.
- Night time is peaceful and quiet, nobody bombarding you with messages and irritating Facebook notifications. It is pure bliss and which is why I personally love it. It’s perfect being a night owl when you have night shifts, there will be plenty once I qualify as a doctor.
- Night owls tend to have a higher IQ, be more creative and intelligent (no bias here). They also have a very flexible sleep schedule, so they are able to still make it to their 9 am lecture, but they won’t be all smiley.
The sad thing is, 9-5 is not the night owl’s peak performance time. Us lot tend to suffer from what has been called ‘social jetlag’. In addition to that, we are more prone to addiction, insomnia and depression.
In a nutshell, become whichever fowl you think is best for you! It is an early bird world, but you do you! Figure out when you perform at your peak and keep note of those golden hours. If you want to change your sleep cycle, it can be tricky – I recommend downloading a reliable sleep tracker to keep things interesting.
It is now 2.15 am. I think I should sleep.
About the author
Hey there! My name is Kusum and I am a second-year international medical student studying at King’s College London. I decided to start up writing after a really long time. I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts and take something valuable from it.