Are you a Lark or an Owl?
Are you a person who gets up at a sparrows fart and sings the sunrise in? Or do you stumble out of bed barely able to dress yourself let alone utter a single sentence that is both comprehensible and kind?
What about in the evening? Do you fall into bed at 9pm done for the day? Or do you love the night life and find your vim and vigour across the afternoon and evening?
Everyone has an innate preference for waking up at a certain time and falling asleep at another. This is our chronotype and determines when we have energy across the day. Those morning people are known as “larks” and those evening types are know as “owls”.
About 40% of the population are larks (including me). We wake up in the morning and bounce out of bed singing with joy. We are irritatingly cheerful, full of energy and raring to go. We sing in the shower, love nothing better than a morning walk and are switched on and ready to function. We are energetic in the morning.
Larks wake up well because this is their optimal time to function. They tend to be in bed before 11pm and up before 8am. Their peak wakefulness arrives early in the day and their sleepiness arrives early at night.
Then there are the Owls, the evening types, about 30% of the population. They are slow to get going in the morning, non communicative ( a grunt is manageable on a good day), unable to do much more than shower and grab some caffeine. They really don’t peak until the afternoon or evening. Because of this they tend to go bed late (after 11pm) and would rather wake late the following morning (after 8am at the earliest).
Owls are energetic as the sun goes down. They are up for a late night rendezvous, and can think and function until the early hours of the morning. They may not wake well but they will be the last ones to leave a party.
The remaining 30% are the “In-betweeners” who sit somewhere between the morning and evening type.
Larks often think that the Owls should be able become larks if they made an effort to go to sleep earlier. But this isn’t really the case. Owls and Larks are really different and not only do genetics play a role in this, but age does too. Young children and the elderly are often Larks and adolescents are Owls. Think of toddlers who wake up with the sun and chat so much we fear our ears may be bleeding. Or Nanna who falls asleep in front of the TV at 8pm every night. Compare that behaviour with teenagers who rarely open their eyelids before midday and if they have to get up early they are monosyllabic with questionable intelligence.
Now Larks do tend to be happier, healthier and more satisfied with life than Owls. Before you Larks puff up your chest ready to accept a medal of sleep-wake integrity, modern industrialisation has really decimated natural sleep patterns focusing on early starts for work and school. This favours the Larks and tends to disadvantage the poor Owls. Owls are seen as lazy because they prefer to sleep in but trying to be a night Owl in a Lark's world forces them into an unnatural sleep-wake rhythm. This can make them sleep deprived leading to poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and overuse of stimulants. Modern life can make Owls emotional wrecks with a lot of health issues.
Is one type better than the other? Is there truth in Benjamin Franklin’s maxim “Early to bed early to rise make a man healthy, wealthy and wise”?
It seems that health (not sure about wealth and wisdom) has more to do with how much time you spend in bed - about 8 hours of sleep a night.
So whatever you are a Lark, an Owl or an In-betweener, rather than trying to change your natural rhythm try and work with your situation and surrounds to suit you. Organise your life to best suit you. For example, if you are going to change a habit like exercise, there is no point in an Owl trying to get up earlier to fit it in. They are not only likely to fail but it may put them in a revoting mood for the rest of the day. In the same way, a Lark should not try and work late after dinner or take on a role dealing with different late night time zones. A Lark should not take on night shift at Air Traffic Control…
Are you a person who gets up at a sparrows fart and sings the sunrise in? Or do you stumble out of bed barely able to dress yourself let alone utter a single sentence that is both comprehensible and kind?uch
And remember to aim for 8 hours sleep a night.