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Are you a night owl or an early bird?

Updated on October 25, 2013

We may not think about it too hard, as people we do all fall into patterns in our lives. When it comes to sleep and rest we seem to sway from one camp to the next. When we are children we tend to have early bird waking rituals, as we move on and develop through childhood and into our teen years we sway more toward night owl tendencies and then as we age, we either even out or swing dramatically into one camp or the other.

Not sure if you’re a night owl or an early bird? Have a look at our lists of pros and cons below to determine exactly who you are.

Let's go bird watching!

The night owl

How to recognize a night owl:

The typical night owl isn’t difficult to spot. You usually find him slumped over his computer in the morning connected by an intravenous drip to the coffee machine.

Though the start to the day may be slow, the night owls energy increases by leaps and bounds as the day progresses and come nighttime, the night owl is well and truly in his element. As the evening progresses the night owl has truckloads of energy and is ready not just to party but to paaaaaaarrrrrrrrtaaay!

On the other end of the spectrum, you will recognize the Early bird by the twists of energy that they leave in their wake. They are usually the ones with bright eyes; bushy tails and a real plan and a purpose. They are the ones that hit the ground running in the morning and have their days planned and down to a tee.

The early bird is a creature of planning, vision and foresight however if they don’t watch out, could become imprisoned by their habits. Although they may not see it that way until they perhaps tire themselves and others by the clockwork schedule by which almost everything in their world functions.

While the world may be bubbling up and getting excited for the evening ahead, getting ready for a night on the town, the early bird is heading home to wind down and roost and prepare themselves for another busy and productive day and maybe taking over the world.

Do you suspect you're a night owl?

Pro's & Con's of being a night owl

Pro's

1. Greater career availability - To those who are willing to stay up a bit later than others a number of career opportunities open up. There are a number of careers that a night owl can have, late night talk show hosts, late night radio presenter positions, nursing, paramedic work and many, many more. Equally work that requires that you communicate with people in different time zones being a night owl is particularly useful.

2. You have greater time alone - Let’s face it, even the most social of bunnies need a bit of alone time now and again. Long after everybody has gone to bed, you have the luxury of being awake alone with your thoughts. Without all the noise of communication and having to deal with requests from people this really is the best time for you to get busy, working on forgotten projects and your best ideas.

3. A richer and fuller social life – Night owls have the benefit of having increased energy in the evenings and with that a plethora of social invitations to which they can easily commit. Whilst the early birds are resting in the roost the night owl is able to nurture their friendships and relationships by attending the party’s engagements that others will usually miss out on.

4. They have new, inventive and creative ways of seeing the world - Night owls may miss out on the buzz of the usual day time activities because they are still recovering from their evenings and trying to find their feet again. That said, night owls also do get to see the world in ways that nobody else does. An idea for night owls and their bursts of energy is evening photography, video, poetry, blogging and even late night walks.

5. You become a fountain of knowledge - Whether you are a night owl by choice or it has somehow crept up on you over time, everybody knows that the night owl is always reaching for something to do. Some of these kinds of activities could be reading, watching videos, blogging, internet browsing, hobbies and building things. Whatever the activity of choice is, the fact remains that you have created the time and the energy to absorb more facts, figures, experiences and happenings in your world than ever before.

Not convinced that being a night owl is a thing? Whole societies are based on the idea. Take a look at this list of top cities that never sleep.

Con's

1. Having to do double time – In as much as it is exciting to be able to pull long hours with increasing energy during the day, it is unfortunately not the way in which the world works. Work hours, major services, shops, banks and other functions have been structured to work according to day time. The night owl often suffers from having to multi-task and be functional by day and by night while neglecting a precious sleep schedule.

2. You miss the optimism and the bubbly happenings of the morning - Although the evening brings with it the opportunity to be silent, wind down and de-stress, there is something to be said for the rising hum of energy that happens in the morning that is simply not replaced at any other time of day. Most night owls are usually only getting a chance to sleep once the sun comes up in the morning, missing out on this most important part of the day.

3. Late nights and late rising is difficult on the waistline - Most night owls don’t have the privilege of waking up at their own leisure at a time that syncs with their sleep pattern. Having to get up as early as most early birds and having to do double time means that they are sleep deprived. Dragging a lethargic, listless body to work sets the night owl up for failure in the diet department, as they become predisposed to reaching for sugary, calorie laden treats and coffee in order to survive the first few hours of their day.

4. Night Owls are often too tired to maintain good habits - Whilst there may be many well adjusted night owls out there; there are sadly many who are continually on a cycle of sleep debt and energy deficiency. Night owls may have the best laid plans and intentions to get up earlier, go to the gym and make time for exercise but they are often so consumed with their evening pursuits or find themselves crashing and burning in the evenings that they don’t end up realizing their fitness goals.

5. Moodiness and strained working relationships – Whilst many people are up and functional, following a daytime rhythm, the night owl is still having a struggle to get the juices flowing. This works against the night owls favor as many meetings, brainstorm sessions and deals are being brokered in the morning when people are thought to be and desired to be at their freshest and most alert.

Pro's & Con's of being an early bird

Pro's

1. Time to reflect - Being an early bird means that you will have a little extra time to think and reflect while the world is still gradually only awakening. Think of it as a golden opportunity to meditate, pray, write a quick note in your journal, do whatever it is to make you feel happy and content.

2.Breathing space - You get that extra moment in the morning. Whether it is just to look outside and admire a sunrise or to take an extra moment with a pet before you bolt off to work.

3.Order in your corner of the world - With the promise of order in your world combined with the benefit of heightened productivity why would you not want to be an early bird?

4. An opportunity to get acquainted with a little seen part of the world around you - Beautiful sunrises, the cooing of the birds, watching a child come out of their sleep. These are all the types of activities that most people miss with the rush of getting out and about to their regular schedules each and every day. Having a little extra bit of time as an early bird means that you get to enjoy a chunk of time that few others in the world get to.

5. Facing the world with a prepared mind - When you’re always faced with the rush of a daily schedule and 100 other things that are clamoring for your attention it is a bit difficult to hit the ground running each and every day. Early risers are able to have a bit more time to think properly plan out their time and be able to have a clear mind as they face their days.

Con's

1. The early bird misses many social functions and engagements -Because the early bird is preoccupied with thoughts of balance, early rising, productivity and being on time, it can be pretty difficult for them to commit to evening and weekend functions that go late into the evening. Declining such opportunities may result in them missing out on valuable family bonds and relationships.

2. Society views them with a bit of scorn -We all aspire to be more organized and together when it comes to our lives. The early bird may greet their day with a sense of enthusiasm and good cheer that they find invigorating. However the rest of us would be rolling our eyes and gagging behind their backs at their never ending supply of perkiness, bubbly optimism or even the Zen like unshakeable calm that they seem to exude in waves.

3. They may come across as selfish – Early birds are usually very disciplined people and may have their day, including their days meal mapped out inside their heads long before their night owl counterparts even consider what’s for their mid morning snack. Whilst this discipline and order in their universe is admirable it can leave their friends and family wondering if their early bird is not too ‘me focused’

4. Far too much planning required -While it may look pretty easy on TV breakfast commercials. The early bird isn’t always rising from the bed with a smile on their face and a joyful stretch before bounding out of bed to face the day. Let’s face it as scheduled and as ordered as the early bird’s universe is, unexpected activities and responsibilities will crop up every so often to challenge them.

5. Your alone time is limited - In as much as the early bird gets up and grabs a few precious moments to watch a sunrise, do a bit of morning yoga or bond with a child or a pet that time is very much limited. Not long after being up and grabbing that slice of time that is needed you have to rush and get going with your day again and the alone time evaporates.

In order to understand why your sleep patterns happen the way they do. You need to first understand that the way in which your body functions is determined by a big grand clock called a circadian rhythm. Our bodies move through peak performance times in a number of different areas. To an extent our bodies are somewhat predisposed to either being a night owl or an early bird.

Take a look at the infographic below that gives you surprising information on your body’s optimal performance times.

So where do you fall on the scale of being a night owl or an early bird?

Whether you are a night owl or an early bird, there is simply no running away from the fact that sleep is a commodity that is needed for daily functioning. Think of it as a fuel tank that needs to be filled every single evening in order for you to have a good day ahead. Important things take place when we sleep, organs, cells and even bodily functions all have an opportunity to relax and restore themselves as we rest. Sleep deprivation on the other hand has a way of setting our diet and weight off balance, impairing our reasoning and creating conditions like sleep apnea.

It is therefore very important for us to find knowledge, enable ourselves and know what the risks are before we adapt and identify to one form of being or the other.

Have a look at the dangers of sleep deprivation

Can you transition between the two types?

Ah! The battle of the wits! Which camp do you fall in and most importantly which one is most beneficial and natural to you as a human being?

Whilst both camps have their pros and cons when it comes to sleep rhythms by and large there is usually a move toward people reprogramming and becoming more morning oriented purely for reasons of work and world practicality.

A move toward being more morning oriented yields a myriad of benefits such as:

  • Better quality of sleep and rest
  • A naturally regulated amount of melatonin in the body in the evening
  • Natural rhythms of the body are observed – you are able to have natural sleep, body and bowel rhythms.
  • Balance in the body weight is observed. From a simple diet point of view, the earlier you go to bed the easier it is for your body’s cells to repair and with a more natural waking rhythm you’re also less likely to binge and comfort eat in the mornings to kick start your day.

It might be something that you don’t really think about on a day to day basis, however having the ability to understand your own sleep rhythms is crucial to your own sense of wellbeing. Take the time to do a little introspection, try on your life for size and carve out the type of lifestyle and sleep patterns that work best for you.

Which camp do you fall into?

See results

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    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      I am an early bird too! Love the early light and so much more seems to get done when the world is still quiet. I really enjoyed this article, thank you. Up, interesting and useful.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I am definitely an early bird! I get up later now that I am older, but I definitely have issues when I stay up too late. Not getting enough sleep is not an option for me, it causes too many problems. I have found that I can schedule social time during the lunch hour or early evenings and that has been a big help. My biggest issue is living with a night owl!