Early Birds vs. Night Owls: Unveiling the Lifelong Impact of Your Lifestyle Choice


For years, people have asked the age-old question: night owl or early bird — which is better? Each group thinks their lifestyle and sleep schedule are superior, but both have different benefits. The real question to ask here is what sleep schedule suits your lifestyle, and which will enable you to be healthier?

You’re an early bird if you feel energized by waking up when the day is young and find yourself wanting to crawl into bed soon after the sun goes down. If this doesn’t sound familiar, you might be a night owl, finding it most comfortable to rise a little later and have more energy at night.

While the general consensus tends to support early birds having a healthier lifestyle, some suggest night owls may be onto something. As we explore the benefits and risks of each lifestyle, apply each situation to your own life and assess how it would impact your health.

Benefits of being a night owl

If you find yourself feeling more energetic in the evening or work in a profession where networking is crucial, perhaps the night owl lifestyle is for you! Discover whether the midnight oil is worth burning below:

Improved creativity 

In a 2006 study, scholars in Italy discovered that night owls tend to come up with original ideas and creative solutions to problems. The lead researcher, Marina Giampietro, suggested night owls “may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions.”

Many renowned leaders and artists throughout history were most creative during the nighttime hours. For instance, Kafka commenced his writing sessions around 10:30 or 11:00 pm, persisting until the early hours of 1 to 3 AM. Notable night owls also encompass Winston Churchill, Bob Dylan, Carl Jung, J.R.R. Tolkien, and surprisingly, even Barack Obama.

Enhanced productivity in the evening

Night owls use the quiet nighttime hours for self-reflection and introspection, leading to novel connections between ideas and a more profound understanding of one’s creative process.

Morning people may find themselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily activities, which can limit the time and mental space available for productive pursuits. Night owls, on the other hand, may have more uninterrupted time to explore their thoughts and ideas. Some studies even suggest that those who stay up late may be more intelligent than early risers!

Professions that benefit from evening productivity and motivation include those involving creative pursuits, such as writing or artistic endeavors. Fields requiring strategic thinking, like political leadership or psychological counseling, may also find advantages in evening productivity. Similarly, professions with global responsibilities, like international business or diplomacy, may find evening productivity beneficial for coordinating with different time zones.

Read more: Effects of Motivation on Productivity (And How to Boost It) 

Social and networking opportunities

Many professional or after-work events take place in the evening and go on until late, allowing young professionals to network and socialize. The relaxed atmosphere of evening social events can create more open and genuine conversations. 

In contrast to formal daytime settings, people may feel more at ease sharing insights about their work, experiences, and goals in a casual evening setting. This can lead to deeper and more meaningful connections than traditional networking events.

Nighttime social activities can serve as a means to unwind and relax after a day of work. Engaging in enjoyable social interactions during the evening can contribute to a healthier work-life balance, promoting overall well-being. Socializing during the evening can also serve as a stress reliever and combat social isolation. Connecting with others in a relaxed setting positively impacts mental health and creates a sense of community.

Read more: How Work-Life Balance Influences Your Financial Prosperity and Happiness 

Benefits of being an early bird

On the other hand, being a morning lark may do more for your health if you’re looking to turn over a new leaf without changing too much of your lifestyle. 

Consistent sleep patterns

The concept that early birds tend to have more consistent sleep schedules is grounded in the alignment of their natural circadian rhythms. The circadian rhythm is one’s “body clock” that allows for adapting to natural day/night cycles and signals when it’s time to sleep. Consistent sleep improves cognitive function, mood regulation, immune system support, and metabolic balance.

Prioritizing a steady sleep routine is fundamental for maintaining optimal health, while those who stay up late may not have consistent sleep routines. Night owls may also be in a state similar to jet lag every day, causing slower reactions and shorter attention spans. 

Research also shows that even those with a split sleep schedule (two long term sleeping opportunities in a 24-hour cycle) felt more energized than those who only slept uninterrupted during the day, suggesting that staying up late does not bode well for long-term health and productivity. 

Longer exposure to natural light

Sunlight serves a role beyond providing Vitamin D; it also influences your circadian rhythm, regulating sleep-wake cycles. Studies also indicate that exposure to morning sunlight enhances sleep quality and reduces stress, showing the many benefits of sunlight on overall well-being, extending beyond its nutritional aspects.

As beings adapted to daytime activity, humans naturally spend daylight hours outdoors and retreat to sleep at night. Melatonin, a hormone crucial for circadian rhythms, is produced in darkness and ceases with exposure to daylight. This hormone is a central regulator for various biological rhythms in the body, suggesting that morning light is crucial for setting and maintaining a natural sleep rhythm.

Better long-term health

Being an early riser is linked to a reduced risk of disease. Adequate and quality sleep enhances immune function, regulates metabolism, and reduces stress levels, lowering the risk of chronic diseases. Early risers tend to engage in healthier lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and balanced nutrition, further contributing to disease prevention.

A 2018 study showed that being a morning person reduced the likelihood of developing breast cancer. Similarly, another study found that adults who veered towards being early birds were less at risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Early bird or night owl: is it a choice?

A common misconception is that the human body is programmed to wake up early, when in reality, not everyone’s circadian rhythms are the same. Certain people find themselves most revitalized during the early morning hours and experience drowsiness as early as 8:00 PM. On the contrary, others exhibit heightened activity during the evenings but struggle with waking up early in the morning.

These differences are determined by a person’s chronotype. Chronotype refers to the inherent and individual preference for either morningness or eveningness. This concept represents a crucial dimension of circadian rhythms and highlights the varying degrees of inclination towards being more active in the morning or evening. So, don’t feel too discouraged if waking up early feels challenging.

However, it’s possible to change your habits. You can make a habit of sleeping earlier, or break out of a mundane evening routine and socialize or be creative at night. These changes simply require discipline and consistency.

In conclusion

In the ongoing debate of early birds vs. night owls and which is better, the key lies not in a universal verdict but in recognizing individual preferences. Whether you thrive in the early morning light or come alive in the stillness of the night, the crucial aspect is understanding what sleep schedule aligns with your lifestyle.

Night owls boast enhanced creativity and productivity in the evening, making strides in fields demanding strategic thinking and creative pursuits. On the flip side, early birds revel in consistent sleep patterns, longer exposure to natural light, and better long-term health, reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

Ultimately, the choice between being an early bird or a night owl is personal and influenced by your unique chronotype. Perhaps, both society and individuals need to embrace a more flexible approach, experimenting with various daily rhythms to identify what creates more productivity and well-being in their personal lifelong journey.

If you would like to see more resources on sleep, check out the Personal Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Personal Science Labs today.

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