Are You a Night Owl or a Lark?

Whether you are a night owl or a lark, it’s important to understand when you are most creative and most productive.

I’ve always been a bit of a night owl.  In younger years, I regularly stayed awake into the wee hours as my most energetic and focused time extended until 2 or 3 am.  This was a problem as workday expectations meant getting up early enough for morning appointments and meetings. I depended on alarm clocks equipped with snooze buttons to get moving on most mornings.  Since retirement, alarm clocks don’t play a part in my life. I might go to bed early but never fall asleep before midnight. I naturally awaken at about 7:20 am.

Owls -- photo courtesy of Doug Swinson
Owls –photo courtesy of Doug Swinson

Adam Hadhazy, in a LiveScience blog post (Oct 2011) states that only 17% of the population are night owls — people with delayed sleep cycles who get tired later in the day. Surprisingly only 1% of people are true larks — early birds with advanced sleep cycles who get tired early and rise before dawn.  Most of us fall somewhere in between with cycles that can tolerate occasional late nights or early mornings without major disruption to mood or productivity.

From birth, people are programmed to fall into biological categories as early risers or evening types. Personal biological clocks or circadian rhythms affect our bodies controlling hormones, endocrine cycles, and sleep.

Changing a biologically determined pattern isn’t easy although some people consciously force themselves to stay up later or rise earlier, often to accommodate the needs of a spouse/partner or to manage job demands.

Determine Your Natural Preference

Most readers will already know at what time of day  — or night — alertness peaks. If you’re not sure, an online survey can help you determine whether you are naturally a lark or a night owl. I’ve attached a link to a quick survey you can take for fun. It showed my tendency to fall between lark and night owl.

Understanding natural inclinations for productivity, creativity, movement, and sleep can help in planning activities. Although I sometimes rise early to write a blog post, I know that my brain power is highest shortly after noon.  Many writers prefer early morning hours especially if others in the household sleep late.

Researchers have determined that alertness for peak performance changes over a lifetime.  Sleep expert Dr. Paul Kelly, of Oxford University, determined that age affects the best time to carry out certain activities.  Age affects our body clocks and sleep cycles. We’re aware that during adolescence, rising early for classes is difficult.  Young parents become accustomed to disrupted sleep yet manage to perform well during the day. As we age, circadian cycles change and most night owls tend to become larks.

It pays to listen to your body. Everyone feels better and function betters with an understanding and acceptance of a natural tendency as a lark or an owl.  Body clocks know when we need to eat, to exercise, and to sleep.  Health and happiness improve when we listen to body cues. Even small changes can make us healthier happier and more productive.

3 Replies to “Are You a Night Owl or a Lark?”

  1. Hi Jeanette,
    Interesting discussion of internal clocks. I used to work well in the evening, but now my best work is done in the morning. I would like to sleep later than I do, but for some reason I have been waking up about 5:30 AM! Ugh! I try to go back to sleep, but it never works.


  2. Interesting post, Jeanette. According to the survey I am neither type. Always believed I was a night owl.

    1. Likewise, I always considered myself a night owl. Perhaps this means we’re getting more flexible in our habits as we grow older. Another benefit of aging!
      Be well,

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