The early bird catches the worm. I’m sure that you’ve heard that adage a million times. And, there is some truth to that. I used to think that if someone slept in — they were the worst slacker in the world. But — if we allow for differences in human beings — this may not always be true.
It’s been said that morning birds are more proactive, consistent, and aren’t rushing out the door. What’s more, it’s a pretty good time to exercise or find your muse. And, because the world is still sleeping, you’re more productive.
No wonder successful individuals like Ben Franklin, Tim Cook, Michelle Obama, Richard Branson, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson all rise before the sun. As such, there’s a belief that if you want to get ahead, you must follow in their footsteps.
Here’s the problem with that. Not everyone is an early riser. The reason for this is due to genetics.
“Biological differences between early birds and night owls exist,” Robert Matchock, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Altoona, told Fast Company. “The hormone melatonin, whose rise makes the body feel less alert, decreases later in the morning for night owls.” Larks also “have a higher core body temperature in the afternoon, which can be a sign of increased energy at that time,” he added.
So, instead of fighting against yourself, own up to being a night owl. When you do, you might discover your productivity will get a boost.
1. You don’t have to rely on an alarm clock.
“If you’re dependent on an alarm to get you out of bed, then you’re not getting enough sleep, and you’re at risk of all the negative consequences of that,” says Professor Russell Foster, director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford.
“In a perfect world, no one would use an alarm clock — we’d all wake up naturally having had as much sleep as we need,” adds independent sleep expert Dr. Neil Stanley. “Using an alarm clock means you are potentially going to wake up during a stage of sleep in which you are not designed to wake,” says Dr. Stanley.
In addition to being groggy, you’re essentially shocking your system. As a result, “the body will trigger a stress response to wake you, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure,” explains Professor Foster. And that’s certainly not good for your health.
Moreover, if you use your smartphone as an alarm, you’re probably going to get sucked in. That means as soon as you’re awake, you’re on social media or responding to emails. That’s no way to kick off the day.
When you follow your circadian rhythms, you don’t need to rely on an alarm clock. The reason? You’re sticking to your natural sleep and wake cycles.
2. You’re a workhorse.
There’s a misconception that night owls don’t get as much done as their morning bird counterparts. After all, while you’re still in bed, they’ve got a lengthy head start. However, researchers from the University of Liege in Belgium beg to differ.
Led by Christina Schmidt and Philippe Peigneux, scientists “had 15 extreme night owls and 16 extreme early birds spend two nights in a sleep lab,” explains Sharon Begley in Newsweek. “The two groups were separated by about four hours in their sleep patterns.” So, “if early birds were happy waking up at 7, night owls slept until 11, and early birds were ready to go to sleep at 11 while night owls had no trouble staying up until 3 in the morning.”
“An hour and a half after waking up, and again 10.5 hours after waking up, the volunteers had their brain activity measured by fMRI while they took a simple reaction-time test of their ability to maintain focused attention,” states Begley. “Both the early birds and the night owls were sleeping and waking whenever they pleased, rather than being kept on an artificial schedule.”
What does that mean? Night owls were found to be more mentally alert for longer periods of time after waking.
3. You have unique energy bursts.
If you’re a morning person, it’s typical for you to burn through your energy throughout the day. So, if you’re at your peak before noon, you’re exhausted at the end of the day. That’s not the case with night owls.
According to one study, night bored actually have an energy burst in the evening. More interestingly? It occurs naturally.
Essentially, this means that night owls get a second wind. And, because they’re recharged, they’re ready to keep on trucking.
4. You have a higher IQ.
A study conducted at the London School of Economics and Political Science shows that night owls are more intelligent. The study discovered that “more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends.”
Furthermore, a separate study from the University of Madrid found that night owl “tended to score higher than morning people on inductive reasoning.” Often, this “serves as an estimate of general intelligence and a strong predictor for academic performance.”
5. You’re more creative.
“Being in a situation which diverges from conventional habit, nocturnal types often experience this situation, may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions,” hypothesized Marina Giampietro, the lead author of the study.
Sometimes creativity is your best problem-solving tool.
6. You’re more successful.
Way back in the 1970s, a study out of Great Britain found that when compared to early risers, night owls “had the largest mean income and were more likely to have access to a car.”. But, does this still hold water?
Well, there are plenty of night owls who have thrived. These include former Winston Churchill, James Joyce, and President Obama. Other successful examples are Reddit Cofounder Alexis Ohanian, Pharrell Williams, Trevor Noah, and CEOs like Aaron Levie (Box) and Jonah Peretti (Buzzfeed).
“Although morning types may achieve more academically, night owls tend to perform better on measures of memory, processing speed, and cognitive ability, even when they have to perform those tasks in the morning,” notes the BBC. “Night-time people are also more open to new experiences and seek them out more.”
7. There are fewer interruptions.
Just like a morning bird, night owls don’t have to worry about noise and distractions. For instance, if your peak productivity hours are between 5 pm and 8 pm, everyone else has probably left the office for the day.
What if you work remotely? Because these are off-hours, you don’t have to be concerned about work-related meetings, emails, or Slack messages. Again, the typical workday is over for most people, meaning fewer obstacles interfere with your flow.
8. You’re more entrepreneurial.
Did you know that night owls are prone to risk-taking? The University of Chicago states that this is probably because of evolutionary strategies for finding mates. And, in case you weren’t aware, taking calculated risks is a common sign that you might be an entrepreneur.
9. You’re more capable of building genuine networks.
I have a family friend who is a headhunter. His main responsibility? Wining and dining talent and high-profile clients.
The reason he’s perfect for this gig is that he’s a night owl. He has the energy and stamina to book a late dinner and then showoff the town afterward. In fact, this is a common trait for night owls.
While morning birds are winding down or fast asleep, they have more opportunities to socialize after work. And, they still have enough time to engage in an evening routine before bed because they’re up late. No wonder night owls have larger night owls.
10. There’s a lot more flexibility.
Finally, you’re free as a bird. Think about it. You’re not tied down to midday meetings or a restrictive 9-to-5 schedule.
But what if you need to change-up your schedule? It turns out that night birds might be better able to adapt. The reason? They don’t need as much sleep as larks thanks to a genetic mutation.