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How and when you sleep – whether you’re an early bird or a night owl – says a lot about you. Those individual inclinations to be either a morning person or an evening person are referred to as “chronotypes.” Morning people, also known as larks, tend to go to bed early and wake up early, reaching their peak performance early in the day. Evening people, on the other hand, also known as owls, are inclined to go to bed late and sleep late.
“These are the folks who don’t come alive until later in the afternoon,” says Nzinga Harrison, chief medical officer of Anka Behavioral Health, Inc. Your chronotype can greatly impact your life, including personality, lifestyle and even your health. Keep in mind, though, that while science can tell us a lot about human behavior, people vary greatly on an individual basis. So while you might consider yourself a night owl, it’s possible that not all of these will apply to you. Read on to learn what your sleep schedule says about you and how you can use that to your advantage.
1. Social Personalities
Larks are more inclined than owls to stick to a plan and achieve it, says Scott Weiss, owner and clinical director of Bodhizone for Human Performance & Wellness. “These types tend to have less depression and less disruption of focus.” Larks also often have more self-control and a better ability to delay gratification. On the other hand, “owls tend to be fun folks,” says nutrition scientist Pam Peeke, “more impulsive, outgoing and risk takers.” Owls also tend to be more creative.
A study in the journal Learning and Individual Differences showed owls to be positively related to cognitive ability and negatively related to academic achievement, while larks were negatively related to cognitive ability and positively related to academic indicators.
2. Career Paths
Larks seem inclined toward more conventional lifestyles, while night owls often gravitate toward the arts and entrepreneurial endeavors, says Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist and author of “Your Next Big Thing.” “I’ve definitely seen a pattern with people getting more creative inspiration at night,” he says.
Physician and educator Nzinga Harrison suggests that in the corporate world odds are stacked in favor of larks. “If an individual is a night owl, but working in corporate America where early meetings and future-orientation are the rule,” she says, “job performance can suffer [and] work relationships can be fraught with difficulty,” bringing on low self-esteem and a general unhappiness with life.
Conversely, “if an individual is a lark, but trying to adapt to a present-oriented, risk-taking, late-night lifestyle, they may disproportionately suffer from fatigue, exhaustion and difficulty keeping their thoughts straight – with the self-esteem effects and general unhappiness that can develop as a result,” Harrison says.
“Larks tend to have lower heart rates, half as much sleep apnea and lower body weights than night owls,” says Jo Lichten, registered dietitian and author of the book “Reboot: How to Power Up Your Energy, Focus, and Productivity.” Owls, on the other hand, often have lower levels of HDL cholesterol, are snorers and have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, says Pam Peeke, senior science advisor for Elements Behavioral Health.
Owls are usually more anxious and depressed than larks, have a higher incidence of ADHD, consume greater amounts of caffeine and alcohol, and experience higher rates of addiction, Peeke says. “Morning people are more stress resilient and have a higher level of life satisfaction, with less substance abuse.” Owls, she adds, can stay better focused throughout the day, however, while a lark’s attention wanes by mid-afternoon.
4. Eating Habits
“Larks typically eat breakfast sooner after waking than owls, who tend to like to consume late-night meals,” says nutrition scientist Pam Peeke. “After 8 p.m., owls consume twice as many calories as larks,” she says. “But these meals may not be as satisfying or filling because the hormone leptin is typically at its lowest level in the evening, decreasing the sense of satiety.”
As a result, it’s easier for owls to overeat, which can lead to issues with obesity and weight management. Further, because owls often stay up late yet must rise early for work, they are more likely to be sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation, Peeke says, can lead to dysregulation of leptin and ghrelin, the appetite and hunger hormones, resulting in the overeating of carbohydrate-rich foods, especially refined sugar.
The original article “6 Weird Ways Early Birds and Night Owls Differ“ appeared on LIVESTRONG.COM.
By Lynette Arceneaux